Thursday, 13 October 2011

Mrs. Representing

A friend of mine posted a movie trailer on Facebook this morning and asked for "Thoughts?". The trailer (warning for the sensitive, graphic images) was for the movie Miss Representation, which is about the disparity between women and men in positions of power.  The first part of the trailer focused on the portrayal (and the betrayal) of women in media - advertising, music videos, magazines etc, and I have to say I was somewhat shocked by the cascade of images on the screen.  I know it's out there, but I've made a conscious decision in my life to expose myself to that sort of negative image as little as possible.  And it is possible to weed it out to a large extent.  Frankly I think more people need to do just that.
It seemed to be posing the question - how do we get girls to grow up with healthy self images and life expectations when they are exposed to so much female exposure?   It needs to start with media savvy in the home.  And I don't mean that we need to become more sophisticated consumers of media although that's part of it.  It means we need to consume less media particularly in the home.  It's very easy to say that we can't control what our kids will see and do because they are so over exposed to the media.  We have to take charge and start reducing that exposure.  We make choices every day about what's best for our families and we have the power to choose here too.  It may seem hard.  It may mean that you cut out commercial television for your family.  We've done that.  And there's no reason why young kids "need" to have Facebook or other social media accounts, it opens them up to more avenues of risk.  Now that's not to say you won't have to deal with resistance or peer pressure, but if you really look into the facts about this stuff and then take a hard look at the everyday decisions you can make to make a difference, it's all right there.  Your kids may not be the most popular kids but in the long run they'll have better self esteem and a more positive outlook for your active participation in their lives.  Time and again studies tell us that kids respond well and actually want their parents to be involved in their lives and share their opinions.  Kids consistently report that if their parents had said something, or forbidden something else it would have made a difference.  That's not to say that kids won't push the boundaries.  But no matter where you draw a line in the sand, kids will try to step over it to see if you mean it.  Isn't it better to draw the line close and let their push be at the very edges of where the media can take them rather than give them free access and have them dive in at the deep end. 
The movie appears to go on to look at women in positions of power and how they got there and what we can do to help more women get there.  I think this is a worthy question, but I'm not sure that the end goal should be to have an equal number of men and women at work in high profile positions of power.  There are certain things women do that men can't, like bear children.  And having chosen to do that in my life, I'm quite content to let my husband be the breadwinner of the family, and handle that side of the pressure that's involved in raising a family.  I wouldn't be surprised if quite a number of women felt the same way.  (I know, very politically incorrect of me but there it is.)  I'm not saying it has to be that way, but we should avoid getting hung up on trying to get an exactly even split.  After all if we are raising our girls to be self-respecting and raising our boys to be respecting then anyone in a position of power should be equally concerned for the good of both men and women, call me idealistic if you will.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Tickling My Toddler

I was tickling my toddler yesterday, which is a really joyful thing to do. But I was doing it gingerly and gently. I don't think I really need to be careful anymore, but I'm still getting over the trauma of a recent event in our family. I know cognitively that the wound is healed but I know that new skin is sensitive and it's so recently that I was afraid to touch my son's chest at all for fear of hurting him sharply.
As a mom of seven kids I admit to having a few trips to the emergency department, and coming from a family of nurses it's not usually frivolous. (I have a good friend who's an ER nurse and I hear all about the silly people who come in and use emergency resources for hangovers and hiccups and such.). Usually on such occasions we've walked away with either a prescription or a cast and follow up instructions. But this trip didn't lead to walking away after a few hours. It lead instead to an ambulance ride down to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and a three day hospital stay, then to a ream of prescriptions and follow-up instructions. Our toddler, Raphael had suffered a second degree hot water burn to about 9% of his body on his chest and upper abdomen.
I can't really describe the impact of the initial sight of him as I turned in response to his sudden screaming cry behind me. The hot chocolate which he had tried to drink after stepping up onto the footstool at the kitchen counter was freshly poured from the kettle with no milk added. I know that I reacted quickly and immediately stripped off his romper, but it was one of those moments when you feel like you're moving through mud and you can't get your hands to work quickly or dextrously enough. I knew (thanks to my ER friend) that a burn needs to be cooled right away with cold water - and not to put on any of those things that the email circulations tell you to, like flour or egg white, so I ran him straight upstairs to the bathroom and got him under the bathtub tap. I had him at the hospital very soon as we only live five minutes away and then he was assessed, through the wonders of modern technology, by both the ER doc at the local hospital and the plastics doc at Sick Kids through a picture taken and sent via iPhone. Because of this we were accepted to the plastics unit at Sick Kids before we even arrived which expedited our admission once we got there. Then we had to go through medicating and dressing and the placing of various tubes before we finally got to sleep around 3 o'clock in the morning. He was a real trouper, putting up with lots of medical treatment although they did have to put "no-no's" on his arms to stop him yanking out his I.V. and N.G. tube. It's hard to explain the need for these to a toddler! As I said we were at the hospital for three days while the dressings were changed and assessed and his risk of infection was managed and his food and fluid intake was monitored. And then we were allowed to come home with a schedule of return visits to the outpatient plastics clinic and lots of instructions.
I think this is the first time I've really understood the word trauma. And it's only mild I know. But coming home from the hospital I really felt shaken to be walking back into the house that I had last seen in such a panic knowing my child was injured and in such extreme pain. I felt apprehension just walking into the kitchen again and seeing the spot where it had happened. I hadn't really felt much more than a few tearful moments while we were in the hospital, and I had honestly wondered if I was just a cold unsympathetic mother. Coming home I knew that wasn't the case. I had just been in a holding pattern getting through the things I needed to do for my son and learning how to care for his injury. In the haste of the moment when the burn occurred I had thrown his outfit he'd been wearing in a corner and found it still there after I got home. I picked it up with only a glance and threw it as quickly as possible out of sight into the laundry pile. I was afraid to look at it. I was afraid I would find some of the layers of skin that had been shed still clinging to the inside of the fabric, and I didn't think I could take that very well. It took me a few days to get up the courage to look at it and get it into a proper laundry load. After washing it I put it aside and I haven't put him in it since, I don't think I ever will.
But it's strange how trauma works. Raphael had no problem coming home. No apparent issues at all. We went through almost two weeks before I found his trigger. Since he was bandaged we had only been doing sponge baths. But once the time of healing was ending we were to give him a bath to soak off the special burn dressing. It wasn't until I tried to get him into the tub that I realized that that was where he had associated his pain. The timing of the burn had been a few seconds, but the time spent under cold water on the burn had been whole minutes of screaming and crying in pain and fear. It took nearly half an hour to get him into the tub and all I could do was hug him over the side and pour water over his back and shoulders. I'm afraid it was a tearful time for the both of us although I think I managed to hide my tears from him and be the strong support he needed.
It's been over a month now since it happened, but I find I still get very emotional about it. I guess it will just take time to get over it. In the meantime I jump a little more quickly whenever I hear him cry now, as that sound is linked in my head to a picture of pain; I pray more fervently that none of my children ever experience anything like that again; and I learn to tickle my toddler again with pure joy and abandon and cherish his laugh all the more.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Back on the Blog

It's been a few weeks since I've posted a blog entry here. Not for lack of trying. But it's been a somewhat dry spell combined with the beginning of homeschooling so the logistics have been challenging. Writers block is an old friend of mine from my teenage angst-filled poetry-writing days when I would just throw on some mood-creating music and pick up a biography of Jim Morrison to find inspiration and get the creative juices flowing. These days if I throw on that music I either have to be careful about it waking the baby, or I have to be conscious of the lyrical content around my kids, as they are definitely at a stage of awareness now! Plus, it's not like the Doors are really where I want to draw my inspiration from anymore, but we all have our hidden weaknesses in our pasts!

I've also had this set of self-expectations about the way that I should write and it's time to get over them. Sometimes the mood to write is going to come upon me in times and places that are not convenient, but I need to heed them and find a way to write anyway. Sometimes I can write something shorter than a page and it may even still be worth posting. I need to stop worrying about sounding preachy, if it's what I think, it's what I think. And sometimes I need to write about the raw emotional stuff that happens even if it's too soon and too fresh to post it for the world to see. There'll be more on that soon.

I've also got to learn to be my own sounding board on the one hand and trust my own judgement (if I can decide what my own judgement is) and stop being my own worst critic on the other. They say that analysis paralysis is the hallmark of the melancholic temperament and I can attest to the fact that it can amount to self sabotage all to easily!

So although I've been feeling "wordily constipated" (if I can say that) I just wanted to throw something up on the blog to break the seal, as it were, to get through the barrier before it becomes too daunting, and also to get something accomplished before my three-year old gets out of bed one more time and drives me completely round the bend!