Scaremongering at its best (worst?!)

Nothing causes panic like targeting the fears of parents. We’re geared to protect our young, and when they are threatened… we stand up and roar, or scoop our babe’s into arms and shield them away.

So it’s absolutely no surprise that the media articles garnering major attention this week have created a hive of buzzing amongst parents…. the baby formula powder 1080 scare, and Pete Evan’s new baby food recipe book.

In NZ, someone has threatened to contaminate baby formula as a protest over the use of 1080. While this is somewhat alarming, the Government withheld information over this threat for months.

As a result, shops took action, moving formula to behind the counter, using more security around the baby aisle. As calls to Plunketline died down, parents became more reassured that the powder was safe.

It is inconceivable that someone could actually think it would be ok to hurt children in this way.

It has also threatened our fragile dairy industry and could have had disastrous effects on the economy.

There are risks to all ways of feeding baby. I do believe that parents have been lulled into a false sense of security with giving their baby formula, forgetting that there are serious risks of using it.

However, not only does it exist hugely in our society, it does have its place. I have heard many valid reasons of why a mum cant feed her baby.

Piripoho Aotearoa stated this on their Facebook page yesterday:

**1080 SCARE**
There is a risk to every infant feeding decision, be it breastfeeding, donor breastmilk or formula. I feel that the threats have been made at the very people in our society who we should be supporting, and am shocked and disgusted.

Screened, donated breastmilk is a fantastic option for those who do not breastfeed their child. Assisting parents to source donated breastmilk from screened donors is a service which we provide at no charge. However if you have concerns relating to formula or donor breastmilk, you are invited to get in touch- ask us questions, or just vent about what is now going on in your families and minds.

Piripoho Aotearoa’s concern is the health and emotional wellbeing of families of young children, and we really feel for the families who have recently felt powerless as a result of this scare. Formula feeding is not a stress-free path to have to take, and I find the threats utterly reprehensible

Over in Australia, popular celebrity chef Pete Evans is under attack for publishing a recipe for homemade infant formula in his new cookbook (coauthored with two other writers).

The article states:

The Weekly online has learned publishers Pan Macmillan have held back release of Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way – following intervention by a consortium of health organisations that expressed grave concerns over the book’s DIY baby milk formula, based on liver and bone broth.

“In my view, there’s a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead,” Professor Heather Yeatman, president of the Public Health Association of Australia, has toldThe Weekly online.

“Especially if [the DIY formula] was the only food a parent was feeding their infant, it’s a very real risk. And [I consider that] the baby’s growth and development could be impaired.””

What makes me laugh (cynically) is this:

“Under the Paleo diet, all grains, dairy and pulses are banned. While adults can choose to follow such a diet, Prof Yeatman says it isn’t fair to subject a baby to what she characterises as an unproven set of beliefs.

“That’s the really troubling thing: the infant is totally at the whim of their parents when it comes to feeding,” she says. “If the wrong decision is made, they may be seriously affected.””

Everything that we do for our children is subjecting them to our beliefs… and I’m not talking about taking them to church. Some put their children in disposable nappies, which is said to increase the temperature of the genital area. Some formula feed despite WHO reccomendations to breastfeed. Some put their children into childcare, take them to the public pools, vaccinate, play in the rain, play with food…..

The book states: “All kids deserve the best start in life, and that means adopting a healthy lifestyle right from preconception, through pregnancy and breastfeeding, and into first foods.
“This book is a wealth of information on everything from where to source the best and freshest ingredients to how to make your own natural health remedies and how to rid your home of toxins. All recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free and devoid of refined sugar, and instead favour ingredients that are organic, unprocessed and sustainably produced.”

Heaven forbid we embrace real food, right?

“Rather than shaming one another it’s time to surrender to the fact that nobody has all of the answers. That many alternative therapies are the basis of modern medicine. That advocating for healthy living isn’t quackery – it’s the foundation of wellness. If we don’t start here, we’re doomed! That without progression, trial, error and mistakes we wouldn’t be here. That alternative therapies play a huge role. That modern medicine saves lives. That modern medicine does not have all the answers and that alternative therapies may, in some instances, come with far less side effects to achieve a better outcome. Imagine! All of us working together to make a collective difference. This can be a reality. All that needs to happen is that we stop trying to outdo each other. Acknowledge the difference we are ALL making towards saving lives.

It isn’t a competition. It’s not a race. Nobody has all of the answers and that we all have a beautiful, important role in moving ourselves towards health, together.”

From http://www.natkringoudis.com.au/medicine-quackery-hocus-pocus-rock/

At the end of the day, I think we need to remember firstly how important breastfeeding is. As a nation, we must make it a priority to support mothers to breastfeed in the first year of a child’s life.

Secondly, we mustn’t forget how much of our food is at the mercy of others. Remember the big scare of yasinia food poisoning last year, and how for a week it was thought to come from bagged lettuce? Remember apples being recalled over fears of illness?

Finally, a healthy whole food, real food diet is essential, that is what kids need. Why are we letting the media attack a chef who is trying to promote healthy eating, while the fast food giants use toys to ply our kids and half the food in the supermarket is made from numbers/chemicals?

And we really must, as united parents, stop letting the media force us into pitting against each other. Instead of asking the big questions above, each time a feeding issue comes up in the media, it turns in a breast/formula debate.

I dont have the solutions, but I do think we need to be considering this.

Let us not forget how fortunate we are to have good healthy food available to us – what an amazing resource we have compared to so many less fortunate 😦

 

 

Ashlee is a busy mama on a journey of natural living with her family. She writes at phraseology.co.nz

For infant formula:

From NZ Herald:

What to do

* Parents with any concerns could call Plunketline on 0800 933 922 or Healthline on 0800
611 116 for advice.

* The Ministry of Health said anyone who suspected tampering could contact 0800 723665 to report suspected tampering.

* Anybody who suspected their formula had been tampered with could also take it to their nearest police station.

* If cans or bottles of formula had tears, rips, holes, punctures or noticeable bulges, it was possible the product inside had been tampered with.

* Visit www.foodprotection.govt.nz for more advice on how to check packaging for signs of tampering, and for information about government’s response.

* Police said those who had information about the threats should call the Operation Concord team on 0800 723 665, or the independent group Crimestoppers on 08000
555 111.

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When Spilling Becomes a Problem (Part I)

Throughout my whole pregnancy, I was so excited to meet my precious little boy that I thought of little else. I was about to become a Mum and impending motherhood was going to be filled with tender newborn snuggles, time spent breastfeeding my bundle and changing dirty diapers. And let’s not forget walking the hall getting my babe to sleep and then watching him sleep. I probably wasn’t being very realistic, but what first time mother has a sound and true knowledge of what being a Mum is like.

What I’d failed to factor in was all the things that could go awry. My perfect baby boy arrived 3 weeks before his due date and was a tiny 5lb 2oz. He was hungry. He fed, and fed and fed. Then spewed, and spewed and spewed, then hit repeat.

It shouldn’t have surprised me really. I was a ‘spilly’ baby who failed to gain weight and was eventually diagnosed with reflux and failure to thrive. So it was no shocker that my baby was a ‘spilly’ baby. But how much spill is too much? When does being a ‘spilly’ baby become a reflux baby?

These questions were all answered in time, but it took an agonizing 8 weeks to get the answers we searched for. I asked the lactation consultant while we were still in hospital if there was a chance Connor could have reflux as even in his first days of life, whenever he spilled, he would become increasingly unsettled. I was fobbed off. “Babies don’t develop reflux until at least 2-3 weeks of age. Stop being paranoid.” I mentioned that I had been a reflux baby and also diagnosed as failure to thrive but it mattered to them little.

After 6 days in hospital with my boy, we were finally released into the world and we got to take him home! The day we all wish for but also dread. No nurses with a wealth of knowledge, no cleaners to whisk away the spilled over sheets and blankets and bring back fresh ones. No meals delivered to your bedside (not that hospital meals are anything to be excited about!).

We took our baby home, delighted to be together as a family for the first time. AND in our own home. The first few days went relatively smoothly. There was some spilling, some tears (mine and Connor’s), but we carried on. And then he stopped sleeping. My two week old newborn would have to be fed to sleep, would wake and cry as soon as you removed him from the breast and would take another hour to settle. In the end, by 4 weeks old he would be awake anywhere from 1-5 hours then sleep 4-6 hours and repeat. I asked about reflux again. This time, my midwife. She assured me she doubted it was reflux, but if I was concerned, to take him to see the Doctor for their opinion.

The doctor wasn’t a huge help. We were given a prescription for baby gaviscon, but advised not to give it to our boy until he was at least 6 weeks old and then only to be given sparingly. I gave him his first dose the very next day. What do you know, it settled him slightly and the spilling reduced! A week later, it was no longer working and we were back where we started. By this stage, we’d been referred to Plunket for sleep advice.

We’d also stopped trying to put Connor in his bassinet after trying all the other tricks of the trade (raising the head end of the bassinet, warming the sheets before putting him in, swaddling tightly. You name it, we’d tried it), we’d given up. Every time we laid him on his back, a screaming match would ensue. The only place he would sleep semi-comfortably was my chest – the one place he would sleep was also the one place I was being told in no uncertain terms he should not be sleeping. So against all advice, to save our sanity and get some sleep, we started bedsharing, something we had never, ever intended to do.

Connor was now bringing up almost all of every feed, and feeding pretty much 24/7. The only place he was content, I wouldn’t call it happy, was at the breast. I felt homebound. I missed family events, I stayed in. The only place I went was coffee group. Connor would scream for the entire 20 minute drive to the rooms, then feed and promptly crash out for the 3 hours we were there. It was my only respite, the only place I felt able to take my screaming baby where I received no judgement. Family told us that the way Connor cried wasn’t normal, and now they tell us that they should have done more, but in the moment, it’s about getting through.

At times, I wondered if it was all in my head, but my instincts told me it wasn’t. My boy was in pain. He would scream, and I mean scream, like I’ve never heard a baby scream. If he was asleep on me and transferred to someone else’s chest, he would wake within minutes and scream. My husband was working 10 hour days then coming home and doing all the housework, the washing, cooking dinner. Everything. While I sat on the lazy boy with the baby screaming at my breast, arching his back, or bringing up his feed. It was an endless cycle. A vicious cycle. He’d been back to the doctors twice and while we’d been referred to the Pediatricians, when I asked how long the referral would take the answer was 6-8 WEEKS! I promptly followed up with “Well what do I do in the meantime?”

“Hang in there.” REALLY? Seriously? You’re telling the new mama on tenterhooks to “Hang in there!”?!

Taken at the hospital after 10 hours of being awake and crying

And then the next day he cried for 13 hours. Yep, you read that right. 13 hours straight. My 8 week old baby boy, screamed his little heart out for 13 long, exhausting, horrific hours. I put him to the breast and he would arch his back in pain and flail about. I put him on my shoulder and he would scream in my ear. I handed him to my husband with tears in my eyes. “I can’t do this anymore.” And so we took him to ED. We were at wits end. We’d tried everything. We couldn’t keep going the way we were. It was impossible.

IYP Part 2 – Why I did the course again

As I said in my last post, after finishing the 12 week Incredible Years programme, life was a little calmer in our household and I felt like I had better control of everything. One of the facilitators worked with our family and he came weekly to reiterate the course topics and apply them to the issues I had.

By now, we had been walking the ASD journey for a couple of years. My other half had moved past denial and anger in what we saw in our child, and we were learning to preempt behaviour, and manage problems as they came up. As months went by, we helped our son manage the world around him and so home life was a little calmer… in that respect. As we turned away to catch our breath, we saw that our daughter was displaying signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Her behvaiour ramped up and we were sat on our butts once again, overwhelmed with helplessness.

As I self-referred our family back to our child mental health service, I pondered doing the course again. Once again, we had a new baby, but that didn’t bother me. I knew that to get the best results, my other half and I had to be parenting together. I sat down beside him and practically begged him to come. I actually said, “honey, please. I am begging you to consider doing this with me so we can become better parents together.” I then had to walk away and let him think, crossing my fingers and toes that he would make it happen.

I wanted to do the course again because I knew it worked. I knew that reporting back to the class every week held you accountable to yourself, and I knew how valuable the input and discussions from others could be. I knew this. What I didn’t know was whether I would get any more from the course, or whether my other half could do it with me.

He did. He sweet-talked the boss, because taking 3 hours a week for 16 weeks is a huge commitment. We rearranged childcare, got organised, and trooped to the first day, now in a different venue on the ground floor 😛

The circle of chairs was large, there were 16 on this course. There were 3 other dads on the course, and we were the only couple. I knew some of the other mums, though not well. Once again, we had to establish a trust and a rapport in the group, so week 1 and 2 were awkward again.

By week 4 we were well into it. While I had waited for the numbers to drop of like they had last time, this time our group stayed huge the whole way through. The dynamics were different with large numbers compared to when I had done the course first time with a small group. This time, we bantered thoughts and chucked around solutions more, there was a greater input of different ideas. Sometimes we had to ‘agree to disagree’ as we got heated and passionate. It was brilliant!!!!!!!

The facilitators started each class with the topic of the day, we watched vignettes (still the same dated videos!) and we did some practice/role play. And then we talked, and talked and talked some more. They truely earned the title of facilitator because they both facilitated discussion so it was helpful and on task.

Each of us bought in new issues from our children, but we all understood the challenge each other was going through. Sometimes it was enough to collapse on a chair at 9.25am and take a deep breath, knowing you were in a safe place and the people around you would understand how hard it was to get your child into the car this morning.

I haven’t gone into too much detail of what is actually taught in the class. I’m not sure what I can cover with copyright etc, and also I don’t want to ruin it if you decide to take the course!

I can tell you that it is all based on a loving and respectful relationship with your child. It is about talking to your child like another person, using words to get what you want/need – not hitting or shouting. It is about teaching your child the life skills of emotional regulation, empathy, and problem solving.

Having done the course before, I knew some of the content. We still practiced some of the techniques every day at home. Yet it had been 3 years since I had done it previously so there was a lot to be refreshed!!! This time, the course was 16 weeks. This pace, though an additional month – was preferable, as there was more time to go into the topics and apply them to home life.

The change at home this time was gradual, but it did happen. Even better was that we were parenting together, backing each other up, supporting the other. Each time one of us slipped, the other was there. It made it all worth it.

The people in the group were amazing. We had children ranging a huge age gap (eldest child was in 20’s, youngest was our babe attending) with the ‘children in question’ (why we were on course) aged about 7-16. Every week my respect for these mums and dads deepened, every week I was reminded why it was so important not to judge others.

During the course, we had an event in our family that tested us, us as a couple, us as a family. Huge. We rode through it and I was thankful it was the school holidays. During the school holidays, IYP takes a break too, so when we resumed back to course in the first week of school, it was news to our classmates. It was then that I realised how awesome our kids had been through that rocky period, that our new skills had ensured that we had survived. Grief is one of the biggest upheavals there is, and here we were as a family, stronger than ever.

I did role play with a woman I had known for many years. We both have strong personalities and I admire her for the way she deals with the challenges her children throw at her. She knew how to rankle me though (and I say this in a good way!). We were practicing the ‘ignore’ technique, which is extremely powerful when done right. It is very very easy to get this one wrong though, and it hadn’t worked in our house because I wasn’t doing it properly. So I volunteered to practice. Wow. This woman goaded me in the same way my children do, pulling from me many feelings and throwing me into a place I didn’t want to be. The class helped me through that, using various skills we had learnt, and techniques of support. The following week we practiced again and I was thrilled when I nailed it, despite her best efforts to drag me back.

The group watched my baby progress from sleep/feed at week one, to crawling at week 16. He knew the familiar faces and charmed everyone!

By the end of the course, our group was comfortable and happy. It was sad to be finishing. I joked about us doing it again, and one of our facilitators told us they were about to start a new group. I was startled to realise that I wanted to be on it. Once again, IYP had calmed our home, but I knew how easy it was to slip into bad habits. I signed up to do it a 3rd time. One of my closest friends who had done the course twice before, also signed up. So last week, the two of us headed back to the room. We were looking forward to doing it together.

Once again, we sat with a group of strangers. More dads, more mums, more parents who just wanted to do their best. I am doing it again because I feel that continuing what I had done so far this year, will cement my good habits and make them permanent.

Maybe doing it two or three times isn’t for everyone, and I appreciate how fortunate I am in my position to be able to do it again. I know working parents will struggle to do just the once. For some people, evening classes are easier but I haven’t seen many of those around. I do know that it is absolutely worth it if you can make it happen. I think this course is so amazing, every single parent should do it once their child can walk :-).

 

 

My experience in IYP – Part ONE

It was our psychologist who first mentioned the words ‘Incredible Years’. We were seeing him for the autistic traits in our eldest, and he suggested the programme for us to learn to deal with the more unsavoury behaviours.

I’ll admit to feeling a little put out. I didn’t really like the thought of going to a parenting programme. My other half flat out refused. So I’d be doing it alone. I was also heavily pregnant, and the next course was to start when I had a newborn. Yippee *sarcasm* … I knew it was going to be such a struggle.

But the behaviors became more intense, I was feeling overwhelmed, and so I made the phone call to find out more. And that was how, one late Summer morning, I found myself hiking up a flight of stairs with a very young baby, down a long hall, and into a room that was filled with a gaggle of people.

This group of people were not ones you would normally see together. We live in a low socio-economic area with pockets of affluence, and it was all represented. There was a large black older woman, and a white blonde younger woman. There was a short bald man, and a skinny young man with tattoos up his arm. A much much older white woman, and a young black woman. I know it seems shallow commenting on appearance, but when you walk into a room, what you see is all you know.

There are two things I despise about new groups. Not knowing anyone, and team building exercises.

“Let’s start with an activity to get to know each other,” clapped one of the facilitators with a big smile.

Woopee.

It wasn’t too bad. We stopped for morning tea, and I changed the baby. Otherwise he fed and slept.

That day we were introduced to the pyramid that the whole Incredible Years programme was based on. At the bottom, we built up a base of a loving respectful relationship, filled with play and fun and learning and great self esteem and confidence. These were the techniques we needed to use often. Up the top was the consequences – not only were we supposed to use these more sparingly, we werent going to be discussing them until later in the course. No quick fixes here!!!

What we learnt that day was our children were like the little fat paper mache` pig in the centre of the room (it’s name was Hamlet). We needed to fill them up with love, attention, time and fun, before we could make any sort of a ‘withdrawal’ (commands, instructions, tasks to do, chores etc). So, our ‘homework’ was to play with our children for 10 minutes every day.

Yep, I just went to a parenting course and we were told to fix our issues, we needed to play with our children.

And it worked.

For 12 weeks, I laboured up those stairs with the baby, the nappy bag, the bouncer, and a heavy weight of stress upon my shoulders from a rushed morning.

And by the end of the 12 weeks, our house was calmer and I felt like I was in control again.

After a couple of weeks, the group began to shrink. We lost those who had been sent by the Courts. Some others just didnt come back. Some came every couple of weeks before not showing again. By the middle of the course, it was two other young mothers and myself – 3 gals with kids all similar age – and two others who were training to be facilitators (and had older kids). The smaller group meant we could apply all the theory to our own life, to discuss our issues and brainstorm solutions. Our two facilitators were a laugh and answered every question with respect.

During those months, as Winter rolled in and the baby learnt to roll, we learnt how to problem solve, talk and listen to our kids, teach and display empathy, reward and celebrate, praise and encourage. Then we moved into setting clear rules and limits and trying to consistently follow through.

Each day at course involved lots of talking, discussing, listening, brainstorming. We practiced techniques through role-play, and watched vignettes – short little videos. These are about 20 years old and the hairstyles always made us laugh! The videos are from real families, so it was great to see the theory actually working. If IYP ever wanted to update the videos, our house is available 😛

The whole course is based upon a LOT of research around children, especially those on the spectrum or presenting with other behavioral issues. It acknowledges that children need warnings and time to move from one task to another, something I had discovered with our son.

The techniques work on the whole family… (and as us girls giggled some days, it worked on our spouses!). Even better, as I implemented the strategies at home, my other half started doing them just from watching and probably not even realizing he was doing it (or had seen the great results).

After the course finished, one of the facilitators, who worked with our family in the clinical setting, did some home visits to work on particular behaviours with the strategies. Home life was easier after The Incredible Years!

Introducing: The Incredible Years

This was last week’s published article, and I was delighted because our family’s clinical psychologist sent a copy of it to America’s IYP office 🙂

What if I could tell you how to improve parent-child interactions, so you can stop yelling in the mornings and your child happily hangs their towel up after a bath?

ID-10070716By Clare Bloomfield http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
ID-10070716By Clare Bloomfield http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Before you launched into your job or career, chances are you received training or completed a course, so you knew procedures, how to complete tasks, operate equipment.

Fortunate parents have the opportunity to attend antenatal classes, where you learn about birth options, basic newborn care and most importantly, meet a few people who are going through the same stage as you, providing the basis of the all-important support network.

However not many families are given much of a crash course in parenting – how to deal with tantrums, non-compliance and unappealing behaviour, and how to play, praise and enjoy your child (because for some people this doesn’t come naturally).

I often hear people joke that ‘babies don’t come with manuals and instructions’, but let me tell you about the next best thing: parenting courses.
Ok, stop groaning! As with anything, attitude is everything – so you’ll get the most out of a course if you go into it with positive goals and a willing approach to give it a go.

New Zealand is host to a fabulous international renowned parenting course called, ‘The Incredible Years’. This course is a 16 week, weekly session programme that helps parents with strategies to build a respectful family relationship.

The course is useful for turning behaviour around from the undesirable to a more positive family life, so if you’re struggling to deal with a child that is demonstrating challenging behaviour, then The Incredible Years programme can help you set clear rules and boundaries to improve behaviour.

For families who deal with behavioral or developmental issues, many psychologists and social workers recommend the course to establish a calmer household. Having done the course for this reason, I can highly recommend it for setting structure, developing social skills and eliminating/minimizing the disruption that these traits and behaviours can cause.

Every family will get something out of this course, because the strategies can be adapted from toddler to youth. You may even find some techniques helpful to use in your relationship or working environment! Adopting clear limits, problem solving, listening and talking skills, empathy and redirection are life-long skills to ensure your child’s success in life. Having done the programme for a second time, I can see its ability to be adapted to every family situation.

Based on a foundation of a respectful relationship with plenty of play, fun, encouragement and celebration, The Incredible Years will also teach parents strategies such as ignore, distract, redirect, limits and (my own personal weakness) consistent follow-through. The focus is on encouraging behaviours you’d like to see, and using consequences to deal with the behaviour you don’t want!

Contact your nearest Ministry of Education district office if you’re interested in the Incredible Years – Parent programme.

Read more about it online at http://incredibleyears.com/

If you cant get onto a course this year, try and get hold of the book. It doesn’t replace the course, but may help you adopt some different strategies to help you in the mean time!!

EDITED: Here is the link to what the American IYP office had o say about my articles 😛  https://incredibleyearsblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/a-word-from-one-of-our-parents/

NL: Taking it one step at a time

As we go on the path to natural living, please remember to do one thing at a time… because too many changes makes it more likely for you to ‘fall over’ and give up!! Too many changes at once is daunting! So if we take it one step at a time, you can implement and get used to each new change, maintain it and then add the new one!!

fruit

 

The first step of every change is always to plan 🙂

I recommend grabbing a pretty notebook and having a brainstorming session:

*Why are you making changes? What do you hope to achieve?
*What is your budget? Do your changes have to fit into your current spend or do you have a buffer?

Consider your time vs budget vs goals, for this will determine whether you make soap from lye yourself, or buy bar soap to save time/money/sanity. Is eating organically less important to you than eliminating sugar? Or are both goals equally important? Is it important to have natural skincare or do you want to focus on household cleaners?

Can you prioritize your goals?

For me:
*Eliminating sugar and most wheat is very important.
*I want to our family to eat organically and mostly clean/whole foods
*I am prepared to make most meals, snacks, baking etc from scratch.
*Our new eating plan needs to fit into our current grocery bill because I have no buffer in our budget for the changes.
*Then I would like to focus on household cleaners.
*I am prepared to make all our cleaners
*I would like to ensure all our body products are natural. I would like to try making them but if this is not cost effective or quite difficult then I am prepared to buy these.

WOW! That is step one complete!!

The Problem with Romantic Diversity in Children’s Media

A thought provoking guest post from the lovely Corissa at Gender Neutral Parenting x

 

 

 

The Problem with Romantic Diversity in Children’s Media

 

Okay, so it’s more like the problemS. I’ve categorized them into 8 major areas.

 

1) It’s all about the money.1

The first issue is that companies try to please everyone (so they can get everyone’s money). Sure there is a large community of LGBTQ+Ally parents and kids, but the other major children’s media consumer group? “Conservative” Christians. This shows the major split in views on the topis of depicting gender and romantic diversity. One side claims sexual orientation has no place in children’s media (ignoring that every crush, kiss, and “happily ever after” depicts heterosexuality), that “exposing” children to homosexuality will somehow turn children gay, or that the depiction would go against their beliefs. While the other side, the fast growing LGBTQ+Ally community, is demanding recognition and representation.

 

Major children’s media companies refuse to take a stand or pick a side, knowing if they do, there will be a huge backlash from one fan base or the other. Which of course would hurt their profits. Make no mistake, that is what companies are out to do, make money. So, instead, they try to walk the line, straddle the fence, please everyone. Unfortunately this means keeping everything very heteronormative since that is what is least likely to cause waves. Besides, the LGBTQ community is used to being underrepresented. Companies then occasionally “throw a bone” to those viewers via some obscure character or situation that can fly under the radar with their conservative fans. This is an attempt to pacify those calling for change and to be seen as “progressive”.

 

If the audience, even the adults, have no idea the characters are gay, then what’s the point?

 

2) Obscure References

2

Some children’s characters *may* have been based on famous LGBT people. Does that really classify them as “gay”? An animated character whose appearance and personality is based on a real person is nothing new. That person’s sexual orientation doesn’t aromatically transfer to the character (even if an LGBTQ person is voicing them). Plus, there is no way one would know who the character is even based on unless they were already familiar with them or the artists specifically stated it. While it may be a (very) small shout out to the LGBTQ community, on the rare occasion that this takes place, it is ultimately insignificant in normalizing romantic diversity.

 

3) Stereotypes, stereotypes, stereotypes!

3

Many characters are classified (suspected) as gay based solely on stereotypes, from the “coded gay” to the “fop” to those deemed “too feminine” (or masculine) to be straight. Reinforcing stereotypes helps no one, least of all those of us fighting to be seen as more than our gender or sexual orientation. The number one thing I DON’T want to teach my children about homosexuals is how to identify them based on stereotypes.

 

4) Unsupported Interpretations

snow_queen_elsa_in_frozen-wide

There always seems to be a group of viewers ready to be offended by children’s media. Conservative groups tend to make a big fuss when they feel characters were somehow meant to be covertly gay. It happened with The Lion King, Brave, Lilo & Stitch, and now with Frozen (among many others). The main problem here being there is no real evidence any of these characters were meant to be gay. It is unsupported over reaction by a minority of viewers. Since when have obscure interpretations by *some* people ever made anything true?

 

5) Close male friends *must* be gay.

5

From Bert and Ernie to Timone and Pumbaa, if two male characters are close friends, they must be gay, right? Wrong! And harmful! Labeling every close male (but not female!) friendship as homosexuality is extremely dangerous thinking to teach children.  Boys need close friendships just as much as girls do. By saying male friendships are gay, we encourage that labeling and taunting and bullying among our children. Boys already fear being called gay to the point they sacrifice having desperately needed close companions. Do we really want to add to that by saying EVERY male coupling must be gay!?!

 

The other problem in this scenario is that we are saying homosexual relationships and heterosexual relationships have different rules, show affection in different ways, and are up to outside interpretation. Pushing romance on all male-male relationships in media is unfair because actual male-male romantic relationship, being portrayed in the same way as male-female romantic relationship, are then labeled as extreme or inappropriate. Equality is what we’re shooting for here.

 

6) Confusing Gender and Sexual Orientation

Along with stereotyping, this is the biggest “gay character” mistake. Characters are often seen cross-dressing in children’s media. Unfortunately this is usually added as comedy, because, you know, a boy in a dress or make-up is just freaking hilarious. [Roll eyes.] Even on the rare case that it is legitimate self expression, ones gender expression, “cross dressing”, or otherwise partaking in crossing gender boundaries is about GENDER, not sexual orientation.

 

7) Uninterested =/= Homosexual

7

Many people seem to think that simply not showing romantic interest in anyone means that a character is homosexual. There are so many characters in children’s media that show no romantic interest (yet somehow all of them are not accused of being gay). And why is that? Because it is children’s media! For one, romantic relationships are not important to prepubescent children. For two, romantic interest doesn’t matter unless it furthers the story line. Life does not revolve around romantic interest, especially for children!

 

8) Openly Mocking Homosexuality

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Many members of the LGBT community see any depiction of nonheteronormativity as progression. As much as I would love to celebrate the visibility of homosexuality, unfortunately I cannot be happy about degrading it. The majority of so called gay characters are villains. Their aspects of homosexuality, gender diversity, or (gasp) feminine behavior adds to the viewers’ dislike of them. It is seen as a negative quality reserved for the representation of evil. Homosexual = evil. Great.

 

The other way homosexuality is openly mocked is by the characters partaking in the behavior deemed “gay”: aliens who don’t know the “rules”, “dirty” animals, (animated) inanimate objects. Once you eliminate all the stereotypes, uninterested characters, and gender-benders, Disney’s ONLY gay couple is a gargoyle and a goat (Hunch Back of Notre Dam 2). O.o If that isn’t openly mocking homosexuality, I don’t know what is. (Not to mention the gargoyle is only half a being with no assumed genitals so there is no fear they can ever consummate the relationship, my guess as to how their relationship managed to even make it into the movie.)

 

 

So what is *the* problem with romantic diversity in children’s media? It’s mostly non-existent. Sure, there are a few hint hint, wink, nudge moments implying romantic diversity, but mainstream media is no wear near taking the leap to actually be inclusive. They are moving too slow and it’s not good enough. At a time when we are finally tipping the scale to recognize the legitimacy and rights of LGBTQ people (in the US), our children need media that represents the diversity of the world they are growing up in. This is why I am taking the leap to create a children’s animated movie depicting REAL and undeniable diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability, age, and social/economic status.

Introducing “A Fiery Tale”. It’s a story about a young prince who runs away from his responsibility to face a fire breathing dragon threatening his kingdom. He soon learns that life is much harder outside of the castle gates. Luckily, a tough old woman agrees to take him in and teach him how to live on his own. Along his journey, the prince makes friends, falls in love, becomes aware of his privileges, and eventually decides for himself to face the dragon.

 

Oh, and he happens to be gay. The cast also includes a gender variant youth, a matriarch, a one legged woman, and further diversity in age, race, and appearance. You can follow the progress of the project on Facebook and Twitter. Learn more about how you can help here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-fiery-tale/x/7338232?show_todos=true

 

 

Corissa Baur Howington is the founder and manager of the Gender Neutral Parenting Facebook page. She has a passion for social justice, the arts, and family. 

Children’s Clothing Part 4: Accessorise!

There are beautiful accessories out there, from photo props to stunning hats!

xspillybibs

https://www.facebook.com/SpillyBibs – for gorgeous bibs

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/hookchainandstitch
https://www.facebook.com/hookchainandstitch

Never mind my daughter, I want one of these gorgeous headbands for myself!! Hook Chain and Stitch also make beautiful character hats including Spongebob, Ninja Turtles, Minions, Spiderman, dinosaurs, Sesame St and Winnie the Pooh:

https://www.facebook.com/hookchainandstitch
https://www.facebook.com/hookchainandstitch

 

 

 

www.facebook.com/MeysMade
http://www.facebook.com/MeysMade

 

Meys Made has gorgeous handmade clips, purses, hats and more from newborn to age 6!
http://www.facebook.com/MeysMade and http://meysmade.co.nz/

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/perfectpoppetcreations
https://www.facebook.com/perfectpoppetcreations

Perfect Poppet Creations has beautiful handmade shoes and other accessories!
https://www.facebook.com/perfectpoppetcreations

Let’s Talk About: Angel Gowns

It’s happening all over the world, but one NZ woman is bringing Angel Gowns to NZ! Its a service that is bittersweet – a beautiful recycling with stunning fabrics… for a very sad cause.

Angel babies have sadly lost their life, and though nothing can make up for the tragedy nor ease the pain for the family, angel gowns can make a tiny difference at a very hard time. Angel Gowns are tiny little baby outfits made/upcycled from wedding dresses.

Michelle in Seattle started Angel Gowns after working in a neonatal care unit and supporting many angel baby families. She wanted to do something meaningful with her gown, and remaking it into gowns for angel babies was her way to help.

There are other angel gown organisations around the world, quietly reworking beautiful lace, satin, silk and tulle into tiny little dresses.

Hamilton Midwife Kirstin Rouse set up the New Zealand version with a Facebook Page. She has used the umbrella of Angel Gowns after making contact with other internationsl branches and they have supported her in the start-up in NZ and provided the patterns needed.

In just over a week, Kirstin has had amazing support. “I have offers of monetary donations, which I have declined, I would prefer if people had lace, cottons, ribbons, things about the house that thy think would make a gown pretty, as well as gowns. In the next few weeks I will be asking for offers of sewers, lots of people have offered already, but as this only started this week we aren’t quite up to the sewing stage. I will then need people all over the country to be distributors. I have had people offer to knit little hats and blankets, and a woman offering to cross stitch little pictures to go with the gowns. The response had been incredible!!”

https://www.facebook.com/angelgownsnz
https://www.facebook.com/angelgownsnz

One of the women who has donated her dress, Pauline Hickman, said on the Facebook page yesterday, “Absolutely beautiful (:-))gives me warm fuzzies knowing that such beautiful gowns can be made using my dress, thank you to the very talented ladies making these fantastic gowns for the precious angels”

In return, a mother who was gifted a gown wrote on the page, “Today at 6pm I said goodbye to my angel 10 yrs ago. 10 1/2 hrs after his birth. He is a twin. His brother is celebrating his 10th birthday today. (And has had an awesome day). However as a mum the day will always be bitter sweet. The gift u give to parents going through such difficult times is special and needed. The nurses and support we had was amazing then. Thank you. I will b sending you my wedding dress once out of storage as sadly there will be more parents that will become part of a club we all wish we never were. A parent knowing the heartache of loss too soon. Be at peace Will.” – from Lisa Litton – very special thoughts to Lisa and her family xxx

If you have a gown that you would consider donating, or you have sewing skills, or any other support to offer, contact Kirstin through her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/angelgownsnz or below:

Hi Everyone
Thank you so much!
Our address is angel gowns nz, 15 Galloway street, Hamilton east, 3216. Gowns can either be dropped in or posted. Please make sure to add your name to the parcel, and if you would like us to share a wedding photo please send one through. Thank you!!
We couldn’t do this without people like you!
Kirstin

Children s Clothing Part 3: Dressmaker, dressmaker, make me a dress!

I’m sure your mum/grandmother can tell you stories about making clothes themselves – a skill that is becoming rare! It makes sense to outsource many home skills for progress (we couldn’t expect working mums to also be crafting cupcakes every day and sewing clothes and crocheting tablecloths and growing expansive gardens…!) and yet I also feel sad that I cannot sew or knit (yet!). However, the owners of these businesses CAN! They’re mumpreneurs who have a talent, and they’ve turned it into a hobby or business making children’s clothing! Supporting NZ local businesses is a passion of mine – I would far rather be dressing my babes in homemade clothes than the chain store stuff! If you do too, check out some of these fab online shops for your children’s clothes!   pixieLittle Pixies Closet makes Pjs, dresses and matching dolls outfits, bibs, baby clothing, toys and other sewn goodies! https://www.facebook.com/LittlePixiesCloset

https://www.facebook.com/onesiebummsie
https://www.facebook.com/onesiebummsie

 

https://www.facebook.com/madebymama
https://www.facebook.com/madebymama

Merino Clothing for children from newborn to age 7. Hoodies, tops, singlets, leggings and beanies. https://www.facebook.com/madebymama

https://www.facebook.com/madebymama
http://www.lilygrace.co.nz/

Lily Grace makes beautiful dresses, skirts and pants for little girls. https://www.facebook.com/LilyGraceClothing and http://www.lilygrace.co.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/LesPommesRougesCreations
https://www.facebook.com/LesPommesRougesCreations

Les Pommes Rouges Creations makes gorgeous

 

betsy

Betsy&Fred have skirts, dresses, ragdolls, purses and other treats!
https://www.facebook.com/betsyandfred and http://felt.co.nz/shop/betsyandfred

 

http://felt.co.nz/shop/therubyloushop
http://felt.co.nz/shop/therubyloushop

The RubyLou Shop has gorgeous pants from birth to age 5!
http://felt.co.nz/shop/therubyloushop

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/toastclothing
https://www.facebook.com/toastclothing

Toast Clothing has beautiful upcycled items for younger babes, as well as gorgeous brooches for mum. She wraps all parcels beautifully too!
https://www.facebook.com/toastclothing

 

http://www.CoochyCoo.co.nz/
http://www.CoochyCoo.co.nz/

CoochyCoo for NZ made merino!
http://www.CoochyCoo.co.nz/ and https://www.facebook.com/CoochyCooLtd

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/IzzyBearKidswear
https://www.facebook.com/IzzyBearKidswear

Beautiful clothing and accessories
https://www.facebook.com/IzzyBearKidswear and http://felt.co.nz/shop/izzybearkids

 

https://www.facebook.com/ArlieGirl
https://www.facebook.com/ArlieGirl

Arlie Girl makes gorgeous pants – if only they came in my size!!
https://www.facebook.com/ArlieGirl

 

https://www.facebook.com/LittleFaeHandmade
https://www.facebook.com/LittleFaeHandmade

Little Fae Handmade have beautiful little dresses!!!
https://www.facebook.com/LittleFaeHandmade