Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue...

We've been going to post-natal classes. At which I have discovered that our child is a non-conformist: when surrounded by screaming babies, stays silent; when all is quiet, starts to yell. Of course, I quite like this trait.

The health visitor running the thing asked for our top tip. I repeated a Useful Thing that a friend had said to me many weeks ago: "Remember that everyone drops their baby on its head at least once." Luckily nobody was horrified. Actually, my own top tip would be for night-time breastfeeding: for handy low-level, easy-access light, use your mobile phone. It also means that you can check the time. I've got so used now to feeding the infant without really waking up at all that I don't really know, come the morning, whether it woke up and ate at all, or how many times. When people ask you if your baby is sleeping through the night yet, they somehow don't expect the answer "I don't know"...

All the babies at the post-natal are boys except Sasha, whose sex we declined to reveal as part of our ongoing experiment. A thinks they'll all have me pegged as a kook, but I like to think we're just charmingly eccentric. When the babies got weighed we got a lot of attention as they all had to be stripped. However, they all seemed to HATE it, so it seemed to me a bit pointless: I'm not obsessing about the child's weight, so why make it miserable by stripping it? We bucked the system and got weighed fully clothed. He he. Apparently a full nappy could weigh about a pound. Oh well. I don't know what I weight either.

I can't decide whether I'm overweight at the moment, or just a bit blubbery. My stomach went down impressively quickly, but has stayed a smallish paunch, squidgy to the touch. Fingers crossed that the answer *isn't* pull-ups. I do hope I'm not just fat. I've discovered in later life that denying myself any food at all makes me enormously cross: presumably the result of a lifetime of not dieting and never having to worry about my weight. Or it may mean that self-denial simply isn't of any interest...

A's aunt asked me to take the child along to the nursery she works at, to show it to the children. This was fun. There were about ten kids there, all very bright and appealing. All the girls except one had long fine hair that kept falling in their eyes. All but two were dressed in pink. At least one was in tights and a mini-skirt. A's aunt was saying that it made quite a difference to the group when there were more boys. But I was thinking that it's just too easy for people's observations to match their preconceptions. If all the children had sensible short hair and practical clothes and pink and blue were banned, you wouldn't know instantly which were girls and which were boys. Would you be able to tell by their behaviour? I'd like to try this. I would bet that actually, it's like horoscopes: you notice the bits the confirm the stereotypes and ignore what doesn't.

So the problem with the sexist clothing is that it lets people confirm their stereotypical expectations. But it's also wretchedly impractical, which gives you a vicious circle: the girls can't see past their trailing locks, can't climb because their skirts hide their feet, and are struggling with the ever-descending crotches of their tights, and footwear that's chosen for prettiness rather than functionality. No wonder they're less good at physical activities than people who are allowed short hair, flat shoes, and trousers.

The boys lose out too. They're practical, but they're so *dull*. Blue is often the brightest colour they're allowed to wear. Brown, grey, black, beige: it's a monochrome world if you've got a willy. No flowers, no frills, no fun. Who decides that all this would threaten their fragile masculinity? Who decides that the girls need to be swathed in pink impracticality? Most children seem to have their clothes chosen by their mothers. But their mothers have benefited hugely from feminism and are mostly - in the circles in which we move - competent middle-class professionals. So what are they up to?

Thursday, 4 January 2007

To talk of many things

Hmm... it's easy to get out of the habit. But I only write when I'm feeling cheerful, and the last few weeks have been a bit gloomy. I'm not really very fond of Christmas, and having a four-year-old and a six-year-old around really emphasises the vacuous materialism of it all. Actually, it was interesting watching them opening presents: they nagged for along time beforehand, but when they got their way, the focus was much more on ripping off the paper than on finding what was inside. And they certainly aren't interested in who gave them what: I got so jaded I never actually wrapped what I'd bought for them, and they didn't notice. I suppose I'll produce the stuff when there's a lull later in the year. But does this mean you could give them a satsuma beautifully girft-wrapped and produce the same thrills?

The infant has also been a lot less good-tempered. Frustratingly, it's not at all obvious why. A always says wind; I normally try feeding, with the disadvantage that the child seems perenially ready to eat more. My nipples have been hurting for the first time in seven weeks of breast-feeding, and I'm getting sucked so dry I never seem to know which side to start on - they both feel empty. Heck. It's the rhythm of the screaming that's so horrible, and how penetrating it is - oh, and the technique whereby they scream themselves hoarse so as to sound even more pathetic. Aaargh! During the day we don't get much of it, but somehow nights are much much worse. Why should this be? I suppose sheerbloodymindedness *could* be heritable...

The best Christmas card I saw said 'Baa...' and had a picture of a sheep, then at the bottom said 'humbug'. Ho ho ho.

We've started watching Angel, the Buffy spin-off. The first two episodes were rather lacklustre, and the tone is all over the place. Still, when you think how bad 'Encounter at Farpoint' is... I also found a fab interview with Joss Whedon on The Onion, of all places. He really is a lovely man. It's in two parts: one and two.

Another find, which I don't think I posted: someone has written a cross-over between Bertie Wooster and Lord Peter Wimsey which is really very good - just a few lapses in idiom, which are interesting in themselves in illustrating the differnces between US and UK English. Good stuff. I see that the author also likes Diana Wynne Jones, which means she must be a Thoroughly Good Egg. If anyone reading this is a DWJ fan, do read her autobiography, which is hilarious. If you haven't come across her, she's the thinking person's J K Rowling but can actually write. My favourite book is Fire and Hemlock, but to start with I'd try, ooh, Dogsbody, which is half about what it's like to be a dog and half about what it's like to be a star, or Cart and Cwidder, or Eight Days of Luke (which when I read it was out of print and had to be ordered from the US. At least now she's in print, even if she's not nearly as famous as she ought to be).

At about quarter to twelve on New Year's Eve, A started a conversation about what we'd achieved (or at least done) in the year, which was sweet. We've been a bit useless about holidays, but we've seen lots of plays and operas, read quite a few books, and of course watched the whole of Buffy. And had a baby. And had a few other firsts he said he was glad I hadn't mentioned here, which I suppose means that I have to continue to not mention them. (Yup, I know that's a split infinitive. I have never ever heard a convincing reason why they should be avoided.) This year's big first is A once again starting his diet. This may well be an annual event, but hey. His technique is to eat dry bread while I'm wolfing curry, until I feel guilty and stop reminding him that he said he'd lose some weight. As strategies go, it's pretty effective, really.