Thursday, July 9, 2009

Love is like a butterfly, or in which the husband's and my feminist parenting principles are tested.

The highly principled husband and the Noodle jaunted off to Sydney earlier this week so that the Noodle could be fitted for his new AFOs. That's ankle-foot orthotics for those of you who are not required to have personally fitted bits of plastic worn on the ends of your legs. The Noodle has been wearing them for a few years, and has, thus far, had one red pair, one blue denim looking sort of pair and one pair with monkeys on them. The patterns are the kind of patterns you'd expect someone at a hospital to expect a kid to like, but could be worse.

The Noodle gets to pick the pattern.

So he had his plaster casts done without incident. Being fitted for orthotics is kind of fun, because the plaster goes on and then comes straight off again. You get all the entertainment value of a broken limb without any of the pain, inconvenience and itching.

Then the Noodle gets to choose his plastic. He chooses a pattern all over with pink butterflies. The orthotics man (they have all been men so far) says 'but that pattern is for girls!' The Noodle is adamant, butterflies is what he wants.

So when the husband tells me this story upon the lads return from Sydney, my mind immediately thinks 'uh-oh'. And then thinks accursed things at itself for thinking 'uh-oh' about a a young fellow wanting a butterfly pattern on his legs if that's what he feels like.

So, here it is:
a) I am incredibly chuffed that the Noodle is not bothered by wanting a pattern that is 'for girls' and is quite happy to stick up for himself and make that choice
b) I know that a butterfly pattern will attract attention of a critical and unkind nature from some children at school and from some adults outside of school
c) I don't really want the Noodle to know explicitly that things that are 'for girls' are no good, or at the very least no good for boys. For one thing his best friend is a girl.
d) one way or another, AFOs cost a lot of money
e) if attention of a critical and unkind nature is forthcoming the Noodle will not want to wear his AFOs to school any more. This will make him less stable with the walking and playing soccer and so on.
f) we do not wish to travel back to Sydney for new AFOs in a different pattern two days after these ones arrive
g) I feel bad about deceiving the Noodle, but...

So the man at the orthotics work shop might, maybe, almost definitely* will run out of butterfly pattern plastic just before he makes the Noodle's AFOs. So I and the husband are compromising our ideals and fundamental beliefs about the comparative value of girls' vs boys' patterns and gender identity in order to save ourselves some money and time and to save the Noodle feeling self-conscious about something that we have some control** over. He'll possibly be quite upset anyway. But hopefully he'll keep wearing the damn AFOs.

So if in a few weeks I post a post explaining that the Noodle refuses to wear his AFOs because they are not butterfly patterned, you will know that my sin has come back to haunt me.

If I were in an AS Byatt story I would right now be horribly aware that my moment of compromise is dooming me to a life of mediocrity and banality. I think I might choose a more forgiving author. Any suggestions?

*because the husband rang him up and asked him to.
**because he has been feeling very self conscious about things none of us have any control over recently, and it is breaking all our hearts quite a lot.


Shayne Parkinson said...

Oh, gosh, what a dilemma. For what it's worth (which is very little, given my position of ignorance, but nevertheless heartfelt), I think you're doing exactly the right thing. Be proud of the Noodle's healthy attitudes, but protect him (and yes, yourselves) from the worst consequences of those attitudes.

This parenthood business seems to be a constant and ever-changing balancing act between protecting your child and encouraging growth. I have huge admiration for people like you and the husband, who are clearly making a wonderful job of it.

Penthe said...

Thanks Shayne. Fears of being the helicopter parent, but sometimes needing to be.

aztec-rose said...

Yes, if the world wasn't so blatently gendered - even when it comes to the insect patterns our children should wear and what colour - our lives would be much freer.

Having said that, I'm sure you have done the right thing for Noodle, and the love shows.

MrKimi said...

Yes, what they said, and they said it better than I would.

Hey, you write this stuff really well, Penthe.

Lippy said...

Ah, you poor darling. Gotta love the Noodle's attitude to the butterflies, so perhaps he can find a fab butterfly book/ cup/ painting/ t-shirt that'll make his day; also, gotta appreciate the wish to protect him from the (many) complete and utter idiots out there who might make him feel bad about same. The gendering that happens out there in comsumerville is so all pervasive it can make your headspin. We were trying to buy new clothes yesterday for Miz M (two and a bit), and Clancy-boy (9 months) and the choices seemed to be: pink with purple hearts or grey with skulls and trucks. So once again, everybody returned home festooned in stripes . . .

Penthe said...

I know, what's with the skulls? They are not your witty, ironic skulls, they are your Biker Scum skulls.

Terrific idea about a replacement butterfly themed item. Terrific.