Questioning the Norm…


I was surprised to see the family bed debate hit prime time on CNN yesterday.  It is a topic of intense personal-impact and very little societal impact.  Whether or not a family co-sleeps warrants the topic of hot-debate just about as much as whether or not a Mom chooses to babywear.  It’s intensely personal – purely a family choice.

But on CNN, Psychologist Lawrence Shapiro stated that the family bed, “is not giving children what they need”.  He goes on to explain that kids really should be sleeping in their own beds from two years on.   And many medical ‘experts’ mirror his opinion, stating reasons like, autonomy for the child, space for the parents, fostering individuality and positive sleep habits, and the list goes on.  Autonomy at 18 months of age?  Now that comment, I disagree with… but that’s a whole other post, isn’t it?

As for me, I don’t take a stance for or against co-sleeping because our family does what is right for us, and I cannot worry about what other families do. If I did, I’d be insanely nosy, and – truthfully, I’d go crazy.  What strikes me odd is that National News programs feel the need to critique attachment parenting practices like this, yet, issues like children spending hours de-tached from their families in daycares and schools, and the over-obsessive media-culture our kids live in are left untouched.  I mean, really?

Do we co-sleep?  No.  Not if I can help it.  We use many attachment parenting methods, but the family bed was never one of them.  For me, sleeping with our kids past newborn/infant stage just did not work.  I almost lost Audrey off the side of the bed when she was tiny due to lack of sleep and delusional night-time nursing.  Personally, I felt (and still feel) our kids sleep much better on their own.  We did have a bassinet/crib in our room for a long time with our two youngest (up to 5-6 months?) but not in our bed.  Our eldest was in his own crib, in his room, at one month old because he was such a loud sleeper and I was such an over-anxious new Mom that I was getting NO sleep.

When our kids are in our bed, no one sleeps.  They toss and turn and talk and giggle and whine and drive me and my husband crazy.  The two of us have never been able to understand how people claim to sleep BETTER in the family bed.  It just isn’t the case with our family.  Do our kids crawl in after a bad dream or for a cuddle?  Sure.  Do we sometimes cuddle our kids to sleep in their beds?  Sure.  But most of the time, it’s just Wes and I in our own bed, and we’re very happy about that.

For us, fostering our quiet time and time alone is crucial – especially with three babies really close together.  That is our sanctuary, our space, our time to be in each other’s arms.  Also, I home school our kids and spend extensive amounts of time with them everyday.  Were I to sleep with them too, I honestly fear I’d lose my mind.

Now, I’m sure a co-sleeping parent could give me a long list as to why sleeping with their munchkins WORKS for them… and I don’t mean to make this seems like and anti-co-sleeping post, as it’s not at all.  I’m simply taking the spin from our family perspective.  (If fact, I’d love to hear from you in the Comments!!!).

It does offend me when co-sleeping parents say things like,”How can you deprive that closeness?”.  It bugs me because it insinuates that, by having my children sleep in their own beds, I’m somehow depriving them of something.  I don’t feel I deprive my kids of anything – and certainly not love, attention, and affection.  In our home, if we co-slept, I feel I’d be depriving our kids of a proper sleep and a happy Mommy and Daddy.

Here’s the clip from CNN.

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I’m very excited and also a little nervous about a huge project that I’ve been working on for, well, way too long.  I’ve been an aspiring writer since I could put pencil to paper and I feel it’s time to truly put my money where my mouth is, so to ‘speak’.

There’s nothing “low-profile” about this project… in fact, it’s a bit controversial (to those who like to go with the grain…) and involves a lot of the kind of digging most people tend to avoid.  But, I’m pumped.  And I need your help.

Speak your mind!

I’m working with a seasoned, published writer to sketch the first three chapters of a book about the media and how it affects girls, women, and society as a whole.  Now more than ever we are bombarded with messages – all around us – we’re being told what to say, what to wear, what to buy, how to act.  We are sent so many messages, often we don’t even realize they’re being received.  Teen lives are filled to the brim with multi-media and peer influence – more than any other generation in history.  And teen girls have a lot to say about, well – everything.  And I’m asking them to share it.

We’re opening up about beauty, popularity, sex, celebrities, music, faith, Facebook, and all things ‘media’.  The soul of this project is to truly hear the hearts of today’s teens and women and dig deeper into the root of media influence.  As a Media Comm grad, I know very well that there are so many lies we are told through TV, movies, music, print media, etc. and it is my hope that we can all inspire and encourage each other to uncover the falsehoods.  ‘Counter-culture’ is maybe the phrase that would most closely describe what I’m going for.  We can choose to defy the norm, and learn how to live in true power and freedom – with a real sense of self and affirmed, deeply planted ‘identity’ and purpose.

The book is mostly geared for teen ladies but I’m looking for input from young girls all the way to senior women.  Your opinions, stories, ideas, and experiences are CRUCIAL for the raw, reality-based, no-secrets style I’m hoping to achieve through this revealing non-fiction eye-opener.

I also need some male voices – particularly young men (teens – early 20s), so if you’re a guy and you’re interested, or you know some one who may be willing to share his insights, please let me know.

I’m hoping to publish many of your stories, ideas, journal entries, experiences, etc. in the book, online through a website and blog, and also through a speaking series I plan to do.  I have full interview questionnaires available by email.  I could also interview you over the phone or in person, if you’d prefer.

All information shared is confidential and if/when your ideas and stories are used, your name will be changed for safety and privacy reasons (unless you ask otherwise and prefer to be fully credited by name.)

I truly hope to involve as many teens and women as possible in this project.  I’m looking for ladies from all backgrounds and walks of life.  I need your stories and opinions!

Also, if you are the leader of a Youth Group or a group that involves young people and/or teens – I’d love to talk to your group and involve them in a round-table discussion about these current issues and thought-provoking topics.  Please, contact me, and we can chat some more!

Please, contact me right away if you or other teens/women in your life would like to answer the survery and/or share your stories and insights!

Email –

cldorman@sympatico.ca

Phone –

905-870-4856 (If I don’t get to it in time, please, leave a message with your phone number).

Thank you so much.

WHY!?

I thought it was bad enough that I was seeing 7 and 8 year olds wearing string bikinis this summer.  But now, I’m seeing them on infants.  I found a site this week and couldn’t believe there were actually pictures of babies (newborns to toddlers) modeling string bikinis in various poses.  (I am not listing it here or linking to it for fear of linking the wrong kind of people to the site).

As a society at large, we are grossly in denial of the direction we are headed.  Kids (mostly girls) are being sexualized at younger and younger ages.  Heck, there are even pole dancing kits for primary age girls!  And in response to my concerns about these topics, I’ve heard comments like, “clothes don’t sexualize kids – people do,” and “only a sicko would look at a little girl that way”.  Well, those statements are both true and false.  Actually, both people AND clothes sexualize kids – and in this case, babies.  And, sure, mostly only sickos look at kids in a sexual way, but, when we dress our kids up like little under-dressed women, even the everyday man (or woman?) could see them in a sexual light.

To “sexualize” is to give sexual association to something.  When you are putting something “sexy” on your child, you are associating the idea of ‘being sexy’ with their tiny body.  Period.  Don’t try to sugar-coat it.  Whether you think it’s sexy or not doesn’t matter, society has made it so, and therefor, it is.

So many parents (and obviously the manufacturers and marketers of such products) are incredibly misinformed if they don’t think there are a lot of creeps out there, right in your neighborhood.  Child porn is the largest and fastest growing industry online and worldwide.  And, yes, sick adults do lust after very young children – it’s reality.  It’s up to us as parents and consumers of children’s products to boycott companies who make inappropriate attire for kids.

Although I’m pretty convinced their creators do not have harmful intentions for our daughters, their naivety to the seriousness of sexualizing babies and photographing and posting them online is unfortunate and extremely angering.  These precious little ones have no say in who looks at and lusts after their bodies.

Many people I talk to think I’m too ‘out there’ and that I worry too much about ‘the small stuff’.  I would challenge that when we have a society where CHILD porn is the fastest growing online industry, millions of little girls as young as 4 are trafficked in the sex-trade business every year, and children are being raped and molested every day – issues of sexualizing babies is a VERY big deal.  And it is just that.  Whether we like it or not or intend to do it or not – it is what it is.

Ways to take a stand –

1. Dress your baby and children in appropriate swimwear.

2. Do not buy from companies that make or distribute products that sexualize young children.

3. Write a letter.  If you truly want to voice your concerns, write to the manufacturers of such products and voice your concern.  If enough Moms stop buying and enough Moms speak up – maybe these products will fade and be replaced by more age-appropriate clothing.

Everything starts with the “small stuff” – and to some, babies in bikinis is “small stuff”.  But, I’d challenge: If as Moms we’re ok with our infants looking “hot” – where on earth do we go from there?

*Frustrated.*

In case you’re wondering, to me – appropriate baby girl swimwear looks like this:

The latest marketing ploy from Huggies has me twitching as I type.  Huge ads sprawl text like, “Make a Little Fashion Statement” and “Fashionable Diapers for your Baby”.  Seriously?  Last time I checked, I wasn’t concerned with whether my little ones’ diapers were ‘cool’ but rather, whether they kept them clean and dry.

Here’s a look at some of the advertising being used –

A link to the commercial on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=sQ0M9CBEkw0&feature=related


Some might say I’m uptight, but I think we need to take a more critical look at this campaign and what it means.

There’s something pretty creepy about using sex to sell baby diapers.  I have a serious problem with a commercial that insinuates women are ‘checking out’ a toddler because he looks so ‘good’ walking down the street in his hip nappy.   Many Moms have mentioned being thrilled that along with going short or pant-free, their babies will also avoid that awful ‘diaper line’ problem.  Huh?  Are we really this shallow as parents that we are concerned about our child’s diaper peeking up over his jean shorts?  Yikes.

In ads like the TV Commercial and the second print ad I posted above, you’ve also got babies being dressed up as and made to look like adult men.  Adult men who are attractive, sought after by grown women, and even possibly ‘sexy’.  If you can’t see it, you’re not taking a close or critical enough look.  With a society that is moving towards sexualizing younger and younger girls and boys –  campaigns like this can’t be ignored or bought into so easily.  We need to take a step back and refuse to contribute to these kinds of messages (IE: don’t buy them, consider not buying Huggies, or even send a letter to them if it bothers you enough).

On a very logistical note, there are several Mom Blogs with claims and comments posted that these diapers are actually leaving blue stains on babies’ legs and clothing.  This is concerning and I wonder what dyes are being used and if they are safe to be nuzzled next to a little one’s sensitive skin for hours at a time.

I also have a hard time with products that encourage parents to ensure that even their infants and toddlers are indeed, “in fashion”.  As the campaign tag-line suggests, do our babies really have to “look cool while pooping”?  Why are we placing so much emphasis on the way these tots look?  Do we really need to start the anxiety (mostly in the parent’s need to have baby measure up) THIS young?  What’s going to be next – diapers with brand names like GAP and Abercrombie printed on the bum?   C’mon!  Has Huggies completely gone off the deep-end or am I the only parent who is seriously concerned for a society that stresses about needing our baby diapers to look “chic”?!

*shakes head*

A few months ago, at the age of two, my daughter Audrey was given several Barbies, a Barbie mansion, various Barbie accessories, and questionable outfits.  Although something deep within me didn’t feel right about Barbie, I went along with having the dolls around.  For a while.

When something makes me wince or wonder or question, I am wired to investigate.  Through weeks of reading and research, I uncovered so many of the reasons why my spirit was dampened at the sight of that blond plastic bombshell.

Today, Barbie makes up about 60% of the fashion doll industry, with the newer “Bratz” dolls taking the other 40%.  Bratz, in my opinion, are intrinsically worse than Barbie, but that’s an entire other article.  In short, Bratz are stylized with a much more sexual look and are proud to be outwardly ‘skanky-chic’ (as girls call it).

When asked who they would see as having “the perfect body”, hundreds of thousands of females responded, “Barbie”.  And, these aren’t just little girls.  These are teens, young adults, and middle aged women.

Whether we want to admit it or not, Barbie is a symbol of femininity.  Most girls spend countless hours dressing, undressing, dressing again, doing hair, doting, adorning with accessories, and playing out life-scenarios for and with their Barbie dolls.  So, what’s the big deal?

Some things you may not know about today’s girls:

  • Young girls’ body image and self-esteem are at an all-time, devastating low. We are living in an age where 4-year-olds are worried about looking ‘hot’, 8-year-olds are obsessing about being ‘fat’, and 11-year-olds are performing oral sex on boys in school buses to gain social status among peers.
  • Girls are being targeted by marketers of beauty products and name brand clothing lines at preschool ages.
  • Girls are being HUGELY influenced by negative ‘role models’ like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus.
  • Eating disorders are on the rise among younger and younger girls
  • Teens are engaging in sex earlier and with less precaution than in past decades
  • More teen girls than ever have anxiety, are depressed, and suicidal.

So, BARBIE CAUSED ALL THIS!  No.  That’s not what I’m saying.  What caused ‘this’ is a myriad of issues, including – destructive media messages (and the media is the TOP influencer of the majority of preteens and teens), broken and disconnected families, young people more reliant on their peers than their parents (and parents who aren’t there), an overwhelming lack of purpose in millions of young people, and the list goes on.

But, let’s not be naive about the role these dolls play in the lives of young girls, because it’s a huge one.

If, during a child’s most formative years, she spends countless hours enthralled with fashion dolls like Barbie and Bratz, she is bombarded with an overwhelming passive-aggressive influencer about what being a beautiful and successful ‘woman’ means.

And, unfortunately, what these multi-billion dollar corporately controlled dollies are preaching is:

  • Beautiful is abnormally SKINNY but oddly CURVACEOUS. The ironic tragedy is, we have millions of girls who view Barbie as having ‘the perfect body’ but her body is completely unattainable. A recent research project done by Rader Programs suggests that if Barbie were a real woman, she would be approximately 6’ tall, 100 lbs, and wear a size 4.  Her measurements would be 39, 19, 33.  Her body fat % would be so low, she would not be able to menstruate and would never have babies with that hunky Ken.  Any girl who actually achieves anything close this “Barbie body” is both a genetic anomaly and often a fabrication of technology.  And so, girls desperately strive to attain the unattainable (enter the marketing of the multi-billion dollar beauty products, dieting, and weight-loss industries). Because the ideal is almost never achieved, girls grow up unhappy with their bodies on a whole, constantly striving to fill the “gap” that their lack of confidence leaves.  This contributes greatly to our society’s materialistic lifestyle(s).
  • Beautiful is WHITE. “But, there are mulit-cultural Barbies and Bratz!” argue many.  Yes, there are.  But visit the Barbie website and every Barbie character (15 I counted when I logged on today) on the home page is white with blond hair.  Although we have come a long way from previous generations on our view of multi-cultural beauty, we are still very trapped by the ‘white girls are prettier’ notion.  Studies have shown that over 75% of lead characters and personalities on TV are white.  White Barbies far overpower Barbies of any other culture in stores and online.  This is damaging for both white girls AND girls of other ethnic backgrounds – one (the white girl) could subconsciously form the view that whites really ARE most desirable, and the other (a young girl of another ethnic background) could grow to view her cultural roots as a barrier to beauty and overall acceptance and success.
  • Beautiful is all about WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE. There isn’t much else to DO with Barbies but dress them up and do their hair.  Then we sit around and shallowly discuss how ‘pretty’ they look.  I remember my daughter looking up at me with all her white skinned, blond Barbies in row, perfectly primped.  “They’re BEEE-eautiful!” she gasped.  I cringed and smiled weakly.  Sure, I remember my Barbies going to the mall or the beach, or for a trip in their awesomely cool red Barbie Ferrari.  But before each outing, they got redressed and restyled and it was always about making sure Barbie looked good.  Barbie is the epitome of Western beauty.  She’s ridiculously skinny and flat-bellied but big-boobed and round-bootied. (Say that 10 times fast!).  She’s tanned and toned.  She’s also got the ‘perfect face’ – high cheekbones, straight white teeth, well-shaped brows, and big, bright eyes that project symmetrical perfection.  Reality is, this is only the picture of beauty because we’re conditioned to believe this way.  Just over 100 years ago, big round cheeks, small eyes, white skin, and lusciously chubby legs and bums with cellulite were signs of rare beauty (I don’t know about you, but I wish those times would make a come back!).  All jokes aside, young girls are being conditioned to view beauty in a certain way, period.  This view of beauty is false, narrow, and can be life-altering and destructive to girls who do not fit the mold or frantically spend their lives trying DESPERATELY to squeeze in.
  • Beautiful is SLUTTY. Barbie ain’t who she used to be.  I have a huge issue with branding children.  Selling and marketing adult-like clothing to kids has slowly become the norm over the past few decades.  Now, it isn’t uncommon to see a girl, age 7 or 8, walk by in a halter top, short-shorts, and platform sandals.  Really!?  I know there are many parents who don’t see a problem with this, but I do.  Our children are losing their innocence WAY too young.  We have 5-year-olds watching videos like “I Can’t Be Tamed” by Miley Cyrus, and third graders idolizing pop-stars like Kesha – raunchy, rude, and promiscuous to scratch the surface.  And they mimic these ‘stars’ by dressing like them.  Barbie is no different.  If she is a permanent fixture in the home and a friend to young girls, they will look at the way she dresses and draw from it.  There are fewer and fewer Barbie outfits that are modest or suitable for young girls.  More often, Barbie wears extremely tight, short, midriff bearing clothes with stilettos or hooker boots.  And then we tell our daughters their Barbie looks “so pretty”.  What are we saying here?  Not exactly the message of modesty I’m hoping to relay to my sweet 3 year old (and beyond).

When I tell people we don’t allow Barbie in our home, they raise one eyebrow and grow this incredibly confused but somewhat mocking look on their face.  (Don’t worry, I’m getting used to that look).  They just can’t wrap their mind around why Barbie is such a big deal to us.  Most people say something like, “Pfft, Barbie is just a doll… besides, I played Barbie – didn’t ruin me!”

My response to comments like these lies somewhere between, “OPEN YOUR EYES!!!” and “Hm, ok.”

We live in a sex-obsessed, materialistic, unhappy, culturally and socially stunted environment.  Families are falling apart all around us.  Girls are living with more challenges than ever before.  I am just a Mom who wants the best for my kids.  I want our daughter to grow up with a sense of self-worth that goes far, far deeper than the surface.  That will come from her foundation in faith, growing up in an unconditionally loving family,  and having a rich life filled with wholesome education, out-ward focused activities, and a sense of belonging and purpose (among other things, I’m sure!).

Will having Barbie as a friend completely ruin her?  Nah, probably not.  But, why give her something we know is potentially destructive and negative and then cross our fingers it doesn’t affect her ‘too much’?  That kind of parenting makes no sense to me.  I’d much rather take a proactive role and stand firm in the truth I know lies behind the multi-billion dollar dolly industry that hopes to passively invade our daughter’s heart and mind.

An interesting story I found while researching:

From AnitaRoddick.com ->

“In 1998, The Body Shop debuted its self-esteem campaign, featuring the generously proportioned doll we dubbed “Ruby.” Her rubenesque figure graced windows in The Body Shop windows in the UK that year, along with our slogan, “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do.” She went on to appear in stores in Australia, Asia, and the United States, where she captured the imaginations of consumers weary of the rail-thin heroin-chic of the beauty industry’s advertising messages.

Ruby was a fun idea, but she carried a serious message. She was intended to challenge stereotypes of beauty and counter the pervasive influence of the cosmetics industry, of which we understood we were a part. Perhaps more than we had even hoped, Ruby kick-started a worldwide debate about body image and self-esteem.

But Ruby was not universally loved. In the United States, the toy company Mattel sent us a cease-and-desist order, demanding we pull the images of Ruby from American shop windows. Their reason: Ruby was making Barbie look bad, presumably by mocking the plastic twig-like bestseller (Barbie dolls sell at a rate of two per second; it’s hard to see how our Ruby could have done any meaningful damage.) I was ecstatic that Mattel thought Ruby was insulting to Barbie — the idea of one inanimate piece of molded plastic hurting another’s feelings was absolutely mind-blowing.

Then, in Hong Kong, posters of Ruby were banned on the Mass Transit Railway because authorities said she would offend passengers. (Granted, Ruby often appeared without clothes on, but like Barbie, she had no nipples or pubic hair.) Of course, the much more seriously offensive images of silicone-enhanced blondes in other ads were permitted to stay on the trains.

And there, in a nutshell, is my relationship with the beauty industry. It makes me angry, not only because it is a male-dominated industry built on creating needs that don’t exist, but because it seems to have decided that it needs to make women unhappy about their appearances. It plays on self-doubt and insecurity about image and ageing by projecting impossible ideals of youth and beauty.”

I agree whole-heartedly.

God Bless, all!