Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Of boys and girls

In some faraway imaginary fairyland, I assumed that my children would play with all kinds of toys and enjoy the fun of it.

How wrong was I. Gender stereotyping is alive and kicking. I can't but admit that some of it seems nature, hurried along by nurture. Whenever Cubling chooses her clothes, it's a dress, pink is for girls and trousers are for boys, the train tracks are never picked out to play with because they've been categorised as boys' toys.

I vowed not to go down the pink lego route only to realise that the neutral stuff is boooring and the non boring stuff is all about wars, monsters, killing and fighting. I'd rather have pink then. I like horses more than dead aliens.

I remember loving lego and building space stations. I played with a boy most of the time. In fact, my early, pre-school (before I turned 7) , friends were all boys. But I didn't loathe to play with them, in fact I loved it because they had racing cars, remote control stuff, and a lot more lego.

For Cubling, playing with boys is totally out of the question. She is reluctant even to go to boys' birthday parties. The other day she noted that inviting a boy over for play wouldn't be a good idea because she didn't have any boys' toys.

What appears to have happened in the 36 years since I was her age is that toys (and clothes) have been gendered and have become extreme. There is no longer a middle ground. I'm pretty sure that most girls enjoy playing with dolls and dressing up while there will be more rough play with boys usually. But what I object to is the extreme end, of making all boys' toys aggressive and having some sort of fighting element to them, while all girls' toys are princessy, cute, dressing up and about being beautiful. The lego space station has become Star Wars or Monster Fighters.

I'm worried by girls growing up to believe that beauty is the most important asset a woman can have, I'm worried that Cubling at 5 years announced that women can't become doctors because doctors are men (and our GP is a woman!!!).

However this worry is beaten by an even more uncomfortable observation. There is no mean sense of alienation by the way that guns and fighting instruments are accepted as necessary equipment in the world of boys. It must be a cultural difference that I'm only becoming aware of now. All guns and toys of war were a big no no when I grew up. The only time I would set hands on a gun was for carneval and it was only a borrowed one. Any self respecting parent would ban guns from their home. The prevalence of gun use in children's toys that I've witnessed here and now makes me wonder if I lived in some strange vortex, if things have changed over time or if the banning of war toys is due to German history and the peace movement.

I'm not sure, but I can't help but be worried by seeing young boys aiming to shoot and kill.

Friday, 11 January 2013


This Hogmanay, we decided to host a kind of party. "Kind of" because it was more like an open house, we wanted it to be friendly, informal, family friendly and non-committal. So that people could drop in for 10 minutes or 10 hours. As ever, we are very spontaneous with family life plans, and it was extremely short notice. Encouraged by a pre-Christmas get together hosted by our neighbours, and how lovely it was to get to know the people living in our street a bit beyond the 5 minutes between doors, we invited everyone on our street plus a few close friends.

I admit I was nervous. Nervous that everyone would turn up and there wouldn't be enough space for us all. Nervous that nobody would turn up (it has happened to me before that I organised a party and nobody came).

And when we said goodbye to the last people at 2am and finally the children agreed to nod off to dreamland, we realised it was potentially the best idea we've had in years. We had people in the house from 4pm to 2am, but at no point did it get too busy. There were kids having heaps of fun throughout. And then all those wonderful gestures: bubbly for the bells, real turf for the open fire, sparklers for lighting outside, treats for the kids and oh so much food. In fact, we're still surviving on left overs.

There were neighbours I'd never seen before, others whom we know well already, and a lot of merriment and laughter was had, cultural differences explored, and anecdotes shared, commonalities found and plans for future get togethers made. Even those who couldn't make it (all due to health reasons, we live in a street with quite a few elderly people) dropped a note and made a commitment to come along next time.

Nothing world moving, just a sense of belonging and community. I kept wondering why this kind of thing never happened in the various tenement flats I stayed in, where we could have easily had a get together to have fun and potentially solve a few of the communal issues that old tenement housing brings with it. In the tenement flats I lived in much closer proximity to people yet some neighbours wouldn't even give you the time of day when you bumped into them on the stairs. It was lonely at times, a bit depressing actually.

So if I've learned something from our Hogmanay adventure it's that it's easy to come together and have a brilliant time, and that it can make such a difference to how you feel about where you live. And that some wonderful people are living right next to you. All you need to do is open the doors and let them in.

Not quite first footing but definitely the spirit of Hogmanay.

"And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine,
And we'll tak a right guid willie-waught
For auld lang syne!"

Photos taken on our 2nd January outing to Palaceriggs Country Park, and George Square Glasgow

Monday, 7 January 2013

A Naming Ceremony

The other day, a friend asked me if I could take photos of her second son's naming ceremony. I was flattered to be asked to do it, and more than up for the challenge of taking photos of people most of whom I hadn't met before. It occurred to me that in my teens, when I was as passionate as one could be about photography, I dismissed a career in the field because I couldn't see myself ever getting excited about taking family photos. And rather than taking ever more pictures of ever the same poses, I then decided that photography would remain my passion and hobby, never to be my career.

Today, I can officially declare that taking photos of a family and the milestones of family life is not boring but an honour and a very special privilege which is not to be taken lightly. I was rather nervous knowing that some of the photos would end up as special presents or in a treasured family album. I could even be overheard complaining about the sun that shone into the room making for hard shadows and very difficult light to deal with.

But what's light and all that if you see a baby boy with the biggest eyes ever, adored by his big brother, his parents, his grandparents and aunties and uncles, and a cheeky cousin who did his best to escape my camera (I won in the end - the cake was simply too yummy!).

It was very special to be part of this.



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