Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ponies in Pumps & Other Toy Box Anomalies

With the holiday season fast-approaching, mothers around the nation will be gearing up for a shopping season unlike any other. After a summer of recalls from major toy manufactures, we're sure to be much more thoughtful as we peruse the toy aisles in search of the perfect gift.

So since we're already in a thoughtful mood, let's reflect a bit on what's to be found on the toy shelves for our girls.

Ever since my daughter was very small, I've been on an endless hunt to supply her with toys that will stimulate her mind and exercise her body. It was easy when she was a baby. Simple blocks and balls, and more sophisticated toys with lights, texture and sound were perfect for helping her little mind grasp concepts of cause and effect, increasing her motor skills, and encouraging her to explore and understand the world.

But as she got older, the smart toys started getting harder to find. Just step into the girl's toy section of any department store. First, take a moment to regain your equilibrium, since you're sure to be knocked off balance by the glittery tidal wave of pink packaging.

Once your eyes have adjusted to the frou-frou, take a look around. You'll find a common theme among the product on the shelves:

• Let's get dressed up for a party, performance or night on the town!
• Let's have our makeup done for a party, performance or night on the town!
• Let's have our hair done for a party, performance or night on the town!
• Let's perform (dance, sing or model) and be super stars!
• Let's be brides or princesses or cheerleaders!
• Let's decorate our rooms!
• Let's go shopping!

I could go on and on. These themes are nothing new. Even with the introduction of more educational/less gender specific brands like Leap Frog and Little People, the standard girl-themes still prevail. I thought we may have had a "real-girl" mascot in Dora the Explorer.

After all, this little munchkin was using her brain, a boot-clad monkey, a talking map, and her adorable mastery of two languages to solve problems and save the day. But alas, now even daring Dora has gone all mermaid/princess on us.

Seriously, I'm a versatile Mama. I think I've given my girl a good start with a nice mix of challenging games and educational toys. So a few of the popular toys with their sad little "life-is-all-about- looking good and having fun" messages can't hurt too much. After all, it's all about what I teach her, not what she learns from her toys, right?

That being said, this should be the end of my post. But then again…

…there's always THIS!Well DAMN! You can't even be a regular old horse in this vapid, image-obsessed world of ours? You have to put on pumps and a wedding dress and vamp it up in front of a mirror? Come on, toy makers. Let the ponies be free….

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Birth Control for Tweens

Came across this article in the International Herald Tribune
Wow. We have officially entered a new age.

US school to offer birth control pills, patches to pre-teen pupils
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

PORTLAND, Maine: Pupils at a middle school in Portland will be able to get birth control pills and patches at their student health center.

King Middle School will make a full range of contraception available to students in grades 6 through 8, who are around ages 11 to 14. The plan was offered by city health officials and approved by the Portland School Committee 5-2 on Wednesday.

The school will be the first middle school in Maine to provide such services, according to the northeastern state's Department of Health and Human Services. There are no national figures on how many middle schools do the same.

"It's very rare that middle schools do this," said Divya Mohan, a spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.

About one-fourth of student health centers that serve at least one grade of adolescents 11 and older dispense some form of contraception, said Mohan, whose Washington-based organization represents more than 1,700 school-based centers nationwide.

School Committee chairman John Coynie voted against it, saying he felt providing the birth control was a parental responsibility. The other "no" vote came from Ben Meiklejohn, who said the consent form does not clearly define the services being offered.

Opponents cited religious and health objections. Supporters said it would protect children who cannot discuss the issue with their parents.

At King Middle School, birth control prescriptions will be given after a student undergoes a physical exam by a physician or nurse practitioner, said Lisa Belanger, who oversees Portland's student health centers.

Students treated at the centers must first get written parental permission, but under state law such treatment is confidential, and students decide for themselves whether to tell their parents about the services they receive.

Condoms have been available since 2002 to King students who have parental permission to be treated at its student health center.

Five of the 134 students who visited King's health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland's school health centers.

I can't say this is a bad thing. As a young teen I can remember skipping classes to sneak back and forth to Planned Parenthood to get birth control pills. If this were happening then, I'd say "YEAH, BABY!"(screamed in an Austin Powers voice).

Now that I have a pre-teen of my own, I'm not thrilled about this, but I'm not stupid either. I'm doing my best to ensure that the lines of communication between me and my daughter remain open so she won't have to resort to getting birth control from the school. But there are many girls who don't have a parent they can talk to. Some parents could care less, and some just don't want to deal with these issues. Those girls deserve a chance, too.

Damn, it just seems like there should be something else for our girls. It's either, "Don't have sex until you're married!!!" or "Hey, here's some birth control pills for ya."

They need so much more than that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who Wears Short Shorts? Your little girl, apparently!

My original intention, as the dutiful blogger I try to be, was to come onto Girl-Child today to post my musings on the whole Halloween costume industry. You costumes have changed from imaginative, fun-filled projects into elaborate $30 jobs that will have your 9-year old looking like a pop-diva, cool princess, pretty-witch or something else that is borderline pink-frilly-innocence, borderline streetwalker. I'll save that post for next time

Something else caught my attention and stopped me dead in my typing tracks:

Hair removal for pre-teens.

What the hell?

Yeah, it clearly says that this is a product for teens. But the soft, big-sisterish "You're growing's all good." language is clearly directed at a younger girl. She's budding and blossoming. She's changing in so manys ways. And now... on top of starting her period, juggling homework and classes, dealing with parents, and trying to maneuver her way through all of the clique-y bullsh*t at school... NOW she's going to have a complex about the gorilla hair that's suddenly appearing on her legs and crotch.

And how thoughful of the good folks at Nair to have supplied special FAQs and a "Mom's Corner" to convince mothers that this is something that our 11-year olds really REALLY need.

And the little sitelet -- though beautifully designed and, lets face it, well thought-out and probably very effective in convincing thousands of youngsters of the importance early hair removal--is a bit insulting. Roughly translated, it basically says "Hey, what's up with that yak hair under your arms? Gross! Go tell your mom to get you this stuff. You'll be so much better!"

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not liking this new product. I think Nair is pushing it a bit.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Twaddlers and Tweefos and Tweens, oh my!

It's really happening, Mama!

She's changing right before your eyes. The little girl that used to run around with hair all fuzzy from somersaults and a Pull-Up all squishy from--well, we won’t go there-- but your little princess is turning into a young woman!

Gone are the pudgy little legs that used to run with abandon. Chubby cheeks have been replaced by a softly sculpted jaw line and cheekbones. The round little tummy you used to blow raspberries onto is giving way to a waistline and…could it be?... lovely lady lumps are starting to pop out in all those special places!

Yes, that sweet girl-child of yours is growing up. Not a baby anymore. Not quite a teenager. She's a pre-teen. A tween. It's a delicate time, mom. You remember what it was like. Or maybe not. This whole tween thing is a relatively recent concept.

It used to be that a kid was a kid and an adult was an adult. Your mom got your clothes in the kiddie section or in the women's section. You watched Bugs Bunny after school or you watched Luke and Laura. End of story. But now, in the age of finely tuned segmented marketing, 8-to-12 year olds have a world all unto themselves. Not only do they have their own clothing section, but they've got their own stores. Not to mention their own TV channels, radio stations and magazines. Heck they've got their own deodorant (which is a crock because stink is stink. Try keeping tween soccer-funk under wraps with some Teen Spirit.)

It all comes down to business and marketing. Why make millions selling stuff to one giant chunk of kids when you can split 'em up and make billions on a bunch of little chunks? “Twaddlers” are no longer infants, but not quite toddlers (there’s three multi-million-dollar chunks right there). Tweens are no longer little kids, but not yet teenagers (three more…cha-ching!). I guess that makes me a tweefo (no longer 30, but not yet 40). Where's my clothing section? Somewhere between the low-rise jeans and the polyester clam diggers, hopefully.

But for all the marketer’s schemes, they got one thing right. Ages 8 to 12 are a pretty unique time in a kid's life, especially in today's atmosphere. They're moving away from the kiddie stuff earlier and earlier. Eight-year olds today are actually interested in music, make-up, and magazines. At that age I was still trying to figure out how to get those little plastic hooker heels to stay on Barbie's feet.

Times may have changed, but human nature doesn’t change. We may be tweefos but we know what's going through our girls' minds. They want to fit in. Just like we did at that age. Only today, fitting in might entail having the right kind of cell phone or MP3 player in addition to the old standards of having the right clothes or experimenting with sex, alcohol, or drugs. And instead of a 16-year old facing these issues, it’s a 10-year-old.

Scary as hell.

But our girls have a secret weapon. Us! Ok, I know that talking to a pre-teen can be about as productive as milking a brick. That’s why this blog is here. Mothers with a range of different experiences can offer a lot of great advice to each other on staying connected with our girls. So let’s share and see where it goes. After all, we tweefos gotta stick together.
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