Queen Anne’s Lace

Laurel and I have been taking a lot of walks in the evening lately, mostly so I can get some exercise. She enjoys just chilling out in the carrier, although I try to make it fun for her by singing the alphabet song, counting to 5 or 10 on my fingers, pointing out trees and houses, and stopping to sniff and pet various flora.

Tonight, I spotted a patch of Queen Anne’s Lace and squatted down so she could see and smell it. She shied away, I think because the flowers tickled her face.

I started to tell her that it was called “lace” because the flowers are white and frilly. Then my imagination wandered into the Land of Future Laurel, in which she’s old enough to ask me questions about things and I have to figure out how I would respond.

In this case, I imagined she asked, “Who’s Queen Anne?”

I would have responded, “I think it’s Anne Boleyn, who was one of King Henry VIII’s six wives.” (I would have been wrong; it’s actually named for Queen Anne of Denmark, but bear with me.)

“Six wives?” Future-Laurel would say. “How could he have six wives?”

“Well, he didn’t have them all at once,” I would reply. “He would marry one, and then stop being married to her, and then marry the next one.”

“What happened to the ones he stopped being married to?” Imagined-Laurel would ask. “Like Queen Anne, what happened to her?”

And then I would have to explain — in terms fitting for a four- or five-year-old — how Anne Boleyn was ordered to be executed by her husband a) because she had not produced a male heir and b) because he had accused her of witchcraft. And then she’d want to know if her papa could do this to me, and I would have to explain that we’re not married, and besides, modern women in western countries can’t be legally killed by their husbands anymore, but that in other parts of the world they can, and in this part of the world they often are anyway, even though it’s not OK.

By this point in the imagined conversation I was starting to worry about just how much I’d tell her. I don’t believe in ignorance or in depriving children of information. At the same time, part of me doesn’t want Laurel to know just how badly women have had it throughout the ages, and how in many ways we still don’t have equal status, even though society pretends that we do. Part of me feels as though if she’s introduced to the idea that she could be seen as inferior, she will start to perceive herself as inferior. Or potentially inferior. I want her to be sensitive to others treating her that way, but I don’t want her — for a moment — to think of the possibility that she is that way, if that makes sense. And I have no idea how to walk the line between those two states.

Devin and I recently finished reading “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin de Becker. Neither of us wholly liked the book — particularly the parts when he went with sensationalistic statistics about things that rarely happen to kids. For example, he spends his entire chapter on sexual predation focusing on the very-rare scenario in which one’s girl child is being lured by a stranger, and doesn’t help at all with the far-more-likely scenario that the perv is someone in the child’s immediate circle of family and friends. (Very helpful, Gavin.) The book spends some time urging parents to tell their kids, if they’re separated from their parents and scared, to go to the nearest friendly-looking woman, since women are much less likely to harm kids than men are (statistically speaking).

While that’s reasonable advice, it also teaches children (especially girl children) that men are suspicious, perhaps dangerous. It may teach girls that, by contrast, women are in danger by dint of their gender alone. On the one hand, that’s kind of true. On the other, it’s something you can buy into by being taught that it’s true. I started thinking about cultures in which women are the property of their fathers and husbands, who can be killed for bringing shame on the family. How are those girls raised to accept that this is their reality? What if they were taught differently in childhood? Would they be able to change how their society works?

The truth is, I don’t know what to tell Laurel about her femininity, and about feminism, when the time comes. My parents let me figure a lot of it out for myself, for better or worse. Fortunately, the time to explain it to Laurel will not come all at once, but will be the product of many conversations, from the time she’s old enough to start asking about things until the time we are no longer able to talk to each other anymore. I will have some time to figure this out.

— Beth

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Chomper(s)

So, at the ripe old age of 10 and a half months, Laurel’s first tooth poked through the gums yesterday. It’s her lower right incisor. We arguably had plenty of warning, between the excessive drooling, the random chewing on stuff, and the swollen spots where her two lower front teeth would someday be, but she’s been doing those things for months — and we didn’t have any of the signs parents warned us about, especially the frequent night waking (knock on wood).

She’s been sleeping well and not showing much sign of discomfort at all. Just one day she had soft, firm gums, and the next there was something hard and sharp poking through. Nursing hasn’t been significantly more uncomfortable — that started a couple of weeks ago, which was my only real hint that something might be afoot in the bouche de Laurel. I suspect the other bottom tooth won’t be far behind, given how similar in size those lumps are on her lower jaw.

In addition, for the past week or so she’s really been using the sign for “more,” although she hasn’t refined its use yet. Sometimes she uses it to actually indicate she wants more of something (today she signed “more” and pointed at her babysitter, then seemed gratified when the babysitter picked her up), but sometimes she uses it in the middle of complaining about a diaper change. She’s pretty much mastered the sign for “milk” and uses it often, mostly to say when she wants to nurse or have a bottle.

She’s also made up two signs. In one of them, she pats her chest — she does this especially when she’s naked, and then did it the other day when I said *I* was naked, so I think it means “naked,” probably. In the other, she holds her arms around herself and swivels back and forth, a little like self-hugging. I’d think it was the sign for “baby,” but we haven’t taught her that. We’re experimenting with the idea that it means she wants a hug, but it may mean something entirely other. We’ll find out, I hope. It’s just so cool that she’s making up gestures to communicate with us; she really gets it. We’re also teaching her more ASL signs, so she’ll be able to talk to us more in the coming months.

— Beth

Contagious

Each day seems to bring a new first around here, lately: first time Laurel feeds her parents, first time she hands us a toy, first time she figures out how to fit a toy into the cardboard tube, first time pointing at something she wants, and so on.

Today was a particularly sweet first: first mama/baby giggle fit. I was trying to nurse her down for a nap. She was calm and relaxed, but something about nursing made her start laughing. She giggled so hard she had to let go of the breast, and then rolled away. I brought her back and tried again, but the situation made her start giggling again. She rolled away, pulled up to stand by the dresser, and started playing. I brought her back again, but this time I started laughing because of her previous laughter. This made her start laughing all over again. We tried a couple more times, but giggles won out.

— Beth

Silly Girl

Laurel is really enjoying life lately. She smiles and laughs easily, and loves playing with all the new toys she got for Christmas. She’s also making up lots of little games to play with us, or thrilling at the games we play with her. For example:

Cardboard tube telephone: One of us will pick up a cardboard tube and make a noise into it near Laurel’s ear. This usually makes her smile and crinkle her nose. Then she puts her mouth over the other end and makes a noise back. She loves it when we react like we’re startled.

The echoing stairwell: We live on the third floor of a house, which has a long and echoing stairwell down to the street. When we open the door to go down, Laurel will say “ah!” just to hear the echo. She likes it a lot if we make the sound back, and sometimes will continue the back-and-forth all the way down the stairs.

Got your nose: She loooooves putting her mouth over our noses these days. She’s extra slobbery about it, and sometimes bites down with her gums. If we wipe our slobber-covered nose on her shirt afterward, it makes her disintegrate into giggles.

Bouncy bouncy: When one of us is holding her, Laurel will start to bounce up and down. She does this until WE start bouncing her. Sometimes she’ll stop her own bouncing at this point and laugh at being bounced. Sometimes she’ll keep bouncing so she can bounce extra high. If we stop, she starts bouncing again so the game can continue. (She also bounces along to music these days, an early kind of dancing.)

Make noise into this: Laurel has started holding things out to us, but her favorite is to hold out a cup, box or other receptacle so we can make a noise into it for her. She can’t get enough of it. Sometimes she then makes a noise into the same object.

And, of course, peek-a-boo is always a big hit. She’s not playing it herself, yet, but loves it when we do. She’s also a big fan of hide-and-seek, where we do the hiding and she does the seeking. Many of you have heard her little burbling noise that we started doing months ago to soothe and entertain her. Now she tries to wibble her lips with her hand, like we do with one finger. She’s not very good at it yet, but the attempts make her smile.

I can’t wait to find out what game she invents next.

— Beth