Friday, November 16, 2007

An Open Letter (with some adaptations) to the Tonka Truck People

Dear Tonka Truck Man (Because God help us if you're a Woman),

Recently you had an advertisment in Parenting Magazine. It was a special eight page spread which I'm sure cost you mega-bucks. You'll be happy to know that it stayed in the magazine even after I ripped out every single insert I saw due to its heavy duty industrial-strength glue, and so I did happen to look at it. I actually looked at it long and hard. I studied it from every conceivable angle. And then decided that even if my son grows up liking trucks that I will NEVER, ever purchase one from Tonka.

"But why?" you ask, with a manly smirk on your face, feigning innocence as you deal with the "pretty lil' lady.".

The advertisement gave me helpful hints about how to "know I'm the mom of a boy." As if that protruding appendage from his body wasn't a hint?!?

You, Tonka truck folk, remind me that I'll know I'm a mom of a boy when, among other things, Grayson "surprises me with a bouquet of flowers with the roots attached," because, obviously, he wouldn't have gardened with me enough to know that we don't pull flowers out of the ground that we've planted. Grayson, certainly, wouldn't be smart enough to know that if we want to give mommy or daddy cut flowers we should cut them at the stems, or purchase them from a florist, because, by golly, we're dumb boys who don't know better. Right?

Or, Mr. Tonka (because I simply refuse to believe a woman wrote these ads), you have reminded me that I can be sure Grayson is a "real boy" when he climbs up on the bookcase and almost knocks it over on himself because, as you so helpfully remind me, "Boys don't just like to be active, they need to be active." I'm not sure if you're aware of the fact that there are girls who are active too...for instance, my step-daughters spend five and six days, respectively, at Fort Wayne Ballet. Has it occurred to you that it isn't just the male sex that has a market on activity? And is my son less a boy if he chooses to enjoy less active hobbies? And how do we define "activity?" For instance, is "sexism" an active task? Labeling children based on their sexual organs an "activity?" I're the experts on this gender assignment stuff, so I'm just asking...

You reminded me in your advertisement that "Boys love to fantasize about being a hero!" and that therefore "vehicle play helps them act out their dreams, letting them race to the rescue and crash into the bad guys' hangout." Does being a hero entail this crashing and destruction? I mean, I'm just wonderin' 'cause I'm a girl who doesn't know this stuff. Could being a hero mean more than violent "crashing" and "destructing," and actually encompass living justly and loving fiercely? What would it mean if a hero was known to be tender? Is that possible for boys? Can people with penises do this? 'Cause I'm just a sentimental girl asking these kind of questions...

You also mention in your advertisement that boys are "slower to start talking than girls are." I have not seen this play out in our world. My boy is already vocalizing happily at seven months, saying "Dada," and relating with his world. Of course, I'm sure that the fact that he says "Dada" rather than "Mama" is reassuring to you, reasserting the power of patriarchy and the structure of family life.

Thank you for reminding me that Tonka trucks are there for Grayson from "baby to big boy." Since we haven't needed them in his babyhood, I'm confident we'll forego them in the future. And, yes, I will enjoy all the "wild, wonderful moments" and will "remember that [I'm] part of a special group of women--[I'm] the mom of a BOY!" However, I will also remember that I am a savvy and astute woman. I am an educated feminist who sees through your manipulative misogynistic bullshit. And I am the mother of a son who will be raised to resist the oppression of gender stereotypes, gender stereotypes which you continue to proclaim even in the twenty-first century.

Shame on you.

You will not receive my dollars, nor will you receive my son's loyalty.

A Woman who Knows she's the Mom of a Boy (Who Will Know Better)

P.S. As a sidenote, I do owe you a heartfelt thank you, though. Thank you for the inspiration which led my husband to sing (and teach) our son the song, "Fight the Power." I think he'll need it in this world.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

And They Say When You Have a Child You Cease to Think Deeply

Has it occurred to anyone else how comforting the Teletubbies are? Perhaps they are some incarnation of God/ess.

When I was in the midst of trying not to vomit due to the nasty stomach flu and laying very still watching the most minimal of television I happened upon them and, oh, but they were calming and, well, happy in the most serene and benign way. They knew no war. They knew no cellulite. They knew no evil mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus. They knew no world in which George W. were the ruler of the free world. And most importantly, they knew no stomach flu.

All they knew, all these simple giggling creatures knew, was that smiling baby sun and those hills over which they could scamper in all their geometric glory while giggling (don't forget the giggling, never forget the giggling). Triangles merging with squares and the colors, my God the colors...

Okay, maybe I took a little too much post-pregnancy Phenergan and perhaps my nap lasted a bit longer than normal (Note: the baby was with Grandma), but the sheer wonder of British children's television programming left me slack-jawed with wonder.

Never doubt that I don't think deeply, or haven't earned my moniker of Contemplative Chaplain. These are the things that I get paid the big Hospice bucks to contemplate. The Teletubbies as spiritual tools to calm anxiety. I've earned my keep for the day...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Month Seven

Dear Grayson,

I got a little weepy this weekend. And, thanks to Lexapro, Mama just doesn't get all that weepy all that often. But, it was our hospice's semi-annual memorial service for the families of those who have died under our care and the woman who gave a remembrance of her husband talked about how strange it is for her that she has a grandson now, and that her husband (who died a few years ago) will never meet this child who shares his name and his great big football-player hands. And I thought about your great-grandmothers, and your great-grandfather, and your pa who have all died before your birth, who will never know you and who would have loved you so much.

I also got weepy about how big your getting, and how my infant has become lost in the big boy that you're becoming. You say "Dada" with wild abandon--often to your father, but also to your right foot, a man in the Hallmark store, the monkey hanging from your play gym, and the cat. You say it with joy as you shriek happily whilst bounding in your Jumperoo, and you say it with earnest need as you call mournfully from your crib in the middle of the night, and you say it with pleading desire as your mama makes you lie on your tummy in the heinous ritual known as "tummy time," your solemn word, your "Dada" uttered with a sigh as a summons to the man who understands you far better and would never make you undergo this torture. And finally, you say it as benediction and confirmation as you look at R. and pause, your tiny hands memorizing his chin as you feel your way across his face. "Dada."

This has been the month of your love affair with Cooper the 21 lb. cat. You are one of the few people who have fallen in love with this mentally deficient creature who often poops next to your crib and wakens you in the night with his yowling. You see past these deficiencies and look on him with eyes of pure love, giggling yourself silly when he walks in the room, or licks his hind quarters, or jumps on the chair where he's not supposed to sit, or tries to hump the other (male) cat. You see him as pure cat love and pure entertainment and how you can howl in delight when he enters your frame of vision. I hope you love animals your whole life long.

This was also the month when you scared me with an illness. A few nights ago you couldn't stop vomiting (seventeen times to be exact). You were a sick boy. When we took you to the pediatrician the words IV and hospital were bantered around and I realized in that heart-stopping instant that I felt as if I were being torn down the middle. I simply couldn't fathom having you away from home, having you sick. Sometimes it is wretchedly sweet to love something or someone so much. Someday I hope you know this kind of love for yourself.

I adore you, my sweet pumpkin.