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Friday, November 12, 2010

For Bi-racial and Black baby dolls, Big Lots, it is

They even have curly hair!
Apparently, Big Lots stocks the most variety for baby dolls with different shades of brown skin. I've mentioned on my blog before my annoyance with all the big stores, HEB, Target, and Walmart, for not stocking baby dolls with skin shades other than White.

I found one of Annika's first Bi-racial baby dolls at a Big Lots in Michigan

Most of the time, general stores, like HEB, Walmart, and Target have absolutely zero Black dolls other than Barbies and if they stock Bratz dolls, they usually have a few Latina or Blasian dolls. Those types of dolls (Barbies and Bratz, not Latina and Blasian) piss me off for a variety of other reasons, having nothing to do with color and more to do with the sexual nature of playthings for small children who are not supposed to have sexual desires yet. But that's a whole other topic folks. 

Tonight I stopped in at the Big Lots (for Austinites, William Cannon and I-35 store) to pick up a couple of things. As usual, when I am in any store that carries toys, and I'm by myself, I browse the toy aisles, getting ideas for presents and seeing if there is anything on sale.

Let me tell ya folks, (and no, I am not getting paid to write this) Big Lots had quite a nice variety of Brown baby dolls. The best thing was that they had a variety of Brown-skinned dolls.

It wasn't so much, "Oh wow, they actually have a Black or Brown skinned baby doll." It was, "Damn, they have so many I have to choose which one I want."

That never happens folks.

So, big plug tonight for Big Lots. If you're in Austin and wanting a dark-skinned baby doll, head on over. They have several to choose from.

I bough two for Christmas. Pretty. Damn. Happy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My obligatory birthday post

How I used to celebrate my birthday.
Yesterday was my 39th birthday and all throughout the day I pondered all of the deep and profound thoughts I'd share with you on this milestone birthday. I planned to spend a couple of hours massaging all of my deep thoughts after I put Annika to bed and reflect on my day. Then I fell asleep with Annika around 9 p.m.

What the hell. I'm old people!

So now, here I am trying to pound it out while Annika takes a nap. And quite truthfully, I've got nothin'.

Birthdays have never been that good to me.

One of the best birthdays I ever had was the first year Toyin and I dated. He took me to a bed and breakfast, out for an expensive Italian meal, then pampered me until we had to go back to work the next day and put together a newspaper.

For the most part though, I've never had great birthdays. As a kid my birthdays typically consisted of last-minute thrown together meetings at a pizza place. There was this place in my hometown of Abilene, Tx., Crystals, that had some of the greasiest, sauciest pizza ever. The also had a cave at the entrance and a movie room where The Three Stooges played on a constant loop.

That was where I spent several of my birthdays.

One of my worst birthday memories was when I was 12 and I knew that it was likely going to be the last real "kid" birthday I ever got. I didn't take much interest in growing up. I was pissed that I had started to develop breasts and I had been begging for a Barbie doll for my last childhood birthday. I was sure my mother understood the importance of receiving this final toy before I was forced to suffer through adolescence.

On our way to Crystals, where I anticipated opening up the last magical gifts I would ever receive, and salty breadsticks dripping with spicy cheese dip to go with my greasy pizza and an ice cream cake, my mom tossed a plastic drug store bag at me and said, "Here's your presents I didn't have time to wrap them."

Inside were a couple of pairs of socks and a paperback.

I burst into tears and cried the whole way there. I don't remember anything else about that party, but it probably sucked.

That makes my mother sound like a class A jerk. And I know it's wrong to tell that story to the internet while she lies in the hospital recovering from life threatening surgeries and cancerous lesions. But what the hell. One thing that motherhood has taught me is that moms do mean things to their kids, sometimes, and often unknowingly, or without thinking, because they are stressed. She was probably having a crappy week/month, or maybe she was on her period. I know she loves me. And a few years later she threw me a surprise birthday party for my 15th year. It was pretty awesome. The house was filled with friends and food and cake.

My mom has pretty much been the only person in my family who consistently remembers my birthday and/or does anything to celebrate.

But one year she called me several times on my birthday and never mentioned it.

Well, it was election day. And my mom is very active politically. (That's an understatement. She had political signs up in her hospital room until they made her take them down, citing hospital policy.)

I don't really have a point except to say that birthdays are pretty much like any other part of life. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they suck. But they always happen.

And now that I"m a mom, I guess they've become less important. I mostly don't care about having a great birthday. It's really nice when people remember and think to help me celebrate. But it's just another day. And now I'm a year older.

Happy Belated Birthday to me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Part XII: A Series on Attachment Theory, a summary of A Secure Base -- Family Violence

For those of you following my series on attachment theory I need to apologize. I left you hanging on the last bit of the chapter on maternal violence. Things got a little hectic and I dropped the ball. But here we go again. The final part of chapter five, on maternal violence in the book, A Secure Base, by John Bowlby. Bowlby was one of the first researchers who focused on attachment theory, which is the base of knowledge that supports attachment parenting.

Catch up on this attachment theory series

Maternal Violence stems from fighting and suppression of feelings:

In the latest bit on maternal violence we learned that abusive mothers often stem from childhoods where they are subjected to violent outbursts between parents and then the suppression of their feelings about it.

It makes me really glad that I read the book, Tears and Tantrums by Aletha Solter, early on in Annika's infancy. I highly recommend it. In fact, I need to buy a copy for myself because I'd like to refer back to it occasionally. Tears and Tantrums essentially says that children's upsets should not be soothed or punished away, but they should be allowed to express themselves. Tantrums and crying are a way to relieve stress. It's one of the few parenting books that I think every parent should read and will easily complement any parenting style, even people who don't support attachment parenting.

Okay, back to A Secure Base.

The final part on chapter five:

Signs of an abused child:

Abused children are often known for having difficulty making friends and being aggressive when put in a daycare setting. This is supported by research findings in the 1970s and 1980s. 

The study grouped two sets of 10 children, ages 1-3. One set was known to have been physically assaulted by their parents. They were matched with all other variables with children who had not been abused.

The children's behavior was categorized as: approach, avoidance, approach-avoid, and aggression. It was also divided by the target of either another child or the caregiver.

There was no noticeable difference between the two groups in the ways they approached. However, there was a striking difference in responses to being approached.

The abused children either directly avoided, or used approach-avoidance behavior. For example, they might crawl toward the other child, then suddenly veer away, or crawl toward, but with head averted.

When approached by a caregiver, the abused children were three times more likely to use avoidance tactics. Some of the children alternated between avoidance and approach. All ten of the abused children showed approach avoidance, while none of the control group did.

Aggressive behavior was shown in both sets of toddlers, but more so in the abused set.

The abused children showed aggressive behavior that was particularly disagreeable, which was termed "harassment" and showed the intention of making the victim feel distress. These attacks generally came without warning or provocation. This was different than provocation of hostility, which typically was met with retaliation. Clinical studies later reported that this behavior was shown more toward the adult to whom the child was becoming attached.

It seems obvious that abused children would show less concern for others in distress. In fact, the abused children reacted with fear, distress, or anger, and some even reacted hostilely toward a crying child.One 2-year-old boy shouted at another girl to "cut it out" while she was crying, then began to pat her back, and before anyone could intervene, his patting turned to hitting.

Children mimic their own treatment:

Bowlby stops here to say, and almost plead with parents, to note the behavior of toddlers. He says it is very clear that early on in life patterns are established. The details in what toddlers say, and how they behave toward others are often straight replicas of how they have been treated at home.

"Indeed the tendency to treat others in the same way that we ourselves have been treated is deep in human nature; and at no time is it more evident than in the earliest years."

Long-term effects of child abuse:

Long-term studies still need to happen in order to determine development of abused children. But some evidence shows that if care improves, some will improve enough to pass for normal, and some will not.

A 1980 study shows that some children who are abused develop brain damage and are diagnosed as mentally handicapped. Also, when disagreeable behavior is developed, it can become difficult for any caregiver or therapist to provide the support these children need.

Some children reach psychiatric care where the origin of their condition is gone unrecognized. Some of these children are psychotic. Most are ambivalent, going from one extreme to another, one minute hugging, the next, kicking. Males are generally diagnosed as aggressive psychopaths or violent delinquents. Females are often diagnosed with multiple personalities. These case studies are not fully developed because once psychiatrists began to recognize the effects of abuse, parents began to falsify information.

Many abused children grow up to continue the violent patterns. Abusive mothers are also found to be less responsive to crying children and have less desire for any interaction with babies, even positive ones.

Physically abusive men:

We now turn to study men who abuse their wives and/or girlfriends.

A study with a man called Mr. S, who was prone to violent and inexplicable behavior toward his wife, he said that he feared his own violence. He spoke to researchers after his wife has left him, having just born their first child.

He professed love for his wife and said he believed his behavior toward her was unwarranted. Further discussions revealed his childhood with only harsh and unsympathetic treatment in a large working-class family. His parents fought violently. He struggled with his desire for love that he never received. It was suggested to him that he spent much of his childhood feeling anger and despair. This led to his violent outbursts toward his wife. He felt relieved to finally understand that his violence had a root. The outbursts leading to his wife's leaving, had happened after the child's birth. He was jealous of his wife's affection for the baby.

This type of behavior is characteristic of men who grew up battered. The most violent offenders are found to have grown up withstanding brutal treatment.

Battered wives, on the other hand, typically grow up in disturbed and rejecting homes. A significant minority were battered.

Women in these situations were often escapees of their neglectful homes at a young age, unprepared to deal with adult life and take up with the first man they meet, typically an abuser.

And so these inter-generational violent patterns continue.

Anxious attachment breeds more violence:

These couples continue on these patterns because they are anxiously attached to each other. The interviews with Mr. S. were a part of a study on why the violent patterns of these types of families remain unhelped by medical and social services.

This study found that these couples would separate often after violent outbursts, but often remained together for years. Strategies and techniques were developed by both to keep the other hanging around.

Most of the techniques were coercive and from the outside, seemingly counterproductive.

Threats of desertion and/or suicide were incorporated to gain attention from a partner. Imprisonment techniques were used. Some actually locked in, and others used financial control.

And of course, battering was used as a coercion. The women did not enjoy this treatment, but it was found that some got a wry satisfaction from it. Women who said they feared their husbands would just come after them if they left announced this with some triumph, exclaiming that 'he needed her.'

Bowlby's analysis of these types of situations is that what these couples feared more than anything was loneliness.

Preventative Measures:

So what can be done to help these families get out of this cycle?

Much effort has been placed on helping families become emotionally healthier.

A type of service in which families are given home visits in which volunteers give friendship, support, and practical assistance to young families experiencing difficulty.

Volunteers establish relationships with the families and encourage their strengths, while assuring them that child-rearing difficulties are universal.

The receiving families were not necessarily already abusive, but ones in which difficulty had been established and has the possibility for it.

Visiting is often started while the mother is still pregnant. These are generally young, impulsive, isolated mothers who have never received proper care, affection, or security. All visits are by invitation only and there are no time limits.

The volunteers are mothers who take on the role of mothering the new mother. She will talk and play with the children, giving a good example for the young mother.

At the time Bowlby wrote this book, a new service called Home Start, had been established in the United Kingdom. It is still active and looks like it's going strong. I plan to do a little research to see what other types of services are out there and if there is anything like this in the U.S. I've never heard of anything like it. Have you?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Too early to tell how Halloweeen candy will effect her teeth

Cowgirl Uniqua
Last year Halloween was not that exciting for Annika. She didn't seem to understand the correlation between running to each house and the collection of MORE candy.

This year was not much different. We gathered at a friend's house for a pre-trick-or-treating potluck. When it was time to go out to get the candy, Annika was busy drawing. We were the last ones out the door.

Once in the street we had to remind her to run to each house, even though all her little friends were excitedly racing up to ring each doorbell.

One of our friends had brought a wagon and the kids were taking turns riding in it. Once Annika got it in, she didn't want to get out. After some time, I insisted that she get out. I didn't want to be the one whose kid was hogging the wagon and everyone let her just because she threw a tantrum.

I have begun to struggle with the idea of being open to allowing Annika to have her needs and desires, all the while setting boundaries. She's old enough to understand sharing. And she does share. We discuss it often.

But on the other hand, here she was, foregoing candy in favor of riding in a wagon. If nobody else cared, was it so bad to just let her stay in the wagon? She likes candy, so it's not like she didn't understand what she was giving up. I kept asking her, "Don't you want to get out and go get more candy?"

"No," was her reply. "I want to ride in the wagon." 

Even so, I was feeling uncomfortable with her insistence on staying in, while other kids stayed out. After several houses, Toyin and I looked at each other, seemingly on the same page as to what needed to happen. I pulled her out of the wagon and she began to flail and scream. A couple of moms made gestures, saying the other kids were okay, they didn't care. Annika could stay in the wagon. But we stayed firm. She had been in long enough and it was time to give it up for another kid.

It wasn't even so much that there were other kids clamoring for the wagon at this point. But it was the communal wagon. Just because you go to a party and there's a huge spread doesn't mean you can eat all the food even though nobody happens to be eating it at the moment. You're supposed to leave some for the other guests.

But I wonder if I ruined her Halloween? I mean, she's not really old enough to be gracious ALL the time. So when do you start insisting on social norms? At 2? At 3? At 4? I think it should start when you know for sure that your kid is cognizant of what's going on. There are lots of things I give in to Annika on, even when other parents wouldn't, because I'm sure that she's not there developmentally. But last night I was feeling pretty firm about the situation.

She was whiny and tired too, so we decided it was time to go.

Funny thing is, she didn't even ask to eat any candy until her little friend pulled out a lollipop. Then she wanted a lollipop. We convinced her to eat a piece of chocolate instead, so we could brush teeth and hit the road.

When we got home she didn't even mention eating candy. And this morning, she pulled out her pumpkin, looked inside then abandoned it on the couch in favor of another toy.

We did end up eating a whole bunch of candy at a friend's house this morning.  But even so, candy didn't turn out to be a big deal this year.

How did your Halloween go? Do you think you'll do anything different next year?

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