why does the swedish royal wedding turn me off?

My latest post from YourTango.com:

On June 19, Swedish Crown Princess Victoria will marry Daniel Westling, a commoner and personal trainer turned, literally, into a prince. This is the event of the higher-end European social calendar, and Stockholm will be flooded by thousands and thousands of people. You can already buy Victoria and Daniel cards, chocolates and keychains at just about every corner store.

This marriage is a fairy tale that everyone I know—my very egalitarian wife included—has embraced. So why am I so turned off? I think it’s because I have a little girl now, and I want her to be Pippi Longstocking, not Crown Princess Victoria.

I know my wife wants a Pippi instead of a princess, too. After all, she is the one who opened my eyes to the flood of princessy pink that fills places like Babies ‘R Us and said, “No.” So my girl does not dress like a princess. She does not fantasize about princesses, even if—when she showed up at daycare with a princess purse that slipped through my net—some older girls swooned with envy. But now I’m supposed to accept all this froth over a princess?

To read the rest of the post, go here.


a stroller in a snowstorm: the journals of a desperate adventure

Yesterday, Daddyland was an oasis.  But last Friday, after a new snowfall, with two kids at home, it was a different, more daunting tale.  In fact, I only returned late yesterday morning, with this journal in my frozen fingers.  I remember nothing else.

9am:  I turn off the TV, the baby bundled up.  Get the toddler dressed and wedge her into the back seat of the sibling stroller.  Outside, the snow has covered all tracks.

9:10am:  I buy some winter weather gear from an old timer with a supply stand in our lobby.  He has this big wide brimmed hat and a long beard.  He assures me the snow tires and pick ax are top notch.  “Got me through some hard days in the Yukon in ’64,” he says.  The tires look worn and the ax handle shakes when the baby plays with it.

9:30am:  We are pushing up the hill to open preschool but had to turn back at the short cut when we got caught at the edges of an avalanche.  Took the long way around.  Regretted not taking our reindeer sleigh (all Swedes have their own reindeer.  I never talk about this because I take Rusty so much for granted.)  Baby cries in the bitter wind.

10am:  The stroller is taking on snow.  I had the toddler out front clearing it with a shovel but her legs just gave out.  I thought I saw another stroller being pulled by a dog team, but it turned out to only be the wind howling in my ears.  A snow mirage.

12:30pm:  We reach preschool.  There are two other parents there, both Laplanders from the far north.  We sing in their language.  The kids appear fine but I still can not feel my feet.  I dread the return home.  The snow tires are flat, and the pick ax got stuck in the door of the grocery store we tried to get inside to buy matches for a fire.

1pm:  The Laplanders take my sleeping children home on their sleigh.  I curse that wily old timer who sold me the bad goods.  And they did not even bake cinnamon buns at preschool, so I am weak.  But there was no room for me on the sleigh.

Time blurs:  I cannot account for the weekend.  I took a wrong turn in the blizzard.  I ended up on an ice floe, though there are none here.  I was pulled by three old women on cross country skis.  I waltzed with a polar bear.  I tried to gut an imaginary dog for the warmth of its body.  And finally I lay down to sleep, and I had a vision of a green warm meadow, but just before I drifted off a small Latina girl with a magic backpack and a monkey for her best friend guided me back to the snow, and gave me a map that led me over Snowy Mountain and past the Singing Icicles to get home.

Just in time to take the toddler to daycare.

deconstructing Dora the Explorer

I live in a world of rain forests, tall mountains and loud rivers.  I am surrounded by animals on bikes, magic sticks and am always looking to help out the king’s mommy.  My best friend is a monkey.  Or sometimes I am a monkey and my best friend is a little girl.  I am also stopping a sneaky fox from stealing my stuff.

Yes, my daughter is obsessed with Dora the Explorer.  She lives in a Dora world, it seems, the show a key to unlocking her imaginary world.  This also coincided with a stay at grandma and grandpa’s house.  They had DVR, which meant several new Doras per day, as I recorded every Dora on every possible Nickelodeon network (she got to watch more TV than usual on vacation).  It meant she mixed and matched the characters.  It meant grandma and grandpa spent hours in the a dark garage following a toddler with a flashlight on the watch for that sneaky fox.

At the same time, I am reading The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann.  Don’t ask me why.  It is much too difficult a book for a sleep deprived dad.  But I am reading it nonetheless and it is essentially a tale of myth and tradition and it hearkens me back to all the Joseph Campbell (the inspiration for Star Wars more or less, though that is not his most serious side) I read on my first parental leave, to thinking about stories and religion and mystery.

And I realized that I always choose the Dora episodes that key into a fairy tale or have some element of quest to them.  Forget going to her endless silly parties.  My daughter sees her explore a pyramid or transform a dragon into a prince or plant a magic stick in a hill and watch the barren wasteland return to life.

The show actually seems deeply immersed in classic myth and fairy tales and seems to do it thoughtfully, and I wonder if it is just that they have good writers who subconsciously know the power of these motifs, or whether they consciously mine classic storytelling traditions when they put together their plots.

I mean, come on, if Swiper the Fox is not a trickster, Kokopelli-like figure, what is he?  He is Chaos.  He means no harm but throws our heroes off their quest (much like the scarecrow in Bob the Builder, but what is that about … a scarecrow among machines?!?).  Of course, every plot needs a challenge, an antangonist, but Swiper even looks like Kokopelli, and he straddles the line between most kids shows – either pure good and evil or no bad guy at all.

Hmmm, perhaps I better stop now.  You know, before I get carried away …

i got nerves of steel at naptime

To build on my last post about the heroics of parenting …

Scene 1 – A man lies on a bed next to a sleeping baby.  A sick toddler home from daycare sleeps on the couch in the next room.  All is well.  But then, for some reason, the man decides to get up to check on the toddler.

The baby wakes.  Screams.  The toddler wakes.  Screams.  The man dissolves in a flood of tears.

Scene 2 – The next day.  A baby sleeps on a bed.  A toddler is happily playing.  A man – randomly obsessed with finding a flashlight – moves the couch.  It hits the toddler’s foot.  Screams.  The baby wakes.  Screams.

Cut to a montage of nightmarish horror – wandering thed snowy night in despair, a random beating, drug abuse, Russian roulette.

Scene 3  – The next day.  Are our hero’s nerves shot?  Can he survive yet another blow?  Cut to multiple screens.  With a “24”-style clock.

A baby sleeps on a bed.  A toddler watches Dora the Explorer.  The baby wakes and screams.  The man runs in and starts rocking the baby back to sleep.  At the same time, he can hear the Dora episode winding down.  Dora has brought the moon to the queen and king, becoming a true princess.  The toddler will yell when it ends.  The baby’s eyes flutter.  Can the man get the baby to sleep in time?  Can he keep calm doing it?  Can he resist from trying to communicating with the toddler?

Yes!  The baby is tucked under a blanket just as Dora winds up.

But what will the toddler’s mood be?  Cranky?  Loud?

The man gets the toddler to sleep … just before the baby wakes up again.

The baby goes back to sleep again.

Then the toddler coughs herself awake.  The man comforts her.  They play.  Happy.

The baby wakes up.


Jack Bauer has got nothing on our hero.

a dora the explorer revelation

Before last week, I had watched a Dora the Explorer episode once.  It was in a rooming house room in Port Jervis on our return trip last fall.  We loved being in town for the afternoon, and had dinner with the old neighbors, and saw that the new owners of our star-crossed house had killed the Japanese maple we planted when our daughter was born (they replaced it with a giant blue lighthouse).  Then we realized we had made a horrible mistake in staying the night.  Everything closed in on us, we turned on the TV for a moment, and there was Dora, chirpy and somehow stationary and jumping over a big rock.

So I did not like Dora the Explorer.  Seemed cheap and repetitive and annoying.

I now apologize to Dora.  In English, Spanish and Swedish.

In despair over the crap cartoons on the state kids channel, I went searching online for English stuff, including, out of some desperation, Dora.

We did not find the English version, but we did find the Swedish version.  And then it hit me.  Dora is a bilingual little girl on adventures.  I have a little girl who is often on adventures.

I even liked the Swedish version a lot, because the other language is English (This leads to a slightly strange world view in which everyone with a Hispanic-sounding name speaks accentless English).  And my toddler also speaks English and Swedish.

Sadly, there are only two episodes online, and we are not about to sign up for Swedish Nickelodeon just for Dora.

But we can ask for Dora DVDs for Christmas …

swedish equality thanks to pippi?

We have a tiger infestation.  In the apartment, in the parks, tigers lurk everywhere.  Occasionally they are nice tigers who come for tea.  Occasionally they are toddler tigers who chase Daddy back and forth for a really, really, really long time.

But more often they are climbing over walls, hiding in bushes … in other words, they are scary tigers.

We have learned how to put our hand out and say, “Stop, tiger!”  We have been reassured that Daddy will not let any tiger hurt any child.

Then last night, a protector arrived on the ceiling to chase away the tiger – Pippi Longstocking.

We have not read the Pippi Longstocking books – they are too advanced still – but NK gets songs at daycare and a really bad modern cartoon version in her brief morning TV watching.

And Pippi is in the Swedish DNA anyway.

E said jokingly this morning that Sweden is such a gender-equal place because of Pippi, and then we took it a little more seriously, and I think she is right.

Girls here have a superhero from the beginning, not a cute Dora the Explorer either – no, they have a tough talking, robber beating, mischievous, solitary role model.  And while Swedish society still puts girls in their cutesy, be quiet, good girl place, maybe Pippi gives them just enough space to take more space and more space.

I love it, because Swedish society puts everyone – boys and girls – in their place every day.  Pippi does not really fit, at least in the Sweden I see, though I am sure she comes out of Scandinavian folk traditions and the Swedish soul as much as anything.  After all, all the Nordic countries are all the most equal in the world.

Whatever.  I am just glad we have someone to protect us from the tigers.

They are everywhere!