To P

181881_10152302710415478_1406107008_nSometimes I catch myself thinking about the things I miss out on by being a parent. The places I can’t go, the events I miss. Boyfriends have told me they love me, but not the fact that I’m a mother, as if one has nothing to do without the other.

But then I remember, I wouldn’t be interested in new restaurants or art shows if it weren’t for my daughter. I wouldn’t have the guts to meet new people if she didn’t force me to live a little more socially, a little less anxiously. I wouldn’t care enough about my health or my future if I weren’t responsible for this little girl. And the guys, the guys who love my independence and my drive, they would have nothing to love if not for her.

I gave up on life at a very young age. After growing up neglected and watching my family safety net get ripped apart. I learned the people out there meant to protect you have no obligation to do so. Things got dark and seemingly hopeless, fast.

And then she was born. I sobered up; I cut out the poisonous ties. My huge network of fair-weather friends was replaced by a few solid souls. Colours were more vibrant and I began to feel the crispness of fresh air in my lungs. I wanted to live a more full life; I wanted the same for my baby. I found a self-worth in myself I never had before, and with it I pushed myself to try new things. To believe I could accomplish something as “simple” as meeting a group of people for lunch, or something as big as graduating an advanced journalism program. I must be someone worthwhile if someone so precious looks up to me, I’m not going to fail her.

Quite simply, if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t care. I would have destroyed myself or let others do it, and it nearly happened. She’ll never know the mommy she looks up to is only strong because of her daughter’s unwitting guidance.

Barbie girl

Predictably, my request for a Barbie free Christmas was met with protest and indignation, though well meaning.

It seems my political agenda is preventing my daughter from having the well-rounded girl’s childhood marketer’s intended. It’s only a doll, after all. And yes, I do let my daughter have other “girly” things, so why  not Barbie Millicent Roberts?

When Barbie hit the scene in 1959, she was an independent lady. She bought her own cars and homes. She had boyfriends, but was not married, and she had several interesting careers. When I look at today’s store shelves I see a lot of princess themed Barbie dolls, but nothing else. Barbie’s official site offers other careers.

Screenshot of Barbie's past and present career options from Barbie.com
Screenshot of Barbie’s past and present careers from Barbie.com

What really scares me is how media already controls so much of our culture, and is promoting specific and unattainable beauty standards everywhere. Buy more, more, more to look like this altered image of a female! My daughter, four years old, has already complained about having a “big belly,” that’s “not like doll bellies.” Now this issue can’t simply be about toys. In our case, I make doubly sure not to voice my own body insecurities, and I try to talk about eating healthy and exercise more. It’s interesting teaching a daughter at the same time as re-teaching yourself.

When looking up Barbie’s body proportions I read some comments after this BBC article. Why are we so focused on Barbie’s proportions? Not all toy proportions are realistic. See a former anorexic’s project with her built “real-life” Barbie here. Barbie’s contributing factor to eating disorders can be debated. Truth is triggers are so personal and change case by case.

Image from Galia Slayen's article about her project.
Image from Galia Slayen’s article about her project.

I’m not anti-pink, far from. Peggy Orenstein wrote in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, “Just because little girls wear the tulle does not mean they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.” No, eliminating Barbie from my household (I don’t interfere with her dad allowing them at his) will not guarantee a confident child, but it’s a small step. The girl has a sea of toys, the lack of Barbie will not prevent her from being a kid with an imagination. Maybe if Barbie was more interesting I wouldn’t mind so much. I tried giving her a shot and watched a Barbie movie with my buddy, his niece and P. It was about a young woman giving up her job to go to charm school and bag a prince. I’d rather my money go elsewhere.

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