How do you raise a book worm?

matilda

I learned how to read at a rather young age, and I still consider myself an absolute book worm. In those rare moments when I don’t have a book to read, I feel adrift and lost, even if I barely have time to read and only manage a couple pages (or sentences) a night sometimes. But I’ve always loved reading, and it’s a gift that I want to pass on to my kid.

I read an article about why reading is so good, and basically the reason is… all the reasons. Reading is good for building empathy, improving social skills, lowering older people’s risk of dementia; the list seems to just go on and on. I love to read, and I read books across a range of genres. But how do I pass that on?

read to kids

 

My first way is quite obvious – I will definitely read to the kid every night. I have grand plans for all the books that I want to read to the little munchkin, from large scale works to adorable bedtime stories. But is that enough? That might make bedtime more fun, and teach the kid that being read to is loving, but how do they make that leap to wanting to read by themselves, and continue to enjoy it?

I remember reading a comment from Neil Gaiman about that moment when his youngest kid was no longer interested in reading with him. She wanted to finish The Lord of the Rings by herself instead of reading it together. He was both incredibly saddened by the fact that he wouldn’t get to read the book to the end with her, but also so proud that she was ready to read it by herself, and wanted to do so.

I suppose that’s what I want one day, and I just need to figure out how to achieve it. I’m sure reading together is a big part of it, but will it matter that I’m the only one who reads for pleasure while my husband doesn’t? Does it matter whether we encourage reading in digital or physical format? There are still so many years to go, and I’m sure even more awesome kids books will be on the market by then, but I suppose it’s all part of the teaching that this poor little one will be subjected to. Geez, between all the games I want him/her to play, and all the Disney movies Dean wants to watch with him/her, I’m definitely going to need to carve out a chunk of the day for books. And, you know, all the other activities kids will need and want to do.

Feelings, migraines and hormones

Myprodol

I had a horrible migraine today. It still isn’t totally gone, but I’m now able to see out of both eyes and function to some degree. I’ve had migraines for my entire adult life, thanks to hormonal fluctuations. Some women are lucky enough to stop having migraines during pregnancy – I am not one of them. Instead, I am now afflicted with migraines without the support of my trusty narcotic pain killers. It’s not fun and drives home that awful pregnant feeling that my body isn’t totally mine at the moment. I’m sharing it, and it’s not always easy. But it will be worth it.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling a bit more emotional than usual. Not all the time, not to the point where I’m crying over putting parmesan on my pasta or something, but it does feel like my emotions are magnified at the moment. All of them – the ones that make me feel like I’m madly in love with my husband, as well as the ones that make me irritated with coworkers or the ones that make me feel like I have to fight the world.

There’s a part of me that likes to dismiss these feelings. They aren’t ME – I’m the levelheaded geeky girl who can think logically and handle situations “like a normal person”. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

But then, I remember many years ago, when I was a depressed teenager in therapy, my shrink pointed out that PMS and other hormonal changes didn’t create unreal emotions. I was actually angry/sad/frustrated, but those feelings that were normally quite manageable simply became amplified when hormones were involved. I suppose the same is true of pregnancy hormones – they aren’t creating feelings, but amplifying emotions that are already in existence.

Right now, I want to fire up my console and play games for seven hours straight, I want to block out the world around me and delve into the joy of gaming. I want to read my awesome book. I want to distract myself from the fact that I am feeling such big things all at once. But that’s sort of not the point.

I suppose, like my lack of codeine for migraines, it’s a time in my life to just experience what I’m going through. The good, and the bad. I’m going to try and focus on the feelings that make me feel good, though. I’m excited to spend time with my husband tonight, playing games and being silly. I’m happy to have my gorgeous cats to cuddle with as it gets cold once the sun goes down. And I’m going to put off all the other stuff until tomorrow. Maybe by then my migraine, and oversized emotions, will have subsided.

Superheroes are for boys and other gender crap

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One of the best parts of being pregnant is that I’m now allowed to buy baby clothes. They’re just so cute and it’s making this whole ‘preparing for my whole life to change’ thing much more fun. Plus, it makes me feel like I’m actually doing something other than having weird pains (that are totally normal) and odd food stuff while I grow a person inside me.

I am still unsure if I’m having a little boy or girl, but mostly it doesn’t matter. Either way, I’ll be buying pretty much the same clothes, toys and books. I don’t want to put my kid in gendered clothing – it just seems weird to me. Once he or she is able to choose, I’ll buy stuff according to those tastes, but while I’m forcing my fashion ideas on the tiny creature, it won’t be based on the idea of dressing in a way that represents his or her genitals. Of course, this mentality seems weird to everyone else.

It’s hard to find baby clothes that aren’t gender specific, but I have found some absolutely adorable items. From a “little ass kicker” onesie to my “made with love and science” baby grow, I already love the stuff I’m planning on having the kid wear. Recently, I picked out some more stuff and got some strange looks and comments.

I love the idea of dressing my kid in all sorts of geeky clothes, particularly superheroes. From DC to Marvel and all the awesome indie stuff in between, I think it’s hilarious and way too much fun. I got a Batman onesie that’s just too cute, as well as a Superman fleecy onesie that I wish came in my size. But neither of these were considered normal purchases. The Batman one was apparently too much of a boy’s item while the Superman one was a girl version because the logo was pink. Um, a blue fleece with pink Superman logo, plus it’s ridiculously soft. Also, who cares?

Another discussion was equally distressing for me as people were saying that they would wait to buy any baby presents until they know if it’s a boy or a girl. Um, why? Every child can have a xylophone, building blocks, a dump truck and cuddly toys. Boys can have dolls if they want and girls can play with tool kits. The point is for kids to play and have fun and maybe learn something about how things work – why would such presents be wrong for the kid if it turned out to be a different sex?

Maybe I’m just a raving feminist, or maybe I’m a failed feminist, but I simply don’t see the value in dressing my kid in whatever color to prove to the world to call him or her by a specific pronoun. It sets a tone that I don’t like, one which dictates what’s appropriate to wear (and say and do) depending on the organs between your legs.

Yet again, I feel like I’m already fighting battles before this little one is even born. So many months to go and I’m already exhausted by it all.

A generation gap in the making

TMNT new

Over the weekend, Dean and I went to see some friends. They already have a young kid with a second one on the way. As seems to be the case now that I’m knocked up, the conversation inevitably turned to childbirth, and then the prospect of raising the little rugrat. Of course Dean and I are excited to show the little one all the things that make us excited, but I’m already seeing signs of the generation gap.

Sure, some movies and books and games are timeless. Dean will probably get to live his dream of showing all the Disney movies to the little one while I make some excuse to be out of the house for a while. Or I might have a decent shot at sharing some of the awesome kid’s books (A Wrinkle in Time, anyone) or games – Tetris and Mario will never lose their cool-factor.

But then there are things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or whatever new show will be running by the time the kid is old enough to get into a series. Have you SEEN the new version of TMNT? Gone is the 80s animation, with a whole new style for the modern age. And Dean was horrified! He was determined that our kid would only watch the “quality” TV that he knew and loved, like Gummy Bears and original He-Man.

So it hit me, this is where generation gaps come from. At some point, all those games I played and series I loved were the cool new thing. He-Man and Thundercats and all those awesome shows were made for my generation, and I loved them. But that doesn’t mean that little Harley or Mason will. Sure, some stuff will translate well, and I’m sure Dean will grow to love watching the new Marvel or DC stuff with the little one, plus any excuse to watch Chowder will be accepted with open arms. And I’m jealous of my kid getting to grow up with the toys-to-life genre as an established and awesome gaming genre for kids.

It’s just come as a bit of a shock already. I knew that not all the stuff I like would be appealing to a kid, and I knew that there would be shows and music that wouldn’t be what I grew up with. It’s just a bit mind boggling to see the generation gap in action, before the baby growing inside me is even born.

How much equality is there in raising a child? A Women’s Day ramble

burning-bra Yesterday was Women’s Day in South Africa, which means today is our day off from work. I often laugh at the public holidays in South Africa, but I sort of like Women’s Day. Okay, I hate all the marketing that goes along with it, and the fact that one day has become an entire month, but it’s nice to see women celebrated. There is so much that women do, that women are expected to do, and even the most staunch feminists among us fall into that trap. And I can feel myself doing it.

Being pregnant has made me think about these things a lot more. How will I raise my son/daughter? How will I teach him/her about gender, about how to exist in society, about how to be his or her own person and not cave to social norms? I am very happy to have a husband who appreciates me, who treats me with respect, who loves me completely and is totally supportive of all my endeavors. However, I wonder if even he will fall into the same gender traps.

Sure, I know that he will be an active part of our kid’s life. He will change diapers, watch the baby so I can go for a long shower or bath, or maybe even take care of things to give me a night off.  But I wonder what the balance will be. I plan on breast feeding and expressing so that he can also help with feeding, but I wonder what the proportion will be of boob and bottle. I am fairly confident that he will watch the munchkin so I can attend events or have a “night off”, but how many nights off will he have in a week? It’s not me being resentful of him or questioning priorities. It just seems to me that even the most empowered women I know seem to do more of the childcare than their husbands.

So, how much equality is there, really? I work from home, which means that in theory I should be able to look after the little one and still continue working. But how will that actually work – I already see my work not taken as seriously as his because I can do mine in slippers and pajamas. Will that only get worse once a baby is in the picture? Will it also mean that I can do nighttime feedings alone because “at least I’m at home all day”? The assumptions just seem to spiral out in my head and get me rather nervous.

Plus there’s that big question – what sort of feminist would I be if I DID take on the lion’s share of raising the child? What sort of feminist would I be if I did sacrifice more of my career to raise this child than my husband will? Is this yet another reason that I’m a bad feminist, or is it just the reality of life that someone needs to make time to take care of a baby and it’s simply more cost effective for it to be me? Also, supposedly mothers “just know” what their babies need – food, rest, a nappy change – so won’t it also be “easier” for me to just do it, even if that flies in the face of gender equality?