Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trains reprised

I see that NSW State Rail, unlike their Victorian counterparts, are quite happy to put all of the safety responsibility onto travellers. I particularly like the call for children take great care getting on and off the train.

I'm not even slightly surprised though - State Rail has a history of making everything Somebody Else's Problem. Too many trains running late? Clearly the definition of "late" is wrong. Signalling system inadequate? Slow down the trains, increase trip times and tell people you've increased safety. Too many people falling off the platforms? Shout about all the education you've been providing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday in pictures

Because I'm chronically short on time, I decided to do something simple for the cancer fundraising afternoon tea this afternoon. I figured Arrowroot biscuits with icing and smiley faces would be quick and easy. I figured this because I'm an idiot. As soon as I started the faces I remembered that this process always takes forever. To add to the drama, the "writing icing" I had on hand had departed this world in its original form, and I needed to come up with some other way to do the smiles. I'm in no way convinced that my improvisation passes any test at all. However, I wasted the middle of my day to produce this.

I have no idea what these things are, but the kids seemed to decide they were entirely edible.

This exercise was clearly a waste of time and effort, but I felt morally justified, because on Monday I spent the entire day re-arranging my kids' rooms. By the end of the day I was very sore, but all the toys from the lounge room had been absorbed into the kids' rooms, unnecessary toys had been purged and Elissa finally had toys in her own room. The carpet was even vacuumed. This alone is not why I was feeling morally superior, this is why I was feeling morally superior.

This is what the kids' rooms looked like this morning, a full four days after my work. You'll notice there is floor. You'll also notice I'm not so invested in made beds. This is hardly Beautiful Homes and Gardens, but it is tidy. It turns out that a complete reset of the rooms, along with 5 minute clean up every night does enable tidy rooms. The only problem is that missing a couple of 5 minute clean ups means the need for a reset again. That would be fine if I could manage that reset more often that every 18 months. But until the routine hits its next breakdown point (guaranteed to be within the next month), I shall be smug in the knowledge that I am a Superior Parent.

Today also marked the return of the sun after a very soggy week. This led, in due course, to a night with a visible moon. I was so excited I took a photo.

It's ok, you're not obliged to share my excitement.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pram vs Train

If you live in Australia and see any news media, you've seen the footage of the most recent incident of pram vs train. I use this phrase flippantly because this little boy is in hospital, but it seems that he will be ok, and it's the second time such an incident has occurred and the kid has survived (and it's been caught on camera).

This time, however, rather than just gawking at the footage, there are murmurings about what can be done to prevent such incidents. This little boy should be fine, but obviously it would have been better for everyone if it hadn't happened.

The first suggestion is a change in pram design, which I initially poo-pooed, until I remembered recently attempting to put the brake on someone else's (childless) runaway pram at the park. The main pram I (used to) use has the world's easiest brake to operate, but not all of them do. This is probably not a silly suggestion. Brakes need to be easy to use, and they need not to let off by themselves, which has even happened with mine on one or two occasions.

I'm also kinda pleased that "more education about holding on to the pram" wasn't mentioned. Obviously, that's ideal, but when there's more than one child in the picture, it isn't necessarily always possible.

Another suggestion was "deadman's brakes". I don't know whether this refers to a brake activated from the train or the platform, but I noticed when I was in Tokyo that they are in the process of erecting barriers with doors on all platforms, and on those that don't have the barriers, they have emergency stop buttons on the platform. At the very least, we should be thinking about similar barriers, and emergency stop buttons.

However, I wonder what the camber on the platforms is? It seems that simply having a slight rise (enough to make things roll away, without causing problems for mobility devices) towards the edges of the platform would help immensely. It would require the addition of drains on some platforms, I suppose, but it seems like a comparatively simple solution. A lot of platforms are just asphalt, so this could probably be achieved, if not trivially, at least without requiring complete reconstruction.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tonight I'm grateful that I can cook great food - that I have the resources, the sources of inspiration and enough talent to pull it off.

Tonight we had pumpkin soup of the "roast it then stick it in a pot & boil it" variety and zucchini bites from a free recipe book. It was really good and a crowd pleaser.

Last night we had veal ribs - some done in the Masterchef sauce and some done in Masterfoods smokey BBQ marinade. The good news for Masterchef is that their sauce was indeed superior, although the kids went with the smokey BBQ. The ribs weren't executed to perfection - not enough time and no actual planning - but it's one that will be revisited and perfected. I might even try it with pork some time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kid conversations

Aliens were the topic of discussion at dinner one night. Ben and I discussed the likelihood of life on Mars, alien space ships on earth and intelligent life somewhere. There was a very long discussion about how no aliens have ever been seen by people. Then,

Charlie: What do aliens look like?

Me: Well, we don't know, we've never seen any.

Charlie: They have 5 eyes.

Me: Do they?

Charlie: Yes, and they're green


Elissa: Mummy, close your eyes.

Me: Why, so you can do something you're not allowed to?

Elissa: Yes.


Charlie: That's the doctors where we went when I was sick. We waited a long time and then went to the other doctors because it was taking too long.

Me: That's right, it was taking way too long and you were sick and it was late.

Charlie: Yes. [Much discussion about the finer details of the evening] That was a long time ago. Was I a toddler then?

Me: No, it was only last year, you were still 4.

Charlie: No, it was a long time ago.

Me: No, it wasn't that long ago, it was only last year.

Charlie: Ok, Mummy, we can pretend that's true.


Charlie: Mummy, I can still remember that.


Elissa: MUMMY! I'm looking out the window

Me: You really don't have to give me a running commentary on every single thing.

Crash: She's learning how to tweet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What is a foetus?

The NSW Attorney-General has announced another review into legal status of the deliberate death of a foetus. This is in response to an incident in which Brodie Donegan lost a baby at 32 weeks pregnant because she was hit by a car which mounted the curb on Christmas Day last year.

Donegan wants the driver charged with manslaughter, which isn't possible under our current laws.

I'm not a lawyer (I'll be interested in reading more trained commentary - Jo Tamar I'm looking at you :) ), but it seems to me that this is one of the stickier questions in law. Whilst I understand that losing a baby at 32 weeks (because regardless of technical definitions, I think most women are thinking of the foetus as a "baby" by 32 weeks) is devastating, and deserves to be treated as something more than another broken bone, I'm nervous about declaring that the foetus is legally a born person. I'm fairly confident that I don't want to see the death of a foetus as manslaughter, but perhaps a specific category - loss of a foetus as a consequence of harm to the mother - may help address the gap between a late term foetus being either equivalent to the rest of your body tissue or being a equivalent to born person. I think that defining it in terms of harm to the mother helps to avoid unintended consequences that may make it impossible for a woman to terminate a late term pregnancy in life threatening circumstances.

I feel keenly for Brodie Donegan, and I don't blame her for wanting this changed, but it's critical that we don't invoke the Law of Unintended Consequences in a terrible way.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stupid Parents

We are stupid parents.

The weather in Sydney today was pretty miserable - cold and raining. As such, I couldn't face the kids' request for the swimming pool - even indoors it's unpleasant when you start out cold. They were desperate to go somewhere, and out of complete lack of inspiration we decided to take them to an indoor play centre we hadn't been to before.

We are stupid parents.

This place was grossly understaffed, over-booked with birthday parties (more than a dozen, although I didn't count), had very poor visibility and nowhere near enough tables. We should have decided to go elsewhere as soon as we arrived, but we were worried about how late it already was and had no obvious backup plan.

We are stupid parents.

We spent the afternoon counting the building code violations and refereeing arguments over the helicopter ride (that you had to pay for) that was next to us. There was one highlight though. I'm becoming something of a connoisseur of children's tantrums, and the little girl who screamed, "I don't want to die, please!" in response to being told that it was time to go home was definitely setting the tantrum bar high. (I didn't hear, but I'm assuming logic along the lines of "I'll die if I have to go home now"...)

I'm a bit hopeless when it comes to places to go when it's this miserable. We probably should have gone to the Powerhouse, it can't have been less pleasant. Beyond the Powerhouse, I'm at a bit of a loss, but this afternoon should provide some motivation to do some research for next time.

What are your fav wet weather outings for 2-7yr olds?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Today I'm grateful for a pre-school whose board considers it, and decides that it really doesn't want to do fundraising at the 60th Anniversary celebrations. Not that I would have got very involved, I'm overstretched as it is, but at least I don't have to feel guilty about not doing enough.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eleventh Carnival of Feminist Parenting

I've finally had a chance to look through one of these carnivals, and not surprisingly really, it's pretty cool.

If you haven't already gone to have a squiz, go check out the Eleventh Carnival of Feminist Parenting.

Very quick hit

Props to Lyndal Curtis for this beautiful paragraph.


Process. Damn I hate process. Process is evil. Oh, I know that it's alluring - it even seems like a Good Idea. When you see some problem that's been caused by human error, you think "there should be a process in place to catch that", because after all, that's what we've been told for so long. But it's a Trojan horse. For all the human error it catches, it also creates obstacles, artificial impossibilities and just plain stupidity.

These process-induced disasters come about because process is the ultimate slippery slope. It starts out as an innocent routine. Something needs to be checked on a regular basis, so you make it a thing you do each morning, or at month end. Then you start to see similar mistakes being made more often than you'd like, so you make up a rule that says every time you do A, you need to check B. Perfectly sensible. Then you start to notice that miscommunication is a problem, so you create a form to minimise the possible ways people can express things to help overcome language barriers and local phrasing. It just makes things easier. Then you notice that the people who used to do all this stuff don't really need to think much, because all they have to do is follow the schedule, follow the rules, fill out the forms, enter the form data, so it would be much cheaper to employ less skilled people.

At about this time the CEO is looking at the bottom line and he's* pretty pleased with it all. The company is declared "efficient", possibly even "quality assured". There are bonuses (not for the unskilled staff, of course), there are options, Capitalism is pleased.

Then one day a customer calls, and they want something that requires the schedule to be modified slightly, or the rules to be broken, or gods help us, an answer that isn't available on the form. Those low paid, unskilled staff are not too interested in working out how to accommodate this customer, so they just say "no". Customer goes away and grumbles.

As this happens more often, CEO decides they need more sales staff to improve revenues. CEO spends some real money on sales staff, Capitalism approves of paying sales staff Good Money. A sales person goes out and talks to the customer and finds out what they need. It seems pretty sensible, there's no reason why the company can't do that. They sell the product to the customer. The customer then gets sent back to the same low paid staff who were uninterested in the Problems of Process the customer presented the first time, and is told "no" again. This time, the customer doesn't go away and grumble, this time the customer gets very upset. They've paid for this product, they've been told they can have it. They are told by low paid staff that what they want is Impossible. The customer knows perfectly well it isn't really impossible, but equally, the low paid staff know that from their perspective, it may as well be.

And now we know that process is really in place. And you can pretty much guarantee that no mistakes will be made by human error, because human error requires human input.

So next time you hear someone say "It wasn't human error, we need to look at the processes we have in place" as though this is a Good Thing, throw rotten tomatoes at them, or at least say loudly and clearly that you are perfectly willing to accept human error, but that if processes are making mistakes, the Powers That Be have failed utterly in their management roles.

*God yes, he's a "he". There may be CEOs for whom the pronoun "she" is appropriate who make these kinds of decisions, but they've never crossed my path.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

Some of you may have seen me tweet my farewell to Tokyo. It's true that the toilets in Japan are captivating, however I can honestly say I didn't see it coming. I did not expect to receive one for my birthday.

Crash got it installed today, and Charlie needed to be accompanied for his first use - he was deeply distrustful.

If you are now wondering what the hell I am talking about, here is the website of the manufacturer. (Although ours has been slightly modified for Australia, I'm told.)

The manual is a joy (and essential).

Some excerpts:

1. Press "Feminine Wash": Automatically, the nozzle comes out and sprays warm water to the feminine area.
2. Additional functions during your Feminine Wash are available. See Oscillation and Massage for details.

And later:

When using Posterior or Feminine Washing functions, pressing the "MOVE" button will provide a short-motion, front to back oscillating spray for a much wider cleansing experience. Note: This function will not work during the "Turbo Wash" or "Enama Wash" function.

Yep, you read that (dodgy spelling) right. If you are at my house, consider yourself warned. This is a symbol not to be messed with.
Today I'm grateful for a nearly-five-year old who came shopping with me for long pants, chose 3 pairs with only one brief bout of indecision and cost $20 altogether, and then cheerfully came home again - all in less than half an hour.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today I'm grateful for a child care centre that my kids are happy to go to - at least as happy as Charlie gets about anything like that. Monday mornings suck enough, if I had to go through more than the ritual of 742 kisses, cuddles and "goodbye"s, they'd be utterly unbearable.

I'd also like to mention that I'm so proud of him saying "goodbye" so fiercely it makes people stare, because it's how he stops himself from getting more worked up and crying. It's a step along the way from screaming heebie jeebies to a casual "Bye Mum". Actually, it's a big step, this is much better.

Competing needs

So, have you been following the train wreck that is "On Hating Children" over on Feministe? One commenter pointed out that there'll be a rash of "I have the answer" posts on personal blogs, and I wouldn't like to disappoint.

While the argument rages with ridiculous extremes on both sides (for the record, I don't think anyone thinks that children should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want in a public space, nor do I think anyone thinks that children should never speak above a whisper, but that seems to be what both sides are accusing each other of), a few very important points were made. The main one being competing needs.

Jackie commented that she experiences sensitivity to noise, and kids being loud are really quite unbearable for her. I have a kid who is still really struggling to control his impulses, and is well known for loud, frustrated outbursts. How would I handle it if Jackie (or someone with similar sound sensitivity - it ain't that uncommon) were a friend, or just someone who regularly shares the same space? Well firstly, I'd explain to my kids that not everyone experiences sound the same way, so that at least they understood the situation. In the end, though, I'd really need to keep noisy kid(s) away from Jackie, through sensible negotiation and a bit of thought.

All good and well if I know who she is and where she might be. But what if I don't know who she is, but she's often at the same places? It seems that the only real solution is that which has been implemented on some UK commuter trains - quiet spaces. It doesn't seem at all beyond the realms of plausibility that restaurants and cafes could choose to advertise as "Quiet" spaces, or reserve "Quiet" areas. We have cafes clearly designated as "loud" by virtue of having play equipment for kids, I'm sure you could do well opening the "quiet" one across the road.

This addresses a whole range of problems - the hens/bucks night at the table next to you when you were hoping for a quiet, romantic meal, the business meeting when you're trying to study and so on.

It also strikes me that parents would be a good group to advocate for such a thing - after all, when we do manage to escape the kids for a wee while, it'd be awesome to know there was a place we could go that was quiet. In addition, if the space is not designated as quiet, then we'd have better rules of engagement with the death starers and drive-by parenting suggesters.

I don't, of course, have any answers for the rest of the battle over there, except maybe downgrading the defensiveness. It seems like a lot of people have had so many bad experiences in way or another, they've given up believing that anyone is reasonable, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just a brain dump, really

I read an excerpt from a book that ashinynewcoin linked to in The Age (that was convoluted, wasn't it?) about the entrenched sexism that nobody sees. Among other things, it described the experiences of two transgender scientists. Both found that their work was taken more seriously during the part of their life when they were men.

It makes excellent points, but I found myself automatically questioning the conclusions because it uses only 2 examples. It really isn't possible to conclude anything from these two people - it may just happen that their work actually was better during the part of their lives lived male (as a coincidence - I'm not suggesting correlation). I stand by that analysis, but for many other reasons, I'm pretty confident that the conclusions are still actually correct, even if they can't be drawn from these two anecdotes alone.

However, what this really led me to consider is how this whole thing has played out in my life. In my current career, I started out working in a company where I never reached a very high position. I was a manager, but I wasn't a regional manager or anything. As a result, I was never really taken very seriously by suppliers or customers. When I left the company, I started my own business, and I was determined to behave like the owner, CEO, Person Of Importance. It didn't work. I figured this was because my business was tiny and it didn't matter to anyone. That was probably true.

Then I was joined by two (male) partners, both of whom had been more senior than me in the company I had worked for. Almost immediately, they became the people everybody talked to. They were the People of Importance. This was for a number of reasons - they were better at it than me, they had a larger reputation in our industry and so on. The situation was as much my doing as theirs.

In any given situation, how can anyone say whether I am taken less seriously because of merit or because I am female? There have been alternative explanations all the way along, and it may well be that they are the right ones in every case, but then that's the whole point about unseen sexism - nobody thinks they are committing it, and not many people think they are suffering as a result of it.

The only way to combat this is to show people the results of studies showing innate bias against women. To make it clear that just because you don't think you're doing it, it doesn't mean you aren't. And just because you are doing it, it doesn't make you a bad person. You're doing it because it's deeply ingrained in our society, not because you believe in sexism. The trick is to take the shame out of it and to make it a point of empowerment. Make a million Facebook quizzes that highlight this ingrained sexism so that we can learn to fight it in ourselves. Treat it as an optical illusion that we can train our brains not to see, rather than a personality defect.

See how that woman's inferior? It's just a trick of society that makes us see her that way, but if you look carefully enough, you can see the truth of it, and if you practice often enough, you find it hard to see how you ever saw the illusion in the first place.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fred Nile makes it all clear

The burqa is understood as a controversial thing. In many ways, it represents the oppression of women in the more conservative brands of Islam, but somehow the idea that men with political power could ban its wearing altogether does not look like the liberation of women.

Still, it might not be obvious which is the lesser evil - allowing men as private citizens to dictate what women may wear or allowing men in power to dictate what women may wear.

But now, Fred Nile has shown us the way. Fred wants to introduce a bill to ban the burqa in NSW.

So if you've been wondering which is the lesser evil, I say follow Fred - if Fred supports it, it's a Bad Idea. Fred has made it clear - the path is to encourage and effect cultural change such that women are never coerced into in wearing clothing that makes them uncomfortable. Legislating away one side of the choice doesn't redress cultural removal of the other side.

Today I'm grateful for a beautiful belly dance teacher, a great friend to share her with, and belly dance itself, which nearly killed me tonight, but put a smile on my face.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I haven't been doing the gratitude posts for a while, and I think I need to be.

Tonight I am grateful for people who'll share a coffee and a debrief and a story. Parenting can be isolating, it's wonderful when people reach out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ANZAC Day indoctrination

This is the worksheet that all of Ben's school did on ANZAC Day. For context, this is for 5-8 year olds. Poor child got quite the lecture when he got home (not directed at him, directed at the makers of the sheet).

What are your favourite bits?

I am rather fond of how "proud" we are to take part in ANZAC Day. *shudder*

I also like the implication that Gallipoli had something to do with "defend"-ing... well anybody really. It's a pretty impressive argument that can conclude that we took part in the invasion of Turkey in order to defend Australia.

I'm also amused that for some reason "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps" was just too hard for these kids. Or something.

But really, how can you go past "a big fight between countries who disagree over some things"? That's.... jaw dropping. In the context of 5-8 year olds, I can see these kids thinking that war is somewhere between a screaming match over who had it first and an all-in brawl with a spot of punching and kicking. Of course, wars do often start out as a screaming match over who had it first, but they aren't discussing the causes.

I realise it's tricky, and I think there is a reasonable argument to ignore ANZAC Day altogether in infants school, but if you're going to go there, you can't do it disingenuously. Surely "a big fight between countries in which lots of people die" would be closer, without getting into particularly nasty detail?

I think I'd be much happier if they just left it alone until at least primary school. This pro-ANZAC Day propaganda campaign in schools is very disturbing. When I went to school, ANZAC Day was presented as a day to mark all that is stupid, awful and pointless about war, with a side helping of the value of friendship, ingenuity and disobeying orders. We were taught that Gallipoli was a monumental management cock up, that ANZAC soldiers were treated by the lofty British as disposable cannon fodder, and that above all, this kind of thing should never be allowed to happen again. We were taught that following stupid orders is not brave and loyal, it's stupid and fatal.

Not that I think what we were taught ticked all the boxes. There was still a glorification of the ANZAC soldiers - the whole "ANZAC soldiers were better/smarter/more effective", which smacks of nationalism, although it probably has a grain of truth. More importantly, we weren't taught the wider implications of the invasion of Turkey nor any of the horrors visited upon the "bad guys" by the "good guys". Nor did anyone ever mention the Armenian genocide that was taking place on the very same day. I notice that in all the "Aussies and Turks are mates now" stuff that goes on in Gallipoli itself, the Armenians don't get a mention either.

I think perhaps it is time for parents and P&Cs to take a long hard look at the materials being given to schools for ANZAC Day, and ask what we want our kids to be taught.

ETA: Credit where it's due - apparently Ben's teacher expressed concern with the use of the word "proud".

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Infantilisation of kids

I've been watching Brat Camp, an American wilderness camp designed to shock wayward teens into better behaviour. It's fascinating in a I-don't-support-this-philosophy-in-its-entirety-but-I-see-where-they're-coming-from kind of way. What strikes me is that we expect very little of our kids until they hit their teens, and then we want them to suddenly grow up, take responsibility and be all that society wants them to be.

Actually, no, we want them to keep being kids, until they are 18, and then we want them to be fully functioning adults. Pretty much the day they turn 18.

I am criticised for letting my kid cross some roads on his own. I am criticised for letting my kid climb trees. I am told that my child might be able to walk to school on his own by 6th grade - I expect him to be doing it in year 3.

These are the things I'm aware of, but what other concessions am I making? How else am I infantilising my kids? It seems to be the standard course just now. I'm watching these kids on TV fight against a world that has suddenly changed the goal posts, and I just don't think that's fair. The demands being made of these teens should have been made of them in steady increments from age 2, but some of them have barely made it past pre-school level of responsibility and respect.

It seems kinda obvious to me that the transition to adulthood is best done slowly, with heaps of time for backslides, fuck-ups, and re-drawing of the rules. The sooner we start, the more chance there is that adult responsibility isn't going to hit kids with a brick.

I could be way wrong, my eldest is only 7, but I remember being 8-18, and I know how hard some of those transitions are.

Which way do you lean? Protection or responsibility? I've written this entirely from my position - do you think I'm way off the mark? I'm still learning - not a week goes by that I don't hear something that resets my position.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Teaching altruism

I was chatting to my mother about how one goes about teaching the joy of giving and helping - neither of us really knew how it's done, although Mum seems to have done a reasonably good job, even if she doesn't know how.

Inevitably, in the few days since, the subject has come up in a number of ways in our house. In the first instance, Charlie demonstrated that the joy of helping can always be a source of tantrums. Ben helped Elissa and Charlie missed out on the helping opportunity, resulting in a melt down. If I don't find garbage in pairs (one for Elissa and one for Charlie), the whole day can go to pot.

More usefully, last night Ben volunteered that at school they are always told that it's more fun when you share, but he was definitely less than convinced that this was true. He gets that he needs to share anyway, but he feels it as an obligation, not a source of joy. After a discussion about the fact that even as an adult, there can be certain things that one shares out of obligation (there may be a few kinds of chocolate that I share only out of obligation, but good wine I love to share), we started talking about sharing toys, and about serving communal food around to everyone and about how it makes you feel good to make someone happy. Ben was delighted to discover that there are lots of occasions when sharing and helping do make him happy - he's just been focussing on the pain of sharing the small bag of lollies with his siblings.

So maybe a big part of teaching altruism is just pointing out when it's happening already.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Feminism, self determination and peer pressure

A year and a half ago I blogged this photo, since dubbed "Vengeful Fairy of Doom".

I love this photo so much. I love the sword slung in the fairy wings and the gun holstered under the tutu. I love it so much it's my wallpaper on my phone.

However, recently, Ben has come to dislike it. Wednesday night, he asked me to take it off my phone. About a thousand voices bounced around in my head shouting about his right to decide how his photos are used, and about my right to use my photos on my phone, and about what was making him dislike it anyway. I don't know if he noticed the pause while I waited for the shouting to stop, but I asked him why he didn't like the photo - everyone else I know does. The answer was, predictably enough, that his friend doesn't like "that sort of stuff". At this point all the voices joined together to scream, "WHAT??? GIRL STUFF?????". I said, almost calmly, "What? Girl Stuff? But you know there's no such thing as girl stuff." Standard peer pressure type conversation ensued, and I left it at that for the evening.

Yesterday morning, I brought it up again. It was revealed that said friend is excessively anti-fairy. Ben believes this has its roots in "girl stuff", but he can see the friend's point about fairies being a bit pathetic. Ben has been exposed to "The Fairies", so I can see why he might be sympathetic to this position. Time to leave philosophy aside, and go into bat for fairies. I showed him some classic Brian Froud, which didn't really impress, but then I pulled out the big guns - Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book.

No seven year old can resist a bit of splattered fairy.

After he went to school, I was left to return to the philosophical questions. I still need to revisit whether he really wants me to remove the photo from my phone, and I have just re-published it here. I don't think the latter is a big deal, it really is all about his mate not seeing the photo, but I may pull it down if he really is distressed by it. I will change the wall paper if he still wants me to.

We did discuss that part of the reason the photo is cool, is that he's messing with stereotypes. In it, he's happily playing with "boy stuff"and "girl stuff" all together. I know that he's at least beginning to question these stereotypes. He pointed out, unprompted, a sentence in a home reader that said that boys think they are better at sport than girls. He was most unimpressed. I'm not too worried about this part of the message.

The question for me is how to balance his right to decide his own course with his need to not have that course too heavily determined by peer pressure and also with the cost of challenging his mates.

I'd like him to be proud of the photo, and to have the confidence to tell his friend that he's wrong, fairies can be cool, and Ben dressed as one is definitely cool.

I'll settle for him to be proud of the photo but still prefer to keep it somewhere where his mates can't see it.

I know I can't make him proud of it if he can't feel it.

PS. At the Mothers' Day breakfast this morning, my place card had a picture of a squashed fairy on it. :)