My work took me visiting to the Mental Health Services floor of our local hospital. D1 wing is located as far as it is possible to be from the main doors. To get there, you need to pass through the only public part of the hospital that is underground, down a corridor more narrow than the ones above (with, obviously, no windows) past doors clearly marked as electrical and mechanical service space. Barely public space. It is a distressing place to visit. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be in distress, and have that be where I was expected to go for help.
I rarely find my way to D1, most of the people I am called in to visit in the hospital are there for physical ailments. (You know, the “good” kind of sick. The “normal” kind. Just regular sick. Not like those sickos locked away on D1.) And when I note that Mental Health Services is tucked away down an inhospitable corridor, far away from the hopeful bustle of the rest of the hospital, I should hasten to add that it used to be housed in a separate building altogether, even less encouraging of visitors. Today I saw no peeling, faded yellow paint. No damage or graffiti left by previous inhabitants. No barred gates. So it’s better than it used to be. I have some hope that the people there are being helped.
I went to visit a woman I last spoke to the day before she was admitted. She yelled through the door at me that I could not come in, that she hadn’t been expecting me, that I should come back tomorrow; she shouted her phone number, which I didn’t have- which was why I’d stopped by. I thought it odd, the yelling through the door part, and the frantic tone of her voice. But I didn’t know her well, I didn’t (and still don’t) know what her baseline of ‘normal behaviour’ looks like. I don’t know how she came to be in hospital, or who she let in to her apartment after I left. She didn’t answer her phone. I didn’t hear from her for weeks. Until today, when she asked me to bring communion to her, on D1.
I struggle with finding that line – when does “respecting human diversity” blur into “failing to recognize significant distress”. When does “respecting human autonomy” blur into “failing to support and help someone who didn’t know how to ask”. When does “respecting privacy” blur into “letting people fall through the cracks”. When am I my sister’s keeper?
She was very insistent that she was a “client” on D1, not a patient. I don’t know what the difference is, or if there is one. I know she is a beloved child of God, that is all I need to know in order to bring communion to her.
I’m not sure what my point is, or even that I have one. That the collective, societal “we” needs to get right the fuck over our stigmatization of mental illness. That mental health care needs to stop being Health Care’s neglected cousin. That it sucks that when I hit the genetic lottery, the place I’ll be seeking help for depression is a place that already makes me feel sad, and tired.
I admit it. I am that mom. You know the one. The one who had her police record check into the school office three months before her kid started Junior Kindergarten. The one who goes along on field trips, and tries to learn all the kids’ names (even though all the light-haired, light-skinned, crew-cutted boys look the same to me) and volunteers in the classroom.
As much as I jealously watch the careers of other women who made different choices, I really do like having the time to be that mom.
But now the question arises- since I’m right there in the classroom, how do I talk to the teacher about stuff that really bothers me, without burning bridges, and becoming a whole other kind of that mom- the one who walks into a classroom with no background and questions what is being taught by the expert?
The last two days that I have been in school, I have heard my daughter’s class singing “Little Bunny Foo Foo”. I learned this song as a Girl Guide. It was kinda funny.
Here’s the classic version, the one I sang as a kid:
Now, all in all, this is not a terrible model for the stuff that I teach to my volunteers. The smallest and most vulnerable members of the community are being mistreated. The good fairy witnesses unacceptable behaviour, and asks that it be stopped. She confronts FooFoo directly, uses “I” statements, she doesn’t attack- she just lays out a clear expectation about what behaviour will and will not be tolerated, she lays out the consequences for persisting in the unacceptable behaviour. When FooFoo persists, she takes action to protect the field mice from further harm. You could argue that a three-chances policy placed the field mice at greater risk than necessary, but… all in all, the Good Fairy is a pretty good fairy, in the classic scenario.
Ruth has learned a very different version.
There is no fairy.
Mommy Bunny says “Little Bunny Foo Foo / I don’t want to see you / pickin’ up the field mice / and Boppin’em on the head… you need to learn how to make good choices. Hands are for helping, not for hurting”
and the next day… nothing changes. Little Bunny Foo Foo still makes the wrong choice.
Daddy Bunny says “Little Bunny Foo Foo / I don’t want to see you / pickin’ up the field mice / and Boppin’em on the head… you need to learn how to make good choices. Hands are for helping, not for hurting”
And the next day… and little Bunny Foo Foo decides to make the right choice.
“Little bunny Foo Foo / hopping through the forest / picking up the field mice / and giving them a hug”
And Mommy and Daddy Bunny say “Little Bunny Foo Foo / I’m so proud of you / come up on my lap / and get a great big hug”.
(But I don’t. Because Nice Girls don’t cause a commotion in kindergarten. And that Mom is a Nice Girl.)
So now, Mommy Bunny is a useless disciplinarian who offers nothing but a faint and easily ignored warm-up for Daddy Bunny, there is no consequence for bopping the field mice, and scoopin’ up the field mice for an uninvited hug is the “right” choice.
“Little Bunny Foo Foo / I just want to see you / remembering that you’re at least three times bigger than a field mouse / and asking their permission before you touch them at all.”
Well, we would teach the 4-year-olds about body autonomy, but it just doesn’t scan.
I love when Play with me Sesame airs classic segments from the street.
Ruth was exhausted when she came home today (I’m hoping she’ll get accustomed to the pace of JK, otherwise we’re going to have a very tired little girl on our hands!) and we got to sit together and enjoy this:
I hope you do, too.
Ruth begins junior kindergarten this week.
And so begins the next great adventure in family eating: school lunches.
We started today with a 1-hour small-group visit to school, we joined 3 other kids and their accompanying adults to meet the teacher at 1pm- so not until after we ate a picnic of the practice lunch we had packed before going to day-care for the morning.
I don’t know if there will be adults passing judgment on her packed lunch (or, lunches, since they have eating/nutrition/food/lunch breaks in the mid-morning and early afternoon. If there are, I will just have to leave her with polite but firmly worded notes “Ruth is free to pick and choose from the variety of different foods we packed together, eating what she is hungry for and stopping when she is full. This includes the freedom to eat her jellybeans first, in the middle, or last, as she sees fit”. I fear this battle, but I am fully prepared to wage it if necessary.
I also hope they don’t object to a 4 1/2 year old playing with her food. Because we seem to have developed a really specific routine around eating sandwiches (on those occasions when they are not cut into triangles. We like triangles better than squares). She must have learned this from me, because several of these steps (not all of them, interestingly, she has put her own stamp on it) were part of my toast-and-cheese-whiz routine when I was a kid.
A friend of mine had a Mad Man avatar of himself on facebook, and as a new fan of the show, I followed the link. (How did I miss this show? Where have I been?)
And, unlike other avatar-generator games I’ve seen, this one let me make a version of me that actually resembles me. Well, except that nothing in my closet is that fabulous. And while I do occasionally find myself making presentations, they would rarely involve pictures of scantily clad women.
Were you looking for a heaping helping of self-loathing, here? Sorry to disappoint you. Bathing suit shopping for me is almost painless- provided I can find a suit that looks as though I came to the pool to swim. (If you, as a sexually available adult, enjoy lounging around the pool looking sexy, then please understand that I mean you no disrespect. It’s not my thing. We’re all individuals.)
No. it’s for my daughters that bathing suit shopping makes me come home from the mall and grumble-chat to my girlfriends about how much I hate the entire child-bathing-suit-manufacturing universe.
But, Ruth’s beautiful handed-down suit is falling to pieces after half a season of playing in the chlorinated pool at day care. And next week we have plans for both a family trip to the splash pad, and a day camp trip to the public pool, and maybe a visit to Nan and Papa’s backyard pool. So off to the mall I went.
It is not yet August (by the skin of July’s teeth). So, even if you only swim in the summer, there is still a month left of bathing-suit season. And realistically, with swim lessons and pool parties and such, bathing suits are a 12-month-a-year item– readily available in June. Kids grow. In spurts. They outgrow things in the middle of the season. Bathing suits fall apart with frequent use in chlorine pools. But new bathing suits in August? Too much to ask.
And especially too much to ask is the style of bathing suit I want for my 4-year-old. She’s coming out the other side of potty-training, but when she’s doing something superFUN! (like, say, swimming) she’ll ignore subtle signals until it’s a rush. Any item of clothing requiring herculean effort to get into or out of? Bad idea. So a two-piece suit is the logical choice here. I don’t, however, want to put my 4-year-old in a string bikini. Modesty! Sun Coverage! Avoiding the year we have to say “last summer that was fine but now it isn’t”! Sun Coverage!
Thank all the retail gods that little boys get to cover up their young and tender little torsos with board shorts and sun-resistant board tops! Now, if you could just manufacture some of those without pirate skulls on them? That’d be spiffy. Kthnx.
Thank you, Please Mum for coming closer than any of your competitors to providing me what I need for my family! The bodysuit (we got it in a lovely turquoise blue) is more hassle for getting in and out than I’d like, especially when she’s off to day-camp and her counselors may not have time for potty helping. It’ll be fine for family trips to the splash pad though, so at end of season (can you see me rolling my eyes?) sale pricing, it made the cut. And she can manage the two-piece on her own, no problem.
(There’s a WHOLE OTHER RANT about how this store is gendered. There is a boy side and a girl side and ne’er the twain shall meet. What makes that bodysuit (it came in turquoise blue, orange, and green) with an adorable turtle on it a ‘boy’ item? Yeah, I didn’t know either. I’m a hetero, cis-gendered, traditionally feminine female woman person, and even with my fairly uncomplicated relationship with sex-and-gender, I want to SCREAM when I enter these shrines to gender policing. Is *I* *AM* *A* *GIRL* really the most important thing about my kid? The one thing that needs to be telegraphed at all times and in all places without ceasing? And my friend whose sons who are rocking gymnastics camp- does it need to be so nearly impossible for her to find a pair of leggings somewhere where her eldest doesn’t FREAK OUT about buying “girl clothes”?)
But. Really. Why why WHY?!?!? do toddler-sized bathing suits come in styles that look like the adult-style suits I refuse to buy for myself? The ones that are made not for swimming, but for lounging around the pool looking sexy. My kids have NO NEED to lounge around the pool looking… anything! They are not at the pool, the splash pad, the cottage, or the beach to be looked upon.
Whose needs are being met with a toddler-sized bikini on which the top rides up when she jumps in the pool because she lacks the anatomy to keep it in place?
Male Gaze? I’m looking at you. With burning white-hot angry-laser-vision eyes.
Get. your. gaze. off. my. kid.
I learned to knit a long long time ago, and my enthusiasm for the craft tends to wax and wane. I spent the last trimester knitting blankets for both of my girls. I have found a group of fellow knitters here in town, and I delight in their gatherings. Somehow, even working on individual projects in the same space can’t help but make a gathering feel like a community. Becoming a part of a community is probably the most significant reason why this current bout of knitting has lasted several projects longer than any other.
Which is why I’m so glad that I’ve become part of this community that thinks and writes about what it is to live happily in fat bodies. Knitting is not the only thing in my life for which my enthusiasm has been variable. My commitment to growing towards self-acceptance has also waxed and waned over the years. But the notion that this body is an acceptable body, a good body, and it deserves to be well-fed, well-dressed, and and well-loved is an important one. Are there limits? Sure. But in the past few years they have more to do with financial and time limits than with this body not being worth the effort. And being part of a community of other who believe these things about themselves makes it so much more possible for me to believe this about myself.
Also- I notice knitted items now, and I notice things about them I didn’t before: the colour, the stitch patterns, the construction. Because I’m part of a community that talks about these things. I’m learning. And last week, I finished my own first design. I went looking for a pattern and couldn’t find one so I made one up. And now I’m adding that to the vast pool of knowledge that is out there, contributing my own small voice to the conversation. In a similar way, because I am part of a community that talks about things such as bodily autonomy, and shame, and the difference between being harmed by a state of being and being harmed by a social and cultural response to that state of being… I see those in more places, too. In people of all sizes. So often I find myself thinking a lot less about how “Fat people should be treated better” and more “damn! People should be treated better”. I’m still figuring out how to participate in that wider conversation in a meaningful way. I know that things I’ve learned here have found their way into my preaching, into my interactions with with people, into my parenting. A small enough contribution to the conversation, but a contribution that I wouldn’t ever have been able to make, if I were on my own.
So thanks for having me, eh.