Maturity and mortality

The philosophy of nine year olds

My sons, I think, have just experienced a momentus weekend for an eight and nine year old. They both kicked goals at soccer, and their teams won. They watched ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ for the first time. They spent all of Sunday at their school fiesta. And they saw a cat hit by a car as they walked home.

The cat died, they said, pretty instantaneously. I wasn’t with them, as I’d left a little earlier to deal with necessary domestic detritus. I’m a coward; I didn’t seek details, yet I heard a few, anyway. But not many. They were fairly quiet about the whole thing, and I wonder if I should have asked more questions. Daddyo seemed more affected than the kids. (He’s still a little sad this morning.) The car didn’t stop, and he door-knocked along the road to find the cat’s owners. He found them. He came home with blood on his hands and his shorts.

Bringing trash and treasure

Looming loot

Perhaps fiesta-induced exhaustion made the experience surreal for the three of them (and the Coopers Pale Ale for the big guy). It had been a mammoth day: unlimited ride passes, old friends visiting from Cairns, and some spending money from grandparents. S-Man, in particular, went ape at Trash and Treasure. I worry about a hoarder’s future for him. Some of the toys I donated have made it back home. Again. Most of this will re-route to the local opshop. Life is circular.

It’s rare to allow these boys to watch M-rated movies, but Wes is Wes. His vision of Fantasic Mr Fox is a household favourite, and they quite liked Moonrise Kingdom. Life Aquatic is just natural progression. Now, writing about a movie we watched: I wouldn’t usually consider this remarkable enough to mention, except for the unplanned take-out they’ve drawn from it. CC blew me away when he explained, early on, his sympathy for Klaus (the character played by Willem Dafoe who feels usurped by Owen Wilson’s Ned assuming his coveted filial role). This is not a black-and-white reading, and I’m stoked by an eight-year-old’s sensitivity. Or maybe I’m just delighted to have another couple of Wes Anderson fans in the house. Hipster wanker, you say? Wait ‘til you see the triangles I’m painting on the nursery furniture.

Is it wrong to think that all of this weekend’s experiences are, in their own ways, healthy for the boys to experience? And should I ask them more about the cat? How they felt? Or should some emotions be allowed to be processed by maturing young people in their own space and time? This parenthood gig is tricky.

Hints for the hopeless

Conchita Wurst belly bump

I’ve linked to it before, but this site does make me laugh. It’s a list of hints for dads. (I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not the only one.) Hints. Dadness for dummies.

Take number 2. Clean the bathroom. Or number 4. Take her out to dinner.

Dude, you have to be told this shit??? How did you manage to become a goddamn father in the first place? Any lady who lets a non-bathroom-cleaning bloke between her legs in the first place deserves to be looking wistfully at a list of dad-hints, bookmarking them or perhaps even sending a link in a suggestive email…

Just kidding. I’m still waiting for the foot-fucking-master, too.

Smells like hyperosmia

Pregnancy develops superpowers. Particularly, a herculean sense of smell. This is not the ideal sensory gift. Especially when the only other soul on the bus takes the seat right in front of you. A dude with a personal aroma so intense, it’s clear the grunge meister spent the past week basting in the bourbon that seeps from his own pores, smoking 200 cigarettes a day, and dear Uma, how long has it been since he washed that shoulder-length hair? The bus is almost empty. Which means you could move away, but surely that would hurt stinky-hair’s feelings? So you stay seated in nausea town.

Noses know

Noses know

BTW>>> Although pregnant women tend to say their sense of smell is heightened, this study says that’s baloney.

Boot cut

You may recall the dark despair felt when I realised my old maternity jeans were long gone. Determined to unearth a secondhand pair of Citizens, I stalked the interwebs until one day there was not one but two listings beckoning from the screen. Unsure of size, I bid on both, 28s and the 30s, thinking a roomier spare pair wouldn’t go astray. And won them both.

Well, they’ve arrived. That’s the good news, I guess.

The not-good news: They’re boot cut.

Yep, you read that right. Boot-bloody-cut.


Boot cut? What was I thinking? Surely this was mentioned in at least one of the listings. I can’t believe I willingly wore a pair of boot cut jeans even ten years ago.

Boot cut. What sane woman reads these words and thinks, “hmm, yes, I want to revisit 1998. I’m thinking boot cut jeans.”???

Boot cut. Not even enough pizazz to aim for a full retro flare.

Boot cut. The cut that says “forget these calves, check out what this proportion-illusion does to those thighs: they’re not all that slender, are they?”

Here come the boot cut jeans

Holy fucking first world maternity fashion problems. At least the denim feels nice. That’ll be appreciated when I’m gardening in them.


*And the 28s may have been shortened, too, so they flare around a high ankle. Nice. I could be wearing my son’s pants.

“You’re pregnant?! Oh, I thought that was just middle-age spread.”

Fork your pom-pom

By request, we are venturing deeper into craft territory.

Mini pom-poms: child's play.

Mini pom-poms: child’s play.


A friend asked me to show her how to make these, and we were too busy lounging on the beach to get around to it last weekend, so here they are.

How to make adorable little mini pom-poms.

  1. Place a single thread of wool across the middle tines of a fork. Make it long if you want to use it to tie the eventual pom-pom onto something.
  2. Wrap wool around and around the fork.
  3. Tie the original thread once, as tightly as you can.
  4. Slip it all off the fork, and tie again. Tightly.
  5. Cut through the “folded” edges, fluff out, and trim with scissors to a fuzzy sphere.
  6. Voila!


The pink machine, and why I won’t tell you my baby’s sex


Oh yes, I have a problem with pink.


We had our 20-week scan last week, and for the first time in three pregnancies, I wanted to know what gender this little toad’s turned out. Not so I can bake a cake and colour the sponge pink or blue, or start stockpiling ruffled pink bloomers or macho blue truck-print onesies. No, I just reckon it’s been enough of a bloody surprise, this later-years’ pregnancy, and right now I’m over the surprises.

The Envelope

So, after the scan, we had the sex written down and sealed in an envelope. We opened it on Easter Sunday, just our immediate family. (Exactly half of us had guessed correctly, if you want to know.) And it will be a limited reveal. For a reason.

It's a...

I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but, if we are expecting a daughter, the last thing I want is visitors turning up with pink presents. Pink singlets, dresses, blankets, stretch headbands. Etc.*

It’s not the femininity that grates. It’s the colour.

Because pink has become a symbol.  Colour as hyper-simplified semiotics.

Pink = “girl”.

The commercialization and commodification of our kids has produced a corporate “pink machine”, and to a lesser extent, a blue one, but it’s pink that’s the most rigid. (And purple, that “other pink”. The ever-so-slightly tougher, yet still female-prescriptive, colour.) A corporate code to sell stuff. Segmenting the market by hue. Those racks of pinkness in clothing stores: pink, fluffy, feminized. I cannot remember more defined gendered children’s clothing in my 4-and-a-bit decades on this planet.

Girls are taught, from birth, that they have one colour, and their colour is pink.

Which would not be such a big deal if this was restricted to a rather dull fashion palette. But the pink girl-branding continues across all of a girl child’s consumer options. Clothes. Stationary. Kids’ yoghurt. Furniture. Toys.


Walk the aisles of your local toy barn. Note the aisles that glow pink. It’s a little scary.

I have two sons. I’ve not had to face the pink machine, yet. As a mother of boys, I can avoid, with a certain smugness I confess, those toy shop aisles that glow in their Barbie rosiness. The “girls” aisles. Even non-gender-specific (or traditionally “boys”) toys are re-branded “for girls”. Pink-tinged blocks. Pink guns. Pink fucking Lego Friends.**

Girls are taught that pink (and sometimes purple) is their colour. And then they’re presented with a lesser range of toys branded “girl”.

Girls toys are coloured pink, and appear to be reverting to the 1950s. Boys toys aren’t just blue, they are every other colour.

Because pink designates girl, and then dutiful girls choose from the pink toys. Pink sections in toy stores encompass the traditionally “female” toys: the nurturing ones. Baby strollers and toy kitchens. Not superheroes or cars or tools or action figures.

Few traditionally “male” toys are coloured, or packaged, pink. Why is this an issue? Because a girl less likely to play with a construction set is less likely to want to be an engineer when she grows up. Or it may be harder to imagine being a scientist when you’re flouncing around in your pink gown and tiara, pushing a pink toy stroller. A girl caught up in the princess fantasy is less likely to play the hero in her own daydream, and rather more likely to seek her handsome prince saviour.

And please, lower those itchy trigger finger fingers from the reply button, mothers of girls. I understand that some girls actually choose to wear pink. That they want the frilly feminine. I get that. I, too, have friends whose gender-neutral raised daughters reached for the pink, frilly, tutu girly-ness as soon as they could assert their taste. Pre-kids, I may have claimed to be a “nurture above nature” feminist who believed that every bit of gender-stereotyped behaviour could be ascribed to societal influence. Then, of course, I had sons, the universe’s special gift for feminists, boys who turned into blokes despite my best efforts to keep life gender-neutral. Who turned sticks into guns when our house was gun-free.

I now think there’s a bit of nature AND nurture defining kids. But at the moment, girls are shoved by the mainstream onto a one-way gender conveyer belt.

My daughter, when she has an opinion (if she’s a she), sure, she can dress in pink or play with as much frilly pinkness as she wants. But until then, I plan to show her some options. I don’t remember pink owning kindergarten fashions during  the 1970s. (And the photographs, if I can find them, shall prove me right…) But I do remember being castigated for not spending enough time playing in doll’s corner (uh, puh-lease! What fun was there in a dusty space containing a toy cot, an ironing board, and a rack of smelly clothes?), choosing to hog the tractor instead. But that was 1974, for Uma’s sake! FORTY YEARS AGO. Are we sending out daughters back to a colour-coded dolls’ corner?

Because, as Rebecca Hain writes in her blog, the pink princess marketing is forceful, and is outstripping the choice that little girls used to have to choose pink or not.

And there it is: It’s not the colour, it’s the lack of choice.

My sons’ toys come in all shades. Girls toys rarely do. By reducing a girl’s perceived choice, gender roles are prescribed before the child even has a chance to choose how to define herself.

If you walk into my house with that toxic Disney Princess crap, it will be walking back out with you. Please don’t think me ungrateful.* I’d be delighted for you to visit the baby. She’ll have enough stuff (we all do!); you don’t need to bring anything at all. Please respect a feeble tilt at the commodified mainstream, and help me to keep her mind uncommercialised as long as I can. Babies and children are not just mini-consumers, and feminity is more than a colour.


*In fact, please don’t bring us any thing! Just turn up and have a cup of tea, and maybe hold the baby while I change out of my PJs at 4 in the afternoon. The best gift anyone gave me was a friend turning up when I was frazzled with my brand new firstborn, who looked at me and said, “please let me hold him while you go have a shower”.

**Ah, Lego Friends. Let’s go there in a later post.


Want more?

Since I’ve been working on this post, which I started a few weeks ago, I’ve stumbled across a number of articles across this theme. Here’s a tiny selection.

Analysis of the pink machine

Seeking a non-gendered McDonalds Happy Meal

Laura Nelson v gender apartheid in London

The fightback against gendered toys

It’s the marketing, stupid

The Baby Gender Diary

The pro-pink posse

What’s the problem with pink anyway? 

Everything pink is not lame



20 weeks

All of a sudden, we’ve passed halfway, & the bump rounds out proud& I can’t use my stomach muscles to hide it anymore, & I’m waken by indigestion (and leg cramps), & migraines come and go, & we get serious about hospitals, & I plan to write a will (for the first time), & name suggestions become less amusing, & all new conversations about the baby involve its gender, & there are all these babies out there to notice (and bumps!), & how the hell do you choose a pram anyway; can we just borrow one?, & what if this kid’s just not as awesome as the first two, & I’m desperately hoping that these severed breasts will work again, & nappies, oh nappies, dear God facing nappies again, & the boys are so incredibly excited, & I’m awake and superalert at 3:15am, & I cry at sad stories about strangers (by strangers), & I wouldn’t mind a Really Big Drink, & there’s a little person making fluttery somersaults in my belly!,  & I put my thin clothes away for a while, & we need to discuss a vasectomy, & all the kids I’ve known for years seem so big!, & I’m surprised I’m not scared at all, I’m excited, & I don’t really care about the line up for Splendour this year, & bloody hell, this is really happening.


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