Is Gender Socialization Genetic?

Lisa Belkin writes on her Motherlode blog about a boy who wants to be a ballerina for Halloween.  The mother wants to stop him, not because she think it's wrong, but because she doesn't want him to be teased. I understand this, but I tend to agree with the commenters who think, at 5, he's ready to be prepared for the teasing and, if he still wants to dress up after being well-informed of the possible social consequences, then she should let him.

This got me thinking about my own boy's toy preferences. My husband and I have been fascinated by how, even as early as 12 months, he had a clear preference for decidedly male-oriented toys- especially trucks, cars and tractors.When Mr. Startup (hubby) returned from a trip to the states with gifts, he bought the girls Barbies (those Polly Pockets were driving me crazy. They lasted about 5 minutes no matter how hard I tried to corral them all into various storage boxes.) and an adorable furry kitty stuffed animal for E. No go. Totally not interested and this was at 14 months. A month later, he brought back a green racing car that zoomed off by itself. A huge hit! We were both simply amazed at how he was gender socialized at such a young age. And where did it come from? It's not like we had a house full of boy toys. In fact the opposite- almost everything is  pink, sparkly and dolls. Dolls totally don't interest him. When I try to give him one to distract him, he just throws it to the side.

He loves other kinds of toys too- especially stacking cups and a toy where you can stack large beads. But we are just fascinated about how he fell so easily into his gender role so early. It's genetic? I have no idea.

Check out Kosher Cooking Carnival #46

Many thanks to Mimi at Israeli Kitchen for putting together a delectable looking Kosher Cooking Carnival.

I'm gaining weight just looking at the recipes!

Greens, Mushrooms and Noodles

I made cabbage and noodles a few weeks ago. I hadn't made it in ages (possibly years) and I had forgotten how much my husband loved it. I bought some Swiss chard and mushrooms this week, thinking I'd make some kind of soup with them. Last week I bought a pack of endives after reading this recipe in the NYT.  Cooked endive sounded intriguing.

In any case, I was still stuck with all these ingredients Friday afternoon, so instead of all my previous ideas, I sauteed onion and garlic, added the mushrooms, thinly sliced endive and the chopped chard, with lots of salt and pepper. I cooked a pot of good wide egg noodles (not the crappy Israeli kind). My husband and I finished the whole thing at dinner, thanks to some generous "tasting" helpings before Shabbat.

A few notes on serving: I served this Friday night, and to be honest, it doesn't take too kindly to reheating on the plata. So there are two options: you can add a few eggs or one egg and some egg whites and more salt and pepper, making this a kugel. Or, you can keep the vegetables and noodles separate until the last minute and stir them together before serving, that way the noodles don't get all tired and limp looking.

In any case, we thoroughly enjoyed the dish (of course, the kids wouldn't look at it).

Greens, Mushrooms and Noodles

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 basket of button mushrooms, sliced (any mushroom will do, feel free to substitute)
2 endives, thinly sliced from the end
1 bunch of Swiss chard, washed well, checked and chopped
salt and pepper
1 package of wide egg noodles, cooked just to al dente

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a large wok or frying pan  for about 10 minutes on low heat, until thoroughly browned and soft. Add mushrooms and cook until the juices have evaporated. Add endive, cook until soft. Add chard, cook down as well. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook noodles in boiling water until just al dente. Mix veggies and noodles just before serving. Or mix together and add 2-3 eggs and bake in an oblong pan at 180 degrees Celsius until firm, 30-40 minutes.

When Mom Can't Make It All Better

I happened to actually turn on the TV on Thursday night, which is a rare occurrence for me, and the movie Medurat Hashevet (Campfire) by Josef Cedar was on. I loved that movie when it first came out in 2004 and I loved watching it again, especially after thinking about A Mother in Israel's post What Defines Israeli Parenting?

All of the classic Israeli aspects of childraising are in the movie- the independence (the main character, Tami, spends lots of time on her own, and the climactic moment of the movie actually happens because she's at an unsupervised Lag B'Omer campfire); the mother who tries to be authoritative but sensitive but is too self absorbed by her own traumas to follow through on either well; the insularity of the religious neighborhood that tries to fend off the "bad kids" from the poorer neighborhood next door. It's really a fantastic movie and worth renting if you haven't seen it yet.

One element that really struck me after this viewing was Tami's reaction to her trauma. In most Hollywood movies and TV shows, when something bad happens to a child (Tami is 15), the normal reaction is for the child to report what happened directly to her parents or siblings or another trusted adult. Tami doesn't say a word to anyone. When her sister asks what happened and tries to get her to talk, she refuses and says she's ok. When her mother tries the same, after saying she's not angry, same thing happens. The movie ends, loose ends are tied up, but Tami never discusses what happened with her mom or sister. I thought that was curious and somewhat unsatisfying for the viewer. I wanted her to have that catharsis of spilling everything to her mom and getting comfort, but for some reason Cedar chose to deny us and her that moment.

I think there is something true to life in Tami's reaction. We always assume that kids need to talk, especially when they are in trouble. Maybe sometimes kids need to be alone with their trauma, to work through it themselves. There's a lot in the movie about drawing boundaries within the family- the mother gets angry in the beginning when the older daughter locks her bedroom door and fools around with her boyfriend. She breaks the window on the door as punishment. When Tami locks her door to be alone, the mother reminds her "We don't lock doors in this house!". I think Tami's silence is part of that process of creating boundaries and defining herself.

Best and Worst Parenting Feelings

There is no better feeling than having all three kids asleep at 7:28 pm.

There is no worse feeling that having your son wake up screaming or spit food out that he really wants to eat because a nasty sore on his tonsil makes it too unbearable to swallow. And there is nothing you can do to soothe him aside from hold him and try to shove more Nurofen down his throat if it's time. Hand, foot and mouth disease sucks! Though this homeopathic spray my sister in law recommended seemed to work just now. I sprayed some after he woke up from his early bedtime and he managed to get back to sleep after a few minutes.

Another good feeling I've been having is watching my two daughters play and interact with each other. A is 6.4 in kita aleph and T is 4. They are truly best friends. When my parents were here, my mother was absolutely amazed at how they could sit on the couch for an hour, my older lying in my younger's lap and listening to younger tell embellished versions of her dreams, complete dramatic cameos from Barbie and some other dolls. They truly love each other's company, most of the time. They do fight and bicker sometimes (there was a drama about sharing a balloon in the car today) but they absolutely care deeply for each other. When A spent a Shabbat away at Savta and Zayde's alone for "quality time" they both only wanted to talk to each other on the pre and post shabbat check-in phone call. A just had to share this very important joke with T, she had no time to talk to Ima or Abba!

I don't have a sister and neither does my mother (in a way, we are each other's sister- we talk on the phone everyday and talk about everything). So it gives me even more pleasure to see how close they are, and how much they truly enjoy each other's company. It's also very convenient to have a live-in playdate.

They both love their little brother, so it will be interesting to see how they incorporate him into their play as he gets old enough. He's still in the destructive phase of play.

Blogger Blab Fest and Odds and Ends

The blogger do-dah last night, organized by A Mother in Israel and (Aardvark in the) Israeli Kitchen,  was a blast. It was wonderful to get to know the faces behind familiar blogs and meet new bloggers. Mimi was very generous to open her home and it would have been a perfect evening if only Petach Tikveh was slightly more accessible and/or the Israeli Transportation Authority was slightly more adept at highway signage. I drove myself there with impeccable directions from my navigator hubby, but still managed to get off at the wrong exit and get lost wandering around the dark streets of the Petach Tikveh Industrial Zone with not a clue as to where I was. I did finally find my way to Mimi's and was even able to give a ride to Isramom on the way back so she could get a bus back home.

I really enjoyed hearing about Baroness Tapuzina's background and how she got her food blog going, and how Robin from Around the Island got into photography. It was also good to hear about topics and issues that people struggle with in their blogging. I really hope you will write that haircovering post, One Tired Ema.

I look forward to future meetups.

Loose Ends:

*My 17 month old, E, is insanely picky with food. I'm trying to be nonchalant about it, but it gets difficult at times, (I think more for me than him). He will happily eat sweets morning, noon and night, but has yet to agree to eat a straight piece of chicken. So far, he will deign to dine on fish sticks, chummous or jelly sandwiches, yogurt pancakes, fruit yogurts or Daniella (air whipped yogurt/white cheese thing) carrot kugel and any cake, cookie or chocolate.

Even though this is kid number 3, when you'd think I'd already by experienced enough to handle this, but I'm open to any words of encouragement or advice.

*  Hubby M is going away next week, the third week away in the last 5 weeks. The near constant travelling that seems to be part of the "startup mentality" is getting old for me. I know it's part of the deal, as it were, and we should be used to it, but it's still hard for all of us, even after 3 years.

* My daughter has way too much homework for a first grader. It's a constant stress for me. I thought I finished school already! Not fairy! (A is constantly using this "fairy" word (instead of fair). In Hebrew it turns into "זה לא הוגני".)

Navigating the Mass-Market Milk World

Lisa Belkin has a post up on her Motherlode blog about dealing with rules and attitudes your kids might encounter at friends or in school that differ from the ones at home. Like, you don't have a TV in your house but your neighbor does- are your kids allowed to watch or not?

It's an interesting discussion. I deal with this with the chiloni family across the hall. They have a daughter the same age as my oldest. So my two girls and she play really nicely together. We've gotten into some healthy discussions about how she rides on Shabbat and we don't. For the most part, I've been fine with their play dates, except for some TV shows here and there that I don't care for. A, my oldest, came home from gan last year singing some movie songs that I don't care for either. Also, I let them watch the preschool channel Hop on TV but Arutz Hayeladim (the Children's Channel that's not very kid friendly) is banned here. But I can't forbid them from watching it at other people's houses.

Generally, I try to stay flexible, unless it's something that really offends my sensibilities, like Bratz dolls.

This mother has other problems:

I am experiencing this right now. I LOVE my neighbor who watches my daughter twice a week, but I do notice that she comes home singing little jingles that I’d rather her not know. Yesterday it was “shake your booty…” ha! We don’t own a tv and we eat very healthily, but like other commentors, I’ve wanted my daughter to be aware that other families do things differently and to find love and joy with others even though they are different. We’ve compromised with the nieghbor on lots of little things …no sugary juice for my daughter when the other kids have their juice but rather organic raw milk (provided by me) instead. Now it’s a non-issue. But with the corny pop culture jingles? I don’t know how to handle this one. Should I risk coming off as a total judgemental b**** and asking her not to show movies to my child (she’s already agreed to no TV when my daughter is over) or should I get over it and just “shake my booty!”? :)

Here was my response:

Anonymous #32:

I vote for getting over it, having some sugary juice and letting go a bit. Your daughter has got to learn how to navigate the pasteurized mass-market milk world sometime. Now would be good.

I found the attitudes about TV and food in the comments to be remarkably similar to haredi attitudes towards those topics (TV is bad, can't trust the standards of the next-door neighbor).

How do you deal with different rules and alternative attitudes toward the values and ideals that are important to you?