Sunday 18 December 2011

It's a Barbie world

Ever since Betty's birthday and the whole fairy princess cake fiasco, she has been into Barbies in a big way. So, when Betty wanted to spend the £10 that her great grandmother gave her for her birthday on a proper Barbie doll, I didn't have a problem with it. In fact, I was secretly thrilled, even though I was a fan of Sindy rather than Barbie.

When I was little, my Sindy doll was my life. I was obsessed with her, and she brought me an unbelievable amount of joy for many years. I was fascinated with her bendy legs that you could manipulate into virtually any position, I loved hacking at her hair, and crocheting her little woollen hats and dungarees with my mum.

I have such fond memories of my Sindy and the adventures she had. Her job in the bank where she would fill in lots of important forms and tick boxes, her love of travelling by train, her obsession with collecting stamps, and a passionate affair with Action Man. There were many secret ice-skating dates, and the two of them would spend hours galloping around on Sindy's horse.

Not once did I look at my doll with her skinny legs, blond hair, and big boobs, and aspire to look like her, or ever think that that is what women were supposed to look like. If anything I went in the opposite direction and spent much of my adolesence in big woolly jumpers, lumberjack shirts, Doc Marten shoes, no make-up, mousy hair, and non-existent boobs.  Never did I think back to my glorious Sindy days and think that I had somehow failed for not looking like her, or for not bagging a boyfriend with abnormal muscles and revolving eyes.  

Betty does not see them in this way either, and I very much doubt she ever will. To her, Barbie dolls are simply princesses in beautiful dresses.  I have made sure that her dolls don't don skimpy outfits and instead she has a collection of pretty ballgown type dresses.  I bought her a secondhand Sindy wardrobe on eBay, and Betty gets such joy from hanging her doll's dresses on the little hangers and arranging them all.  She has spent hours making all of Barbie's other furniture (table, shower, bed, sofa) out of cereal boxes, margarine tubs, and corks.  And she is very excited about the prospect of her and me sitting down and learning to crochet clothes together.  Betty, who loves constructing and all things arty, is getting creative with Barbie.

So although the manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves for making a child's toy so tarty and pink, I really don't think little girls see her as a role model. They just see her as a toy, something to dress and undress, to perform hair cuts on, to feed rice crispies to, and to snog Action Man (sorry Ken).

Saturday 10 December 2011

Feeding baby Jesus to the ox

I am a girl of traditions, and since Betty was born five years ago I have taken great joy in carrying on old Christmas traditions from my own childhood, and also creating new ones.

When I was a child, decorating the tree was right up there with the anticipation of Father Christmas sneaking into my bedroom with a giant bag full of presents. So I was thrilled that Betty had been nagging me for days about when we were going to put our tree up.

Despite Tom's suggestion to keep things simple, I made a real ceremony of it. On Thursday evening, there the tree stood in all its glory, ready to be adorned with a huge array of beautiful decorations; some we had made, some we had chosen together, some I have collected over the years, and indeed some from my childhood.

It all went beautifully for at least a minute. Betty in her pretty dress and plaits, cheerily singing Away in a Manger. The fairy lights twinkling on her delighted little face, as she hung the first few decorations on the tree. Meanwhile Dolly stood a couple of metres away contentedly playing with the nativity scene, and I watched on proudly, with my G&T, at my delightful children going about their Christmas acitivities.

Betty had hung about six decorations when she turned and clocked Dolly playing with the nativity set. She marched over to her and through clenched teeth said: 'You must not play with Mary and Joseph, they are not toys, they are just for us to look at,' and then swiftly snatched baby Jesus from Dolly's sticky little clutch.

Horrified that my daughter was probably parroting me, I calmly told Betty that Dolly was not doing any harm and to let her play with them. But Betty had the bit between her teeth and would not let it rest, and continued to get more and more irate with Dolly. Soon Dolly couldn't take any more and became inconsolable. All the poor kid wanted to do was feed Jesus to the ox, and make the two sheep kiss.

I shouted at Betty to stop, and she stormed off upstairs to her bedroom, and slammed the door.

There the tree stood, mostly bare, Dolly crying, and I knocked back my drink and poured another.

After a couple of minutes, Betty re-emerged down the stairs, walked over to a sobbing Dolly, gently put her arm around her, and soothingly said: 'What's the matter my darling, is mummy being horrible to you? Has she upset you?' 'Yes' said Dolly.

They defiantly marched off together hand-in-hand. I decorated the tree on my own, while my children sat on Tom in the other room and watched two cartoon pigs happily decorating a Christmas tree on TV.

Monday 5 December 2011


Tipis have always been very popular in our household.  Our next door neighbours have one in the field next to our house and Tom has spent many a happy hour in it with Betty and Dolly during the summer months.

During rather a desperate episode where we were housebound due to chicken pox, I tried to make the girls their own tipi, using bamboo and some sheets.  It was utterly rubbish (I blame the broken wrist).

So we were all absolutely thrilled to receive this wigwam from - it is the real deal with wooden poles and canvas material.  It is sturdy, weather-proof, and pretty spacious inside.  The kids love it, I love it, and even Tom, who is often pretty scathing about the kids' 'paraphernalia', loves it. 

However, it is currently situated in the middle of my sitting room floor, and I am a little nervous that it may be there for the entire winter...