Friday, 17 July 2015

A princess or a builder?

This is an extract from a fuller article published here #staffrm




I'm building a Tree House and being childlike, not childish. There's a difference.  Like being a girl but not "girly" I'm thinking this morning.  Let me explain a Granddad's use of those inverted commas and why I am worried about my relationship with Granddaughter Esther.  You can see her with a saw, at the foot of the tree...
I didn't notice her when I took the photo.  She's 3 and using a large screwdriver to remove a growth from the trunk. She has also been hammering nails, measuring, sawing and carrying heavy wood and climbing an aluminium ladder to 3 metres. She is very different here, in Bob the Builder mode (why not Belinda the Builder?) than when she is in Frozen Princess mode....
In Frozen mode and, "What I call.. (echoes of Miranda's Mum I fear?)... girly" mode she dresses in sparkly shoes, long princess skirt, paints her nails and wears Granny's necklaces. And she is more demanding, aloof and, yes.... strong willed. 
Here's the rub. I have some concerns about My Frozen Princess. Actually, go on, I'll admit it, I dislike this emerging Prima-Donna. So, what prejudices are scribbling all over Esther's three year old, wonderfully open canvas?
I could have built the Tree-House for My Little Princess, whilst she watched from her throne but I decided to challenge the status quo. It took a little persuasion to lure her out of Princess mode at the start. Why is this an issue for me? Because I fear she will be lured back by more powerful others to her sparkly castle. The media, peers, even school perhaps. Or, is this more about me wanting a Tomboy Granddaughter? Is that why I talk of mountains, trekking and building things? Is that why I let Granny do the nail painting and the jewellery stuff? But I fear her becoming glamourised, sexualised, a twerking child fashion model... And then again, I do wear a Leaf medallion, two gold rings and sport one sparkly toenail. Esther painted it 3 months ago. Why do I feel the need to explain that toenail at the gym?
Yes, we all, that is Sam and Sarah, Esther's parents, and Granny are up for this challenge. So, she's often transformed and redressed in sensible footwear, sans bling. She becomes my builder's mate and drops happily into apprentice mode - adding her ideas too! But she does my bidding, listening to instructions and they are strict. Remember we are balanced up high - her father looks happy but he's unsteady up there - and these tools are dangerous! She watches me sharpen them on a high revving grindstone in the workshop. Then later she's in that damned princess costume and looking at me as one of her subjects....
This is the look I treasure!

I'm, trying to redress, literally, the pull to her becoming girly but writing and reading this I can see a blot on my own canvas but publish and be damned I think. Hence the hashtag #womened 
POSTSCRIPT: A week later and another day with Esther and after all the feedback I am sure, very sure, that all will be well.... I am reflecting now that my fears we well meant but I had underestimated the power of Sam and Sarah her parents (who took me to task for over-thinking) and daughter Hannah (Esther's Aunt) who I know is on the case.  They are far better equipped to steer her course... and little sister Ruth's too...

It's the others I fear  - there is a lot of pressure on Early Years girls - ironically from peers. But my biggest sense is that I seemed to be arguing either Princess or builder (my blot I wrote) many have simply argued, "why not both?" I'm reassured by that..... And yet, we really shouldn't have to be banging on about sexism and stereotyping - there is so much to do. I want the petty bigoted pigeon holing of women to just go away! Overthinking again?




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