The Art of Invention

A friend of mine posted this to facebook yesterday and I loved it so much I wanted to share it here……..

Dear Teachers,

Isn’t my daughter just precious as she stands proudly in front of her writing piece that she must have copied letter for letter, word for word? Is her own writing not good enough? Please do not give my child writing prompts that she must copy. Instead, teach her to value her own original ideas by letting her write what she wants to write. Teach her that in kindergarten she can sound out words and write sentences independently and that invented spelling is awesome and a normal part of child development.

Oddly enough her grandparents have never taken her fishing, but they are amazing people that my girls are blessed to have. My girls are also blessed to have such tremendous teachers that I hope will understand that just as she learned to crawl before she walked and babbled before she spoke, she must write without spaces and invent her spelling before she becomes a published author. Let her grow.

Sincerely,
Her Mom

The proud student shows off her work.

The proud student shows off her work.

The Barbie Project: Phew

Barbie ProjectThis month marks number six of the Barbie Project and I’m really grateful the only parameter given to all of us moms was: Get down on the floor, play, and observe. Share with us what you learn.

There is a lot we can learn from our kids, once we master the art of sitting back and listening. I think sometimes we get so busy in our ‘over-parenting’ mode that we miss the opportunities our kids provide.

About a week ago Amelia and I were walking into her Girl Scout Brownie meeting and the sun was at our backs, low in the sky on a late September afternoon. This elongated our shadows in front of us and as Amelia noticed this she began walking in a glamorous way and said, “Hey Mom! Do I look like Barbie?”

Given what I do for a living (in part, providing families with tangible tips on raising confident girls) you might think this question from her would make me panic that my young daughter’s strong body image and self-esteem had fallen apart, and months of playing with Barbie had driven her to accept harmful beauty norms and all of that baggage dumped on Barbie’s plastic shoulders. I could have launched into a soul-saving speech about how she’ll never look like Barbie unrealistic proportions and she’s beautiful just the way she is but beauty isn’t everything and it is who she is on the inside that counts……

Whoa! Deep breath.

2014-09-25 16.15.40

Instead, I said nothing and as I watched my daughter sashay across the parking lot I thought about what was inside my head at eight years old. You know what? I can distinctly remember watching my long shadows in the late afternoon in my front yard in Pittsburgh, thinking I looked like Barbie with my instantly-long legs and sophisticated walk on tip toes in my jelly shoes. I do not recall ever wanting to look like Barbie, but I certainly wanted to be grown up. I can remember wondering what I would look like as a grown up and that I couldn’t wait for long legs because that meant I was no longer a short little kid. Maybe that’s all Barbie meant to Amelia, too.

I was about to answer Amelia when she runway-walked herself right into a pole and fell over. With her arms and legs all over the place and everything she had been carrying spread about, she instantly reminded me of the mess of Barbies on her bedroom floor and I said yes, now she definitely look like her Barbies. She thought that was pretty funny and she walked into her Girl Scout meeting with a smile.

I think the lesson for both of us that afternoon: Being a little girl is all about having balance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, Amelia was in her room playing with her Barbies and I wandered up to get a few photos for this month’s post. I walked in to find her in deep concentration, huddled over her toy dog.

The doctor tells me this dog choked on a hot dog during a beach rescue. I don't even know how that happens, but it sounds serious.

The doctor tells me this dog choked on a hot dog during a beach rescue.

“I’m going to need your help. This dog has a pulmonary aspiration…a giant hot dog. She’s been under for about twenty minutes and I’m going to have to do a tracheostomy at this point,” Amelia said is a very matter-of-fact, clipped manner.

“Oh, are your Barbies running an emergency vet hospital?” I guessed, kind of not getting what was going on. Which was about to become all the more clear in a moment.

“No honey, I am running the hospital. She went down during a beach rescue,” Amelia said as she continued to work on the toy dog. “I’m going to need you to scrub in. I need to tube her. Hurry up!”

I realized I didn’t know where exactly I was supposed to scrub in for surgery, and I was distracted by the pile of naked Barbies lined up on the floor next to me.

“Trach tube!” Amelia barked.

“The wha?” Me, clueless and feeling bad for my plastic patients.

Amelia using a Barbie to perform a tracheostomy during surgery.

Amelia using a Barbie to perform a tracheostomy during surgery.

“Oh never mind!” Amelia grabbed one of the naked dolls, spun her around in her hand and inserted a foot into the dog’s mouth and successfully ejecting a hot dog. Apparently the Barbies were Amelia’s surgical tools.

“I’m going to finish here. Go check on the mermaid in OR 6. She had a really bad case of bioluminescence. Make sure her kelp iv is still going and ask her friends to move to the waiting room. It is going to be a long surgery and I’m going to try a new procedure, but tell them her prognosis is good.”

The mermaid in OR 6.

 

PHEW! Yeah, you know, after six months of playing with Barbies, I think we’re all good here.

Amelia's patient pulled through surgery.

Amelia’s patient pulled through surgery.

 

Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Skin Tones

A bedtime story led my six year old son to question everything we knew about race and skin color. Kids do such a wonderful job of pointing out things that make no sense.

My six year old son and I started a book on Jackie Robinson. His sister has long idolized Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Benny has a picture of Rosa Parks that he colored hanging in his bedroom. Jackie Robinson would be the first person from history that Benny would study on his own, not in his sister’s footsteps. Before we began reading we talked about how Jackie must have felt his first day as the only black person on the baseball team, and how his teammates and coaches might have treated him. Ben suggested perhaps he would have felt a little nervous and when I asked why he replied, “Because he didn’t know any of their names yet.”

As we began reading, the first two chapters discussed the struggles Jackie’s family went through in the segregated South and the discrimination experienced in California. Explaining Jim Crow laws again and share cropping to my son was a trip, I could see righteous indignation spreading across his face. I knew he was thinking about his colorful group of friends at school but I wasn’t expecting this when he said, “So I would have to sit at the table with the black skin people whose skin is really brown.” I tried explaining to him that he is actually white, which led him to burst into tears saying he didn’t want to be a ghost, he wanted to keep his tan skin. I said his tan skin is considered white, that I am white, and so is his dad and sister…..Benny argued his dad and sister are brown skinned and that he and I are tan skinned. (My husband’s heritage is Lebanese.) Benny insisted he was brown skinned, because his Latino friend from school calls Benny his ‘brother’. I said they were brothers in their hearts, but that didn’t change the color of their skin. I went on to explain this was a really good example of why skin color shouldn’t stop us from being friends with someone because the real person is on the inside, the skin color is just a packaging that tells us clues about what their family, heritage, culture etc might be.

My husband walked in at this point and asked what we were talking about, and he then tried explaining white, black, brown, red, and yellow skin concept which left Benny utterly confused and distraught as none of his diverse group of friends matched up to what we were discussing. The more we tried to explain the concept of different races and skin it left us just as confused as Benny. He said he had seen brown people and tan people and really wrinkly people, but never red, yellow, or black and that he could not understand why people were grouped by colors of skin that didn’t really represent their skin. I love what he said next.

“What you are telling me is one big hot mess. There are so many colors of skin you just can’t make five categories like what you are saying and in some families the colors get all swirled up when the kids get born. Someone needs to rethink that skin system.”

Flesh colored crayons from Crayola.

Flesh colored crayons from Crayola.

Image source: Finally! Crayons for every skin tone   Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love. If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com. Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon. Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Speak All the Louder

Yesterday we all listened to and loved Emma Watson’s UN speech on feminism and gender stereotypes. As quickly as the fanfare arrived, so did the online rape threats, death threats, and website counting down the release of nude photos of the actress/UN ambassador…..just because she is a woman who dared to use her voice and suggest the wild notion that females are human beings.

The reaction of these men who use fear to promote their power is a measure meant to terrorize us to ‘stay in our place’.  To shame empathetic men and to overpower outspoken women. To stunt our thinking and growth as a society. To silence our voices.

I think this kind of man is an excellent reminder of why we must speak all the louder.

There will always be scared men out there for whom educated, outspoken women are threatening. Their fear is not our concern.

There will always be intimidated men out there for whom women are seen only as vaginas, either to sexually please them or piss them off. Their lack of humanity is not our concern.

There will always be small-minded men out there for whom achieving equality between the sexes signals a dangerous loss of power. Their discomfort is not our concern.

Our energy has to be spent on modeling for our young people what a confident woman looks like and how a strong man respects girls and women. That is the single easiest thing that you can do to bring us closer to a world in which an articulate young woman is able to make a speech about men and women being more powerful as equals instead of opposing forces, and not come home to rape and death threats.

Our energy has to be spent on truly empowering our girls, which extends beyond facebook memes and movie characters and cleverly-marketed toys. It is the daily, sometimes grueling work of instilling in our daughters an unshakable knowledge that she has worth. Everything else in the world will tell her otherwise. We have to raise our daughters in such a way that when we send her out into the world she has the heart and courage of a lioness.

Steel yourself to the idea that this will not be easy. That does not mean it is not worth doing.

Our energy must also be spent on our sons, which is an often overlooked yet absurdly obvious answer to the problem of a culture of men who threaten through internet comments unspeakable sexual crimes against women, who create a color-coded system to give girls date rape drugs, or who fail to take a stand  against other men who beat women senseless. And that’s just this week’s headlines.

Our energy must go into expanding the current definition of what it means to be masculine, so that our boys can grow into men who are allowed to be full human beings for whom having emotions and feelings is acceptable. We can teach our sons that violence is not a path to power. We can instill in our sons an unshakable truth that girls and women have value. Boys need see articulate, successful mothers and respectful, self-confident fathers working together to raise their families — and not in just the 1950′s implication of that sentence, I mean as a society of mothers and fathers who take responsibility for our collective children turning out to be good people.

Fear, intimidation, and the threat of violence have always been used to silence voices attempting to bring about change and equal rights. Yet change always comes.

Be not silent. Speak all the louder.

Emma Watson

 

Image Source: Gender Equality is Not Only a Women’s Issue. It’s a Men’s Issue Too.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.

If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Behind the Ice: An Evening With the Storytellers of Frozen

Anna and Elsa Tuesday night I invite you to join my family for a special on ABC….

Something magical happened during the never-ending winter of 2013, as much of the nation was in the grip of record-breaking frigid temperatures and snow fall, we went back to the movie theater for more swirling snow, ice, and eternal winter. Families across the nation and around the world had fallen in love with a pair of sisters who told us a tale of  true love, adventure, selfless acts, and snowmen who like warm hugs. We went back for the goose-bump moment when Elsa stomps her foot, her power comes to life, and the crescendo in the music soars in tandem with the palace we see rising around her as she embraces who she is, flaws and all. We went back to follow quirky Anna on her adventures with Kristoff to save her beloved older sister. We went back to sing along to the songs, loudly. We went back to see Anna and Elsa turn the princess fairy tale upside down and reveal a more modern, more relatable story. We went back because who doesn’t want another 102 minutes with Olaf?

The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic airs on ABC Tuesday 9/02 at 8/7c.

The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic airs on ABC Tuesday 9/02 at 8/7c.

Families like mine went back again and again to take in the story of Frozen – to the theaters, to the dvd, to the soundtrack – because each of us found parts of the story to enjoy, parts that held meaning for us. It takes a special kind of story to become the type of media that a family can connect to and bond over. Girls loved it. Boys loved it. Families around the world loved it so much they spent over $1 billion to see the film. The Academy and film critics loved it. Disney had created a masterpiece.

How is a masterpiece created? Who are the storytellers that are able to bring together this kind of show? From the sneak peak I was graciously allowed by ABC and Disney, I learned that you take 600 people for two years and bring their ideas and inspirations to life. For a fairy tale that almost wasn’t, the telling of how Frozen came to life as the new classic from Disney is as moving as the film itself.

The cast of "Frozen".

I watched my preview this morning with my family and we were touched how each of the creators and animators Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, John Lasseter, Becky Bresee, Wayne Unter, and Hyrum Osmond brought pieces of their families into what we saw on the big screen. The stories behind these storytellers are moving. I was brought to tears when John Lasseter shared about how his special son changed the way he and the team understood Elsa. I also teared up when Kristen Bell talked about the kind of princess she wanted to see on screen. And when Jennifer Lee spoke about retelling the princess tale and wanting to do something new I cheered “YES!”

Actors Kristen Bell, Idina Menzell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad all share how the project was personal to them and what it was like to be a part of the Frozen family. We also hear from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the crazy-talented couple who wrote the film’s songs.

I knew that Kristen Bell is rather dedicated to providing girls with positive media role models, and that the Lopez’s were inspired by their two young daughters and the theme of sisterhood throughout the film. In so many ways, Frozen answered the call of thousands of parents who have become aware of media’s influence on girls and now search for empowering stories and characters to introduce our daughters to.

Frozen is a tale about two sisters, their love for each other, and the adventure that love takes them on.

Frozen is a tale about two sisters, their love for each other, and the adventure that love takes them on.

In the ABC special “The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic” we hear director/writer Jennifer Lee state her desire to turn ‘the princess movie’ on its head. After hearing the Lopezs’ “Let it Go” the team had the breakthrough over who Elsa should be, who she had to be. From Tuesday night’s ABC special you will understand how this story could not have materialized any other way without these individual, dedicated storytellers.

Without them, the magic doesn’t get made, the tale remains one-dimensional on the page, the music that makes our hearts flutter never plays. Without these storytellers collaborating and bringing inspiration from their own families, we miss out on the award-winning family favorite that has changed what we now expect out of our Disney Princesses.

Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck remake the princess fairy tale into a story modern day girls can relate to and love.

Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck remake the princess fairy tale into a story modern day girls can relate to and love.

Frozen was the first billion dollar film to come out of Disney Animation Studios. Yes, the music and animation were incredible. But Frozen offered us something more. There was gender balance, an unexpected plot twist, and a clear understanding of what if felt like to be an awkward, lonely, uncertain, confident, loving, daring, flawed, beautiful young woman and how all of those characteristics can be tied up in one person. We saw the sisters lead their own story alongside stand-up guys like Kristoff. The princesses became heroes – all children love a good hero. Disney got so much right in this film.

For me, personally, it felt like Disney Animation Studios finally understood what I and so many parents my age with young boys and girls want in a princess. We want a hero. We got two.

During Tuesday’s ABC special Jennifer Lee comments about being excited for this generation of children to grow up so they can tell her what it was about this film that made it so successful.

I don’t think Ms. Lee has to wait. If she spoke to boys and girls today they would be able to tell her it was the friendship between the characters, the songs and jokes, the combo of male and female characters with admirable qualities and understandable flaws, and it was the tribute to sisterhood so many children with siblings understand.

Most of all it was Disney finally connecting with how so many families raising girls understand girlhood today. My daughter fell in love with Elsa – she knows what it is like to feel different, to be looked at strangely, to be judged, to be born with something you can’t control or hide. She was drawing at our kitchen table one day when I asked her about her drawing and what drew her to Elsa. “Oh Mama,” she answered, “Elsa is just so powerful.”

Elsa's Hand, by Amelia Wardy

Elsa’s Hand, by Amelia Wardy

The reason so many boys, girls, and adults love Frozen is that the stars Elsa and Anna embody so much of who we are, and who we want to be. The storytellers got this one so right because they took stories already in their hearts and carved them into a tale that much like the intricate Norwegian rosemaling they studied so carefully, curls and replicates itself in all of our lives.

You can be great at jokes. You can sing the roof off the sound studio. You can be an animation wizard. You can be a king at Disney. But until you tell the story from your heart, you don’t have magic. When you get a team together who all give a piece of their heart to the story, you create a masterpiece.

On Tuesday night, tune into ABC and watch how this team of storytellers who are so full of heart got everything so right.

Thank you to ABC and Disney for allowing me a sneak peak into the magic making.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.

If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Rape Alert Nail Polish and Stopping Rape

Yesterday I posted a link about nail polish that alerts the wearer to the presence of date rape drugs in beverages. The article was titled “I Shouldn’t Have to Dip My Nails In a Drink to Reduce My Risk of Rape“. Comments heated up quickly, so I want to readdress this. On the surface, the nail polish sounds like a great idea and a way to keep women safe. Perhaps in a very few cases, it will. Those women matter. I think it is okay to say this is a clever idea and kudos to the men who developed it.

I was drugged and raped in college, during that “red zone” for freshman women. Could that have been prevented by me wearing the right nail polish? Who knows.

Could my rape have been prevented by my rapist being taught to not rape? Yes. Absolutely. Unequivocally.

You know, when I think back to that night I don’t think “I really wish I had been wearing rape alert nail polish.”

I think, “I really wish the boy who raped me and the boy who drugged my drink had been raised with the understanding that men should never rape. Rape is never okay and never excusable.”

Many years later I the mother to a son. He will be raised to not rape.

This issue isn’t about me, it is about THOUSANDS of women who will experience rape this year. Girls, boys, and other men will all suffer the experience of being raped at the hands of men. I share my story only because I want you to reach a level of better understanding. I could be any thousands of other women out there. I am not unique in my experience.

Consider this nail polish the front door mat on the porch. What I’m asking you to do is to have the courage to open the door and walk through, we have A LOT of work to do.

“However well-intentioned, there seems to be an awful lot of resources, time and energy dedicated to telling women how not to get raped, and comparatively little going to preventing men from raping in the first place. This provides women with a false sense of comfort and the illusion that a product or a precaution can actually solve the problem of rape, which it won’t.

Moreover, the more we depend on women to prevent rape, the easier it is to blame them when it happens to them. Here’s a look at the well-documented ways we can actually stop rape. Maybe it’s time we invest a little more time and resources into implementing them before we send gallons of nail polish to colleges across the country.” -Elizabeth Plank

Please finish reading Plank’s article “11 Ways to Solve Rape Better Than Nail Polish“. It is excellent. And it is everything we should be talking about when we talk about ending rape. 

Image from Elizabeth Plank's piece for Mic.

Image from Elizabeth Plank’s piece for Mic.

 

Thank you in advance for being respectful with your comments.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.

If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

The Barbie Project: Accessories Are a Girl’s Best Friend

We are in our final five days of summer, just a few sweet hours remain before the kids return to school. The memories have been made, trips taken, ballgames won, fireflies caught and released, trails hiked and lakes jumped into, bonfires burned, lemonade stands held, adventures with cousins had and more dinners allotted to the local ice cream joint than should be appropriate. Our summer bucket list is nearly complete and as we look down the home stretch to three glorious months…..

We can’t stand the sight of each other.

There has been a lot of “togetherness” this summer for the children and I, which is wonderful. And not, because I work from home and “work from home” with two kids + two dogs + two kittens is nuts. N – U – T – S.

So the other afternoon I had the kids go to their bedrooms with their kittens for some quiet time. An hour later I went to check on them on account of too much quiet – which is always unsettling for parents – and found Benny slumped over napping in a giant bucket of LEGO and Amelia sorting through all of her Barbie outfits and accessory pieces. Earlier in the day she had found a castle and furniture at a garage sale she just had. to. have. As her kitten purred in the background she dressed and redressed each doll as she planned out their role in the story she was creating in her head.

Kittens love Barbie.

Kittens love Barbie

I sat down and looked at the pieces around me which led me to think back on when I was her age and would have been doing the same thing during a rainy summer afternoon. I wondered what she was thinking about and if she would remember these lazy hours of her childhood like I do mine.

Amelia plays with her Barbies, obligatory Naked Barbie present and accounted for.

Amelia plays with her Barbies, obligatory Naked Barbie present and accounted for.

I asked her what she was playing and if her Barbies liked their new house. As we chit chatted, I surveyed the pieces around me.

The accessories around me gave me pause, they might not be what people associate with Barbie.

The accessories around me gave me pause, they might not be what people associate with Barbie.

The bright pink (SO much pink) accessories around me made me smile. They reminded me of the adventures my Barbies played out when I was a girl. They are bits and pieces to imagination. A key meant to unlock stories. A prop able to enhance a script waiting to be written and rewritten each time they were pulled out.

You know, Barbie takes a lot of heat for being vapid, focused on beauty, shopping etc. Maybe some Barbies facilitate that,  but I feel the dolls we’ve brought into our home for Amelia send a different message. I think it is easy to sell girls short and assume they’ll play “Wedding Day” or “Shopping Spree” over and over again with their dolls.

I think it is wise to expect more from girls.

Amelia's favorite dolls and their accessories.

Amelia’s favorite dolls and their accessories.

Pilot hat

Passport

Suitcase

Treasure chest

Ocean creatures and a bucket of fish

SCUBA tank, mask, regulator and fins

Briefcase, tablet, smart phone

Astronaut helmet and suit, air tank, moon boots

These things tell Amelia to go out into the world. To dive deep, soar high. To run a business instead of work for one. That the layers of the atmosphere do not confine her. They remind her girls are confident, competent, and courageous.

These items spread across Amelia’s bedroom floor could take her to a sunken ship full of treasure, an investment meeting, or a new planet waiting to be explored. Of course, those are the obvious uses and my eight year old would roll her eyes and says she is far more clever and creative than that. One of the things I like about Barbie is the outfits and accessories are interchangeable, meaning the stories waiting to be created during play are interchangeable as well. So the woman of color who is a pilot can easily change into the business outfit for a press conference because now she is the POTUS. YES. PLEASE.

And the astronaut suit could become a hazmat suit for compassionate health relief workers delivering a much-needed antidote to victims of a terrible epidemic or intrepid engineers who rescue people in danger on a broken space station who had been hunting treasure in space that is guarded by aliens posing as familiar sea creatures who cover you in goo and feed you to fury orange monsters who live in purple tents.

Listen, I’ve been critical of Barbie before and I probably will be again if need be. But I like the side of Barbie that shows girls they can dream and aspire to do big things in the world.

I guess sometimes I have to ask if it is Barbie who limits girls…..or the adults around girls who assume they know what will happen during play because girls are so……girly. I define “girly” as girls who see themselves as accomplished pilots, extraordinary ocean researchers, powerful businesswomen, and explorers of our world and beyond. Yeah, that’s VERY girly to me! More importantly, that’s how my daughter views being a girl and playing with Barbies has not come close to undoing any of that.

Amelia commented that she really really liked how the dolls' faces were different from each other.

Amelia commented that she really really liked how the dolls’ faces were different from each other.

The child’s imagination is limited only by toys that are limiting. The afternoon I spent watching Amelia play I observed Barbie as a great companion for story telling. Better put – Barbie was a vehicle for storytelling. When chosen with diverse storytelling in mind and with the idea that girls should know no limits, there are many Barbies that offer this type of play to girls. In our home I try to guide Amelia with choosing toys that reflect what real life looks like, so we make sure to have dolls that represent women doing a variety of jobs, experiences, and adventures. Equally important to us are dolls that represent women of color as the world is a colorful place.  I’d love for there to be even more diversity in Barbie’s appearance and body, and Amelia and I talk about that issue and how we’d like for Barbie to explore that more. Maybe some day they will.

I think there is a lot left to explore, including parents really exploring how their daughter’s imagination works and what stories unfold on bedroom floors or tree forts or where ever it is your girl’s dreams come to life and they use Barbie as a tool in that storytelling.

What stories does your daughter tell?

 

Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Barbie Project

 

LEGO’s Female Scientists Here and Gone In Two Weeks

The public learned via a New York Times article last week that toy giant LEGO would cease production of the enormously popular LEGO Ideas Research Institute featuring three female scientists. People are shocked, frustrated, and not shy about expressing their outrage at the company who seemed to finally be listening to hundreds of thousands of consumers saying they wanted this very product. LEGO has announced this was only a limited edition and would not be mass produced nor sold nationally at retailers. And we’re all left wondering, why is LEGO walking away from sales for an item in such high demand? And why stop production and cripple availability right as stores are placing their holiday toy orders?

Sign the petition asking LEGO to save the scientists and keep this set in production and available to consumers.

The LEGO Research Institute sold out at $19.99 within days of release.

The LEGO Research Institute sold out at $19.99 within days of release.

The set was brought to production after LEGO fans and consumers cast well over the 10,000 votes needed to push the prototype to the next round of consideration for production. It was such a hullabaloo the story made national headlines at the time and then again when the set of the STEM based female minifigs was available for purchase. Despite customers being limited to one set per purchase the item still sold out in a few days. All over social media customers were making comments about needing several more sets as Christmas or birthday gifts and stores were inundated with calls asking if they stocked the item. After heavy criticism for its Friends line LEGO was getting great press for finally doing right by girls and supporting the girl empowerment movement that has been wildly popular for other brands like Goldie Blox, Verizon, Lands’ End and Always.

While the LEGO Friends line has greatly improved from the first sexist, stereotyped sets offering girls the lowest common denominator of girlhood, their ‘girls’ line is still highly gendered and does not provide the gender equitable toy experience so many parents advocate for today. The new Friends jungle series shows girls being active, adventurous, intelligent, and using technology to rescue cute animals. While the new direction of the Friends line seems to align better with what parents are asking for for their daughters, it still has a different feel from the Research Institute set. Every week there seems to be an article about a new study on the disparagingly low numbers of women entering and remaining in STEM fields despite that expertise being the future for high wage earners and the future of the economy in general. As the New York Times says, “Lego is demonstrating this summer that role models in science and technology for girls are still fairly scarce in toy land, just as in the real world.”

Sign the petition asking LEGO to save the scientists and keep this set in production and available to consumers.

In the real world LEGO is a $4 billion giant in the toy industry, one whose brand has enormous influence over what is marketed to children and what children play with which is why strong female characters are important for both girls and boys to see represented in LEGO toys. Research has shown the importance of the depiction of empowered female characters in children’s toys and media as they learn about and absorb culture while they grow. A large section of LEGO’s customer base is female, an even larger section have used their voices and wallets consistently for three years to communicate they are wanting, ready for, and will purchase sets like the sold out LEGO Ideas Research Institute featuring three female scientists. 

 

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.


Awareness of the importance of encouraging girls into STEM fields is at an all-time high and millions of parents across the globe are advocating for more gender equal toy aisles. It is important to myself and my family that LEGO honor its customers when we say we want and will continue to make successful sets which feature female minifigs depicted as smart, daring, and adventurous. We want sets like the LEGO Ideas Research Institute to be a long time fixture on toy shelves everywhere. 

Over 111,000 people have signed petitions in recent years to LEGO requesting more empowered female minifigs in LEGO sets.

Tens of thousands more voted online through LEGO Ideas to have these available for purchase.

Thousands of people purchased the Research Institute featuring the three female scientists and within days of release they were sold out.

Yet just two weeks after the release we’ve learned that LEGO isn’t going to make this set anymore.

Which leaves the consumer asking “WHY??” and questioning what message is Lego sending its customers about how much it values our voices very clearly asking for representation of more smart and strong female figures in building sets. Maybe the more important question to be asked is, “How much does LEGO really value its female builders and cultivating a new generation of builders?”

LEGO could be a thought leader in the toy space by making gender equity a mainstay in its brand, something parents by the millions have been asking for for years. LEGO, be the brand we are wanting you to be, be the brand we remember from our childhood, the brand we want for our children.

Sign the petition asking LEGO to save the scientists and keep this set in production and available to consumers.

 

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.

If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Image source.

This Is The Good Stuff

I needed to go to the grocery store tonight. Like the kind of grocery run that saves you from eating leftover rice, a few odd slices of pepperoni, that gross flavor of juice box in the back of the fridge and some craisins that came in the mail for breakfast. But my six year old son and eight year old daughter were all wound up about having their first lemonade stand this weekend. I could have cajoled them into getting their shoes on and trudging out the door and into the car for yet another errand.

Instead I decided to stay in the moment. While my daughter chattered 70 miles a minute to my husband about the profit margin and fair market value of pre-cut fruit cups, I put my car keys and purse down on the table and sat next to my son. We sounded out “lemonade”. We sounded out “fruit” and we decided water should be free. We talked about what type of cookies we would bake, but because he is missing so many teeth he whistles his “s”es and every time I almost burst with too much love for this boy. We planned out what the lemonade stand would look like and how many nails they would need to build it. We discussed why blow torches are not necessary to the construction of lemonade stands. We discussed the merits of selling cupcakes vs cookies. We talked about making sure we got seedless watermelon and decided we would offer free dog biscuits for dogs who did not try to eat our cookies.

Being in the moment allowed me to hear every time my little guy started an important thought with, “Okay guys so…..”. I told the kids about the time their uncles and I had a lemonade stand and our mail carrier paid for a 50 cent cup of lemonade with a $20 bill, told us to keep the change, and we lost our minds. I listened to my daughter talk about what charity she wanted to donate their earnings to.

I could have been checking off my list at the grocery store in that “I have serious things to do” way that grown ups do. Instead I stayed put and watched my son’s tiny hand hold the crayon he wrote with. I listened to the sound of his little voice. I watched him get frustrated when he misspelled “cookies” and wrote a “5″ backwards. I listened to him giggle. I watched his eyes sparkle with excitement. In the background my daughter had not stopped talking and dancing for a full twenty minutes.

I want to remember the night my kids planned their first lemonade stand. I wanted to hold their glowing childhood wonder like fireflies in a jar. I want to remember this night when I turn to their dad years from now and say “I wish the kids would come home from college for a visit.”

We’ll eat ice cream and split an old granola bar for breakfast because some things simply are not worth missing.

This is what this raising small humans is all about. This is the good stuff right here.

 

Benny plans out our first lemonade stand.

Benny plans out our first lemonade stand.

How Do I Tell My Kids I’m Going On a Diet?

How do you responsibly introduce your new health plan or diet to your children?

How do you responsibly introduce your new health plan or diet to your children?

A member of the PPBB Community wrote in with a great question about how to approach her kids with information about a new diet and health program she would like to start, and how to balance that with the strong body image messages she’s already been giving her kids.

Parent Question:  I have never told my 6 year olds what I think of my body, thanks to Melissa and all you lovely people who love Melissa with me. We talk about strong bodies, moving bodies, wiggly bodies, dancing bodies, sleeping bodies, relaxing bodies, sometimes mommy and daddy-tired bodies, but never fat bodies or could lose weight bodies. I’m thinking of restarting Weight Watchers and with Daddy as the already busy dad but family cook, I haven’t broached him switching to a WW friendly, all inclusive family meal plan. How best to count points without telling my kids I’m potentially not eating everything they eat? I don’t want to say “diet” and I don’t want to say I’m trying to get a stronger or healthier body (because then why aren’t they eating what makes me strong or healthy, too?) Any advice for non body-shaming words would be gladly heard!” -PPBB Community Member Kelley L. 

PPBB Answer:  Thanks for those kind words! Your question about Weight Watchers and body image is really important. My advice to you is to introduce the general concept to the kids that as you age your metabolism slows as your hormone levels shift and sometimes adults have to eat different foods or different amounts of foods to stay strong and healthy. For little kids their food intake is not the same because they are so busy all day long and growing so quickly. Adults are done growing so our bodies are different from kids. This is a great time to remind them that no two bodies are alike and each body is a unique machine that requires different fuel.

Next step is to introduce the specific WW program to the kids – maybe do it as a family meeting so that Dad is involved and can add input on how he transfers knowledge of healthy foods to the WW point system. Be honest with the kids about why you want to do WW, and if losing weight so that you can be more active and feel better is one of those reasons, go ahead and tell them that. Just make sure it is included in a conversation about making our heart, lungs, cholesterol and metabolism as healthy as can be so that you can be around to be their mom for a long, long time. Talk about favorite foods you love (healthy and unhealthy) and which foods you might be adding to the daily diet. and tell them which things you might be cutting out and replacing entirely, like diet soda or iced mochas and why.

What I like about WW is that there are no good/bad foods, each food is assigned points based on nutrition. We eat food for nutrition so this makes sense. The points seem to bring a good balance of protein, fiber, healthy carbs, and nutrients to the daily diet. I also really like that WW seems to be a supportive community and there is a lot of sharing of recipes and healthy living tips. I think it is important for kids to see women being supportive of each other’s bodies and quest for health , as opposed to the cattiness and picking apart we see in media and social media. WW also seems like a sensible approach to teaching people how to eat healthy and maintain a strong body. Good stuff!!

At the same time, the point system shifts the way we think about food. Instead of intuitive eating we shift to counting and measuring food and our days are controlled by points. If you are at your point limit I think you are supposed to deny yourself food, which I’m not keen on. And as an outsider to WW I’m not sure how I feel about the weigh ins and measuring progress in pounds. I would monitor how much you talk about the scale and weigh ins around the house because weight is not a measure of health. Instead vocalize how foods make you feel full/energized/powerful/etc.

Overall the WW diet seems reasonable and a family meal makeover (as opposed to the word “diet”) may not be such a bad idea. Be honest with your kids about what you are eating and why. Let the kids continue to enjoy their favorite meals and make healthy food always available to them. Let them see you keep loving yourself and your body, and stay committed to enjoying physical activity/exercise as a family. At the end of the day what they will remember from all of this is that mom and dad want the family to be healthy and our family meals are full of healthy foods and the occasional sweet treat.

 

What has been your experiences with your children and approaching the topic of dieting or healthy make overs? How did you frame things in a way that keep positive body image + health at the center of the conversations? What advice would you give?

 

Image Source.

Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is a small business owned and operated by Melissa Atkins Wardy in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.
 
If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.
Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.
 
Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest