Barbie volunteering at the animal shelter

I have just seen this post on the wall of a good friend on Facebook. I think it just about sums up all that it seems the world would want to teach our daughters about themselves.

It is funny when you see it at first, I admit I laughed out loud. But only because here, in the real world we know that it is way off the mark. As my friend says, it’s not exactly what I would wear to volunteer at the local animal shelter.

But how would Lillie or her friends know that? What does this image teach our girls? What message does it send to our daughters about their bodies and their value in society? Or far worse than that, what message does it send out to our boys about the place of females in society?

How do we as parents stem the tide of sexualisation of our children?

I don’t know the answer but I am working it out day by day.

When I was 7 like Lillie is now, I wanted to be an astronaut. The first british woman in space studied chemistry at a university in manchester, I was so impressed by this real woman that I followed in her footsteps, at least as far as getting a chemistry degree from Manchester. I still haven’t made it into space yet.

I desperately want to be able to pass these values onto my children, today I am going to let this little pink dress focus my attention on the task at hand.


Here is the link to the product, I think if I were writing the warning below I would have used stronger words…

Barbie® is sure to make a fashion statement at the local animal shelter wearing this gorgeous red and pink dress. Warning: Suitable from 3 years+. Not suitable for children under 36 months

Why am I calling my kids Lillie and Charlie?

Psalm 127:3-5

New International Version (NIV)

3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.

Lillie and Charlie

I want to a talk about lots of things on here. Because our children make up such a large part of our lives and who I am at the moment I’m sure that a fair chunk of what I am going to say will be about them. Children really are the most amazing little beings, funny, cute, sweet, energetic but also challenging at the same time. They do things to me, and provoke emotions in me that I could never have predicted. I have never been so stretched in all areas of my life like I have since I became a mother, it’s becoming hard to remember what my comfort zone looks like.

I have been following a number of other bloggers for some time now and I have noticed that they seem to be fairly sensible in terms of protecting their kid’s security on-line. I want to be sensible too, I want to share my story but I don’t want to do it in a way that will embarrass them as they grow up.

This morning I talked to my daughter about my new project and explained what a blog is, I talked to her about telling our story but about guarding our privacy and safety. Its never too young to start a conversation with our kids about personal safety on-line, and this is something we have talked about with her before. It’s also never too soon to start having some guidelines about where, when and how much the internet can be used at home. I find it unbelievable that there are chat rooms marketed specifically at kids, this starts from the day they learn to read and write. My kids tell me that these chat rooms are safe places as they are only for children, this raises a massive red flag for me, and so for now chat rooms out out of bounds.

I asked her to choose a name she would like me to use for her, she picked Lillie. It’s interesting because that was one of the names on the short list before she was born. She wanted her brother to be called Harry, I suspect because of some cute boy from 1-direction rather than anyone in the British royal family, however to my surprise he piped in with “I’ll be Charlie”. So in the interests of fairness, we let him choose his own name too. I was quite proud of them that they chose such normal names, I wasn’t expecting that. Hopefully in the future when they are naming my Grandkids they will be as sensible.

So from now on in Blogland and on our cheerios milk and spoon facebook page my kids will be known henceforth as Lillie and Charlie. The names the kids have chosen are totally meaningless, unlike their names in real life which have deeply personal and specific meanings. If you are part of our lives in the real world and you know our kids names we would really appreciate it if you can please respect their privacy when commenting etc.

So let me introduce you to my little lovelies…

Lillie is 7, she loves shopping and moshi monsters and all things princess and girly. Charlie is 4 years old, he loves angry birds, lego, ninjas and all things Star Wars. Charlie is our selective eater, and along our journey to find answers as to why he struggles so much with food and how we can best help him he has been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder.

We are blessed to have sociable, healthy children who get along well with each other most of the time. I hope you will enjoy getting to know them better.

The beginning

If you are new here, welcome! I am new too, it’s exciting, I like new things.

This is my first blog post, well actually its my second as I stayed up last night playing with wordpress and trying to figure it out, and did this and this.

I have been wanting to join the world of blogging for some time but didn’t feel like I had much to contribute. However 2 things have happened this week to change that way of thinking. The first was something that was said to me at a conference last weekend and the second was a wise friend who pointed out that its better to try and fail than to never try at all.

I had booked into the conference and was planning on going there alone, sitting at the back and keeping a fairly low profile. However none of that actually happened due to a chance meeting at a zoo earlier in the year, but thats another blog for another day.

I was at the conference because in April 2013 our son was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. If you stay around long enough you will probably learn more about SPD as we learn and share. But so far in our journey of searching for help and answers we have come across Sensory Integration Network, these are a whole bunch of lovely people who understand SPD and know what to do to help our kids. Last month I found out, from their website that they were holding a conference and a training workshop in a city only 2 hours from home. I can tell you wild horses would not have kept me from being there.

So as i went off on my weekend away I had kind of expected that there would be other parents like me, maybe people further along this journey that we have found ourselves on, I imagined meeting people with more experience who I could learn from and exchange stories. Everyone I met at the conference was lovely, and went out of their way to welcome and include me. But as it turns out, in so far as meeting other parents goes I was wrong, really wrong and so being a parent in a room full of professionals made me quite a novelty. Each time I was introduced to someone as being a parent, their reactions ranged from genuine surprise to total shock. I found this quite amusing, it’s funny because for the vast majority of my everyday life, being a parent makes me boring, it is not interesting or at all surprising it’s just something that i have in common with almost everyone, a kind of underlying reason for why we all stand together freezing on the schoolyard, why we are out watching Disney movies in the cinema at 10am on a saturday morning and why its ok to carry on for the rest of the day wearing a shirt with a food stain on it. Being a parent has never been something that made me stand out. Now i know that most of these surprised people were actually parents too, but most of them were there because its their job, i was there for a whole different reason because I was hungry to learn and desperate for more information.

As the conference came to an end I was approached by the editor of the magazine the network produces and asked if i would write an article for their publication. If you knew me during my school and university years you would know just how ironic this request is. Me yes Me asked to write a magazine article! At school I was scientist, not a writer, I loved everything to do with logical facts and figures, research and experiments, and I hated, no thats too mild a word, I loathed language and literature, writing and spelling. But what could I say? I mean these are the people who have changed our lives, they have given their whole careers to helping kids like our son to find ways to not just survive in the world but to succeed and to thrive, I owe these people my sanity, saying No was just not an option.

She had asked me to write about a day in our lives, a typical day in our household, Oh and there was a deadline, I had 3 days. Now never, in my wildest dreams had I thought that a typical day in our household would be an interesting enough subject that someone would want to print it in their magazine, people with primary school aged children don’t generally live very remarkable lives. But I had made a promise and I am good with deadlines so I got started. It was actually very therapeutic to put down in words the things we do each day, the things we have learnt over the last year the tiny changes we have made which make our sons life manageable and even enjoyable. I hope what I have written helps someone else, that’s if it even gets published, but even if it doesn’t actually get published I know writing it has already helped me, helped me to see that its ok to have a go, to try and to just start somewhere even if its not perfect thats ok. We are not perfect people or parents we are all on a journey, and today is the first step into my new blogging adventure.

Thanks for joining me, I hope you will come back again.