Monday 27 June 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Slings and arrows

AJ is 20 months old, nearer to two years old than one year old. I feel that if there has been a theme to this month, it's that we can't entirely protect her from the dangerous and unpleasant parts of the world. Hence the Hamlet quote: the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", the "sea of troubles" which we all must face.

First of all, about 2 days after she started walking extensively without support, AJ fell on my mom's steps. I was not even an arm's length away. I was not distracted. But I didn't quite catch her and while she didn't fall far at all, she fell very awkwardly on one leg. A few hours later we found out she had a fracture on her tibia. So, a few short days after she got excited about "walkie, walkie!" poor AJ had a cast on her leg and wasn't walking anywhere.

But mentally and physically healthy humans, especially little ones, are resilient and adaptive. Having a cast and a bad "bump" was occasionally distressing to AJ, especially the first few days. Before long however, she was crawling, scooching and erm, standing and walking on her cast.

And remember how I said I couldn't wait for her to dance? Well, she started dancing with the cast on. (it sounds likes she's saying "mucous" in the video but she means "music")

She continues learning at an amazing rate. We definitely have to be mindful of what we say and do around her, as she is taking it all in. On the morning of Sunday June 12th I was relaxing in bed, looking a friend's Facebook page. A post caught my attention and I Googled the story to learn more.  I found the story I was looking for, alright, and then I saw a news headline that dozens of people had been shot dead and injured in an Orlando nightclub. Mr. Turtle was up with AJ. I staggered out of bed and greeted AJ and him with "There has been another terrorist attack in the U.S. At least 20 people dead." AJ promptly began repeating, "Dead, dead!" Oh, no. It's official: I have to think about how to talk to her about terrorism, murder, violence. It's one of those things I accepted in theory, but it's a helluva lot different to look into her sweet face and think about how to say it.

Time goes on, the cast comes off. AJ didn't miss a beat: she showed no hesitation to walk or dance or even climb stairs after she had full use of both legs. I am being a bit more vigilant, especially when she starts climbing. But then yesterday I was walking close beside her outside, ready to snatch her away from danger, and she tripped on my foot and fell.  Sigh.

Another first today. The daycare called and told me that another child had bitten AJ. Not to break the skin, but there were tooth marks visible. They said she was briefly upset, but soon consoled. I am not overly concerned about the incident itself, but it's the first time I know of that another child has been mean to AJ. Well, I don't know if toddlers can really be mean on purpose, but she might perceive it that way.  It makes me wonder: how much will she worry about mean people in the world? Everybody does to some degree, but I hope it's not a crippling fear for her.

And finally, the Shakespeare quote has another somber resonance for me this week. It is of course part of Hamlet's famous soliloquy where he contemplates ending his life:

To be, or not to be? That is the question—
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—

This weekend we received news that one of the graduating class at my school committed suicide. He had reportedly struggled with a variety of academic and life issues, but was not described as isolated: he had friends, he had plans, he had "many connections." "This is the last person I would have expected to harm himself," the principal said. Somewhere along the way however, he decided he could not accept what life had dealt him.

I didn't know this student personally, so the shocks reach me through the impact on other people's lives, and you cannot predict what where a fault will crack open. My colleague's eyes welled with tears as she stumblingly told me of her now adult daughter's suicide attempt and how this latest tragedy brought it back to her. It's a reminder that there is so much under the surface of people's lives. No wonder that we often think people behave in a unreasonable and irrational way when there is so much that can't be seen. It makes me even more grateful for the blog world and the outlet it provides me, and others.

Monday 20 June 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Jemima Puddle Duck

Having a child means re-discovering childhood books and traditions. It's still a bit early for most of them, but recently I've become the owner of a few Beatrix Potter books.

I loved Potter's books as a child probably because they were small (not that size ever deterred me from reading a book), and because of the delicate, detailed illustrations, and....well, actually, I don't remember. I just know I liked to get them out from the library, and I must have read all the stories several times over.

AJ loves books, but doesn't yet show an interest in a story, exactly. She likes books with bright pictures, rhymes, and flaps and textures. Because her vocabulary must be well over a hundred words, she can identify what's in the pictures (kitty, bunny, mouse, etc), and she can fill in the words to some familiar stories. However, she likes Beatrix Potter for much the reasons I remember, so far: The books are little and she can hold them and "read" by herself. She'll sit on her chair, flip the pages, and babble happily.

I read the stories too. Reading them removed from childhood, I found myself noticing things I hadn't before. There's more to these little books than you might assume.

I found one of them, The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck, actually rather disturbing. Jemima is a duck who is not allowed to sit on her own eggs (I have no idea why this is, having very little knowledge of agriculture, and Potter doesn't explain any of it, other than possibly at the end where Jemima calls herself "a bad sitter.") She is however determined to hatch her own eggs, so she sneaks away from the farm into the woods. In the woods she meets a friendly, foxy "gentleman" who makes her at home even as he talks about omelettes and asks Jemima to bring herbs that go well with roast duck. Jemima however is too naive to be suspicious of any of this. Eventually the barnyard dog suspects something is up, and they raid the gentleman's den in time to prevent Jemima from being eaten, but the dogs also eat all her eggs. The full story with Potter's illustrations.

It might be a stretch to call Jemima an infertile or subfertile, but I felt a certain affinity for her and her desperation. Otherwise, what stands out for me about this story is how nobody is really the good guy: while the foxy "gentleman" might seem the most despicable, it's Jemima's naivete that creates the problem, which you could argue was otherwise avoidable. The dogs who charge to the rescue ruin the heroic moment by eating up her eggs. Furthermore, you could make the argument that the problems arise from the various characters behaving like what they are: ducks act like ducks, foxes like foxes, and dogs like dogs. It raises the question: how well do we know our own human nature and that of others? How often do we make foolish or naive assumptions and how can these be avoided?

Will I share and discuss this story with AJ? You bet. I hope she tries to better her human nature as she grows up, because we all should strive to be good people. But I also think Jemima Puddle Duck offers some good lessons about viewing friendly "gentlemen" with a wary eye, as well as white knights, and the dangers of naivete and idealism, even (or especially) when well-intentioned.

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