I SPEAK KID
By ELAINE DONG
Two things happened last week.
One. I was down almost the whole of last week recuperating from wisdom teeth surgery. It was a painful procedure, followed by a painful and slow recovery. My face swelled to twice its size, I kid you not, and my girls nicknamed me SpongeBob. It’s ironic, considering I don’t allow them to watch that show.
Two. When the swelling went down and I resembled a rounder version of myself rather than Mr SquarePants, my husband and I took the kids to see Brave. It’s such a brilliant show that I think all parents should take their kids to see it, especially if they have daughters.
Without giving too much away, Merida is a brave Scottish princess who shoots a mean arrow and rides a horse better than any soldier. She fights to determine her own destiny. In the process, she does something selfish, which changes her mother, and then something unselfish, which cements her convictions of living a free life of her own choosing.
In the movie, the princess has to right a wrong, to transform her mother back to her normal self. My girls sat rapt as they watched brave Merida thrash through the wilderness in her quest, even confronting an evil grizzly bear.
When the movie ended, they were both in awe. So was I.
I was giddy with excitement that they finally had a good princess to admire, one who was brave, clever and did all the rescuing on her own. She is not one of those wussy, whiny pretty girls who was just waiting for someone to rescue them.
My daughters think I am like Merida’s mother because my appearances had “changed” (because of my swollen face). To them, I had morphed into SpongeBob SquarePants, but now “looked just like Mummy again,” so they immediately drew a parallel.
In my heart, I hope they’d also see another similarity, that they see themselves as Merida, the brave girl who refuses to be defined by what society tells her to be.
I admit I am as guilty of gender-stereotyping as the next parent. My girls have more than a dozen Barbie dolls between them. They have tutus, fairy wings and princess dresses to play dress-up with.
Almost every piece of clothing they own is pink or has Hello Kitty emblazoned on them. If given the choice, they would dress up head-to-toe in Barbie clothes. Horrors of horrors!
But I also buy them legos and jigsaw puzzles to play with. In fact, they spend more time on these toys than on their Barbies, which they tend to toss aside once they have taken off all the clothes. They have a wooden tool kit complete with screwdrivers, spanners and hammers.
Once, I had unthinkingly passed the screwdriver to their father to fix the TV. Days later, my youngest was tinkering with the bridge she was building with blocks, and said “Oh, it’s time to use the hammer. But there are no boys around ….”
I immediately rushed in to say that she could do it herself, she didn’t need boys to do that and girls could save the world! She looked at me like I was some demented person, and decided to do the jigsaw puzzle instead.
That called for serious damage control. I went out and got three Ikea shelves (the girls needed shelves in their rooms anyway). I gathered all the tools and sat down to assemble them, and made sure my kids watched me do it. When I was done with the first one, I triumphantly told them, “See? Girls can do anything by themselves. You understand?”
“Yes, Mummy,” they dutifully chorused, and almost rolled their eyes. Almost, because they could see I still had sharp tools in my hands and a wild look in my eyes. Go girl power!
But seriously, I would like my girls to grow up knowing they can do whatever they set their minds to. It’s the reason I make my six-year-old practise difficult pieces on the piano until she gets it right, and learn the multiplication tables even if she rants and yawns while she is at it.
It’s also why I make my three-year-old learn to get up and down her bicycle on her own, despite her protests that she is scared and she is too far from the ground. It’s why I take them cycling for 0.7km at the park every evening even though they say it’s too far to cycle. If they can watch a three-hour marathon session of Charlie and Lola, they can cycle for 0.7km.
Girls really can save the world, you know. Have you told your daughters that lately?
Elaine assembled all three shelves by herself in the end. She blogs at www.angelolli.com.