Ruminator: Pink vs Blue

Yesterday turned out to be an interesting day. There was winning at basketball, which happens rarely enough these days that it’s a happy moment indeed. There was completing the serialisation of “in move”, my teenage-boys-in-the-Hutt novel, about which more soon (I need to get the ebook version prepared for release). There was getting a heat pump installed, hurrah for that. But the big thing was Pink vs Blue.

Pink vs Blue was a post I wrote over at The Ruminator. It’s about how being a dad to a little girl has given me some new avenues for thinking about the way our culture codes and scripts gender in a really limiting way. I spent a while scooping together lots of bits and pieces I’d been thinking and feeling for a while, and lined them up in what I hoped was an illuminating way.

As usual with this sort of stuff, the writing of it is also the thinking about it – I look for turns of phrase or metaphors or rhetorical flourishes that feel like they help me understand. Like if I can just line up the words in the right way, I’ll unlock some hidden secret. Sometimes it does feel like that.

Anyway, I’m pretty proud of this post, because it’s very personal and also very general, and I tried hard to get it right. It’s taken off in a moderate sort of way, lots of shares by people I’ve never heard of. Easily the most widely circulated thing I’ve ever written (excepting that time I cut and pasted a few Wikileaks tweets and added the words “this is interesting” and it went crazy on Reddit).

You can find it here. I hope you’ll have a read, and if you are so moved, do pass it on to anyone else who might be interested.


What about Dads? Can we have it all too?

Saturday’s newspaper had a magazine section with a big article heavily featuring our little fambly – Cal, Willa and myself. It’s up online here. It is actually quite a good piece, I reckon.

One message in there is how much we are relying on family for support, and on employers being flexible. We are blessed with much support in all those ways, plus plus a babby who is happy and not much trouble as babbies go. We are lucky people.

I am feeling the lucky today. Today (and the whole week actually but especially today) has been manic to the extreme. But I am getting by and well-fed (good healthy home-made tucker) and wee Willa has been adored by many people today and has lots of cuddles and food and poor hardworking Cal was super supportive tonight as I raced to get a piece of work done…

This blog is gonna stay low-frequency low-thinking posts for a while I guess. Capacity is low right now. But I want to record this here so I can’t argue with myself later: for all the challenges fitting everything in? I’m having an amazing time.

Anyway, enough ramble. Go read the article. You know you want to.

Looking at her

Trying to capture part of my experience of fatherhood –

– the moment she came into the world? It felt discontinuous, like the world was torn down and then rebuilt containing something new. The arrival of Willa as independent being, breathing and looking – it seemed to break causality. A person, where there had been no person.

The light was shining on her. It actually was, the lamps in the delivery suite were arranged to drop a circle of light around newborn Willa, but I suspect that my brain would have made it seem that way regardless. There was information coming off her in waves, more than I could take in. Like if those lamps had been shining in my eyes – only they weren’t, they were bouncing off my daughter first, then flooding me. I couldn’t see her. There was too much information.

I still can’t, seven weeks on. Other people comment on resemblances but I can’t see them. When I look at her, my brain goes into overdrive. I get more data than I can process. Everything.

I know it won’t last – the chemical rush, the neural repatterning, the imprinting, the magic will all subside. But, I suspect, will never entirely disappear. So call that the first thing I learned as a parent: parenthood is a new way of seeing. Literally.

About Willa

For those wanting details, here are details. Everyone else, feel free to skip.

Willa is named for her paternal great-grandmother – my father’s mother. G-gma was Williamina and known as Mina, but we went with the alternative spelling Willamina to be known as Willa (and for an easier time spelling her name). Both versions are Scots variants on the Germanic form, Wilhelmina. It means “protector”, which is a pretty good name meaning to have.

Willa’s middle name Therese appears on both sides of the family tree. She’s taking my last name, Davie, at least for now. We don’t have a long-term strategy for a family name. We can talk about it with her when she’s old enough to have an opinion, I guess.

Willa arrived weighing just under 9 pounds (just over 4kg), which is big but not huge. She was long, 53cm I think, so she might have inherited my height. She could just lift her head right from birth, and a week on is easily able to support her own head long enough to turn it towards whatever she wants to look at.

Willa likes to sleep with her hands on either side of her forehead, fingers curled forward. She’s a good healthy feeder and is generally very content and happy. We are seriously counting our blessings in this regard because a lot of our friends have had rough rides with their new babies; hopefully this good streak will continue. (Cal jokingly argues that she deserves some easy time after a long nausea-ridden pregnancy!)

Willa has big feet. I took four randomly-selected pairs of baby booties to the hospital; three pairs were much too small, and the other just fit.

We read her her first story today; Hairy Maclary. Of course she had no idea what was going on but I think she picked up that something a bit special was happening. She spent most of the duration looking at the book rather than at Cal or me, and Cal thought she liked listening to my voice. (It’s a good book, lovely to read. Also: full of dogs, which fits into Cal’s masterplan to have every child in the world love dogs.)

She’s wonderful, basically, and the most amazing thing is how much it seems like she belongs here. Having her in our lives is perfectly right.

Oh also I’m total stereotypical dad with a camera full of baby photos. But I will try not to spam y’all.

[We haven’t opened our hoose to visitors just yet, but I look forward to showing her off soon!]

On Having A Girl

It is Monday and I am not at work and do not yet have a baby.

We are likely to have a girl-baby. Can never be sure: sister of my office-buddy was expecting a girl, but last week got a boy. Still, my brain is mostly pointing towards girl, and that – that! It has given me cause to ponder. And ponder’d I thus: it makes me glad that I know so many amazing women.

Like, for serious, I know some *amazing* women. Doing incredible stuff, selfless stuff, high-powered high-achievement stuff, visionary stuff, good friend stuff, generous soul stuff. Stuff in all directions. Women who make me collapse with laughter. Women who walk up to dumbness and kick it in the gonads. And, not least, women gone through tough times & come out firing on all cylinders.

(Needless to say my Cal is all over these. Women in my family also strongly feature, yo.)

I am thankful for the privilege of knowing all these people, and being shaped by them, and seeing the world around me get shaped by them too. Because it reminds me that the bad is not insurmountable. That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last few months: the bad. Frex: the gender-coded socialization that doesn’t even bother to hide itself and will engulf the wee beastie in body-anxiety and social submission; I hope that the tools we give our daughter (if we do get a daughter) will help her not to breathe it all in.

Except hope isn’t the right word. Because of all these people I know, and because of the way I was brought up, and because I’m not doing this alone, I am confident she won’t breathe it all in. Hell, she might find a way to dodge the flood entirely.

We can do this stuff more-or-less right. I am surrounded by examples of doing it right, after all. And yes, I know they fcuk you up your mum and dad, but: it is my heartfelt intention to fcuk my little girl up in ways that run counter to the ways society at large is trying to fcuk her up. Society doesn’t need the extra help. (And besides, I’m a psychology nerd, and everyone knows psych-heads have a lock on finding new and unique ways to mess up our children.)

So what am I worried about? Like all these women I know, like her grandmothers and aunties, and like her mum, she’s gonna be awesome.

Unless she turns out to be a he. In which case, y’know, all bets are off.

Prompt for this post was Simon C linking to this TED talk about growing up as a man. “My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.” Strong stuff.

Also: paying tribute to women by no means diminishes the many men I know who are also awesome. Particularly the dads of daughters who are making a bloody good go of it. Nice one dads, I am taking notes.