Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Elves in God’s Workshop, Parenting Tips from Professor Barbie, and Other Molehills Masquerading as Mountains

In the new year, we focus on what we should care about. What we should improve. What we should be doing.

I believe it is also a time to figure out those things with which we should not be so obsessed to the point of self-righteousness. What things we should not elevate above their worth. What things we should not use to judge others.

I know you know what I mean.

I have judged – other’s decisions, other’s opinions, other’s plans.

And no doubt I have been judged. Such is the nature of humanity.

Where we fall beyond basic temperament is when we give a thing – a belief, a toy, a tradition, a habit, a preference – more power than it should have. Because we don’t agree or don’t like it or are uncomfortable with it. When we do that we shut down dialogue and close our minds.

We hibernate. We atrophy.

And in the worst of cases, we condemn.

This lofty discussion has been percolating in my mind over this holiday season. I have personally encountered and observed examples of judging. And because my world revolves around parenting, the majority of judgment is parent-focused.

I believe LOML was truly frightened about my mothering style pre-La C. Obsessive, control freak is a mild description of me. But I must admit I have surprised myself at my level of zen. Now. Three years in and I realize that I am not bad mommy because La C can quote her favorite episode of Wallace & Gromit. Clearly she watches videos. Enough to quote them. Whatever.

I am not gonna sweat the small stuff. I can’t.

As the daughter of a single mom I saw extreme parenting first-hand –
job, bills, sit down meals, vacations, illness, homework, college
tuition, etc. – all on the shoulders of one parent.

If dinner was an ice cream sundae once in a while so be it – my sis
and I both became school athletes with an understanding of nutrition and exercise. If we worshipped at the Presbyterian church for a few years because it was close to the house rather than the more distant Episcopalian church, so be it – we still are staunch Episcopalians today. If Christmas sometimes came with a beautifully wrapped IOU so be it – we were taught the reason for the season and truly appreciated the importance of being together through times of IOUs and actual gifts.

It is with this background that I find myself as a parent rather
flummoxed by the import placed on things we give our children.

La C’s first articulated Christmas present wish was for a Barbie. No problem.

She’s three. It is a doll.

For me to make it more than that introduces an issue that is not even on her radar screen yet.

And no, I am not afraid that Barbie, with her seductive curves, will permanently tattoo on my daughter’s impressionable psyche that this is the ideal body to have.

My only comment to my child as I try to shimmy Barbie’s skirt over her hips is that it kind of reminds me of trying to shimmy my own skirts over my own rather generous hips. Cause guess what? Real women have curves. They may sag a bit more than Barbie’s sure, but seriously, Barbie looks more like Mom than Tinkerbell does.

And yes, the elf on the shelf worked overtime to ensure good behavior in exchange for Barbie. Well, why not? As far as Christmas decorations go it is a cool concept. No not as poignant as the Christmas miracle but then that is not the elf’s point. The point of the Advent wreath and Advent services is to help celebrate the Christmas miracle. The elf is, well, it’s the other part of the holiday season – the one that has very little to do with the birth of Christ.

The issue is not that the elf and the birth of Christ exist in the same timeframe. The issue is conflating the two sides of the holiday. To pick and choose those non-denominational things that are okay to stand alongside the symbols of the advent and Epiphany is to run the risk of hypocrisy. They are two sides of a coin that can coexist.

When you are young, that Christmas miracle is a difficult concept – seriously, a creche is not often in the 5 year old’s go to suite of terms. So we as parents do what we can to teach them this cornerstone of our faith – and if that means we mingle setting up and explaining the nativity with stockings filled with presents with midnight church services with decorating a Christmas tree so be it.

As my mother would say - It’s not your driving I worry about dear; it is all the other drivers out there. I am not worried that La C’s obsession with Barbie, princesses, tiaras and Disney or the fact that she puts the elf on the shelf in the nativity scene, is going to stunt her transition to an opinionated, compassionate, outspoken young woman of faith.

No, rather I am worried about all the other kids and adults that tell her she cannot be who she wants to be.

Or tell her how to be. How to play. How to worship. How to be a woman. How to think. How to view the world.

You see, I know that she loves her Barbies and playing with them makes her very happy. But I also know that what I say to her means more. The words I choose, my tone of voice, my instructions, accolades, and discipline have a far greater impact on her than both her princess Barbie and elf on the shelf combined.

At least right now.

But don’t think I won’t continue to use the power of my voice, my
example of how I live my life, my values and my faith for the rest of
my life to help guide her.

In the meantime, I am going to continue not to sweat the small stuff
and fix the lights on the Jacuzzi in Barbie’s RV – ballerina Barbie
likes to read while she soaks.

1 comment:

  1. and wherever did she get the idea of reading in the tub? A mother's (and father's) influence is everywhere! And more important than the toys themselves. <3