I May Be Feminist Failure

photo from Betty’s Vintage Musings

While killing time, probably doing laundry or simply staring at the laundry piles and willing the clothes to fold themselves, I flipped through the television channels and landed on Megyn Kelly’s new program–Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly. Whatever you think of Kelly, I was intrigued by the topics featured on the show, specifically the discussion of research about young girls and how after age six, they shift toward believing boys to be smarter than girls. What?!

With the guidance of researchers, Kelly’s staff recreated some experiments. Kindly school-teacher types would tell young girls a story of a really smart person without revealing the person’s gender. Then, they showed a series of photos depicting women and men and asked which the children believed was the smart person in the story. Time after time, the girls pointed to a picture of a man.

The staff member would then simply show photos of men and women and ask the girls to point out the “smart” ones. Over and over, the girls decided the men were the “smart” ones.

Of course, lots of social and psychological input creates this type of output. But surely my teenage sons are more evolved–having been raised by an educated, independent and outspoken woman such as myself.

So, first I went after “the little one.” He’s fifteen. I asked him if any of the girls in his grade, those he is friends with, are smart. He had to think about it. Finally, he offered that a few girls are in the same classes as him and get the same grades as him. To clarify, I asked, “So you think these girls are as smart as you but not smarter than you?” He confirmed that this is indeed is his belief.

Then I asked him which of the adult women in his life he thinks of as smart. Again, he had to think–hard. He finally offered up a couple of names.

“What makes you think those particular women are smart?” I asked.

His response boiled down to particularly good manners and an unlikeliness to suffer fools. Okay. Fair enough.

Finally, I asked him who was smarter, his Dad or me. (I know. I know. I was asking for it. But I went there anyway.) Without missing a beat, the kid said, “Dad!”

Why? “Because everything useful I’ve learned, I’ve learned from Dad.”

Ugh. Okay fine you little ingrate. You’ve only spent over 75% of your life in my company. But what-ev’s.

On to the “big boy.” He’s nearly eighteen. When asked if he considered any adult women in his life smart, he said, “Well, that’s hard to know because most of them are stay-at-home moms.”

At this point, only the restraint of this kid’s guardian angel likely held me back from calling down a lightning bolt to smite my own firstborn child on the spot. But I somehow couldn’t entirely blame him for what is likely my failure. WTF have I done??!! Have I unleashed yet another generation of misogynist Cretans into the world? Can this be undone? If so, how? Lord help me.

I began by explaining to the “big boy” that his mom has a college degree and also attended grad school. That I SACRIFICED a promising career in finance in order to care for him and his brother.

I’ve worked as a magazine editor for several years now. But apparently, my flexible schedule and the fact that I’m the household grocery-getter and meal-preparer still slots me into the “at home” “sub-par” “less smart” categories created in my son’s 1950’s mindset.

I told him that most of the women he knows (all those “stay-at-home” moms) also have college degrees and many also SACRIFICED lucrative careers in order to care for their own ungrateful children. And still others juggle working outside the home or patching together enough side hustles to keep the creative energy (and car payment money) flowing.

He was surprised by my indignation. Apparently many high school girls he knows make comments about their goals being a couple of years of college, then marriage, kids, and… “stay-at-home.” What?! At a highly ranked public high school in 2017, in this hyper competitive world of achievement and accumulation, I’m surprised this remains a goal for enough young girls to seem to be “many” in his mind.

As a teenager, I never dreamed about staying home with kids. Raised by a single, working mother, I was taught to never “need” a man–but to be able to take care of myself. I dreamed of toting a briefcase to important meetings while a nanny took care of the kiddos. Why I chose not to continue on that path is fodder for another post. But suffice it to say, I’ve never considered this choice as a feminist failure.

The fact is, being “smart” has nothing to do with whether a woman works full time!

Being “smart” likely requires some level of education and demonstrable ability to hold a conversation without over-using the word “like.” But moreover, being smart is about being curious, having a desire to learn and master new skills, managing one’s life and future goals based on healthy choices and making useful contributions toward a better world.

I thought I’d done a pretty good job of raising smart and evolved young men who might help make the world a better place. Turns out, they may be “smart” but they may also have been socialized to support the patriarchy. Gasp! (I blame their father.)

Or maybe, just maybe, my kids were being smartasses in order to turn my crank. This is entirely possible. And In that case, it’s as my mom always says, “It’s better to be a smartass than a dumbass.” True that! Love you mom!

 

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A St. Valentine’s Day Epiphany

fullsizerenderOccasionally, I have these parenting epiphanies. Like on Valentine’s Day a few years ago when our then middle grade sons quietly removed the little containers of candy I’d stashed in their lunch. Or later, when I offered a suggestion to a high school teacher about how to best handle our older son when he’s stressed. “Mrs. Johnson,” the teacher said, “if your son requires special treatment from me, it’s probably best he ask me himself.”

Ahhhh…

Yes.

They are growing up.

No more kiddie candy or sandwiches cut into heart shapes in their lunch. And no more trying to stand between them and discomfort. Big boys must learn to navigate the world without mom trying to smooth every path.

But many moms like me don’t see it coming. We think we have more time because sometimes parenting young children feels endless. It’s not. You’re sopping up spilled juice and begging a kid not to wipe boogers on the wall and then… you’re sitting in a chair sipping coffee while your teens make their own lunch. They drive themselves to school. They navigate their own world without you–pretty well I might add. It seems the hubs and I have done a lot of things right.

But this week I had another epiphany. It’s clear that I did something not quite right when they were younger and another thing particularly well.

Here’s the deal. Our younger son, a freshman, is struggling in an honors English class. His older brother took the same class with the same teacher, and although he had similar complaints about the class, he was able to pull off a decent grade. So I question the younger, “what gives?”

His response is telling. In his example he tells about how the class read The Odyssey as part of a unit on Greek mythology. “Some kids who do well on the tests,” he said, “are those who’ve read all of the Percy Jackson books as a kid.”

If you’re unfamiliar, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan follows the adventures of a boy who discovers he’s a demigod son of Poseidon. The books are beloved by young readers who also happen to absorb a lot of foundational information about Greek mythology.

Our older son read every Percy Jackson book.

Our younger son read Batman comics.

They are both good readers who do well in school. Parents are told it doesn’t matter what kids read as long as they read. I believed that. And it’s probably true up to a point. But like adults who don’t read newspapers or many books, some people lack a depth and/or expanse of knowledge that serves as a building block for understanding other information. I now believe it does matter what children (or all people) read. And for a hot second, I thought I’d failed our younger son.

But then, I attended an art exhibition about Martin Luther and the Reformation at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. While there, I overheard a young boy around 8 years old ask his mother about a painting. The boy discovered this oil on canvas illustrating the decapitated head of John the Baptist and said, “Mom! Is that real? Did that really happen?”

“No,” she answered. “It’s only a painting.”

That’s the moment I was assured I’d done one thing right. You see, when our comic book loving boy was around that same age, we bought him an illustrated bible called The Action Bible. The artwork is similar to comic books but the stories are firmly biblical–and not the shortened, most loved, PG rated versions of bible stories–but the entire bible in graphic novel form. He’s read the whole thing at least twice.

So here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Quality is as important as quantity when it comes to reading material for kids.
  • We’ve got limited time to teach the foundations of our values before our kids launch.
  • One of our kids will have to work harder to make sense of some literature.
  • But both of our kids know the bible and its precepts–that love exists, that God is love, that we are called to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That the one thing that really matters… is a faith that expresses itself through love.

Today is Valentine’s Day. The older son checked his lunch and removed the candy I’d stashed inside. But the younger one didn’t peek. So I get one more small opportunity to show love in a “goofy and embarrassing” mom way. I’ll take what I can get and thank God for helping me to not screw this whole parenting thing up completely.

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Your “Passion” Might be Bigger than Your Job Title

Recent conversations with my teenage kids lead me to believe that the hubs and I may have done something wrong. We’ve done a lot right. Our kids are respectful and hardworking with good character and senses of humor. But after years of global economic uncertainty, something this younger generation must certainly have been shaped by, our kids still fear getting jobs in fields they’re not “passionate” about or that will somehow not be “fun.”

How-to-find-your-passion-in-lifeI graduated from college during a recession and recall being desperate for any employment that didn’t require me to wear a name badge created with a label maker. “Just let me through any tiny crack in a door and I’ll take care of the rest,” I thought. I just wanted a break and believed I could leverage most any opportunity. I was also especially keen on not being broke. Ever. Again. I guess you could say I was passionate about being gainfully employed in a grown-up job. Exactly what that job title would be was secondary at best during that stage of my life.

Whereas our children wrinkle up their wary faces upon discovering that the hubs and I are currently not employed within the fields we studied in college. It’s as if they fear investing in their passions if they’ll only end up in careers unrelated to what they’re currently passionate about.

When I was a kid, growing up in a blue-collar industrial town, lots of people dreamed of getting jobs in manufacturing–not because working in a factory was their dream, but because they would get a regular paycheck that could fund their dreams. This thought process seems not only unacceptable among young people today but a virtually taboo thought–doing a job you don’t “love” simply to earn a living. Gasp!

Herein is where we may have failed our children, by not regularly discussing or expressing our gratitude about being employed at all. About how grateful we are that our income allows us to fund our passions like non-profits we’re passionate about and family vacations we get to take and our kids’ college savings. Maybe we haven’t talked enough about how what we do at work may not always be fun but that it still matters and adds value not only to our employers but also to the world around us in ways that may seem intangible. That this knowledge can bring about joy in a way that may look different from having a job at Disneyland or Google.

The whole, “Discover your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life”mantra is ridiculous! Work isn’t always fun even if it’s your passion. It’s called WORK for a reason and sometimes it’s hard or boring or thankless.

This disdain for work you’re not “passionate” about seems similar to how the culture, ever since women began entering the workforce in large numbers, perceives those who choose to then exit the workforce to parent full-time. A belief that sacrificing your college degree, even for something as important as caring for one’s own children, is somehow objectionable because it’s not what you studied in school. (Of course parents are passionate about their kids. Don’t start with me. You know what I’m getting at.)

Educators may be piling on as well. In my children’s middle school, home economics classes have been replaced with a class called college and career readiness. Beginning in sixth grade, students are told to begin thinking about attending college, what they should study and which career paths might best suit them. In sixth grade! I still wanted to be the Bionic Woman in the sixth grade.

Not only are middle schoolers encouraged to consider careers they’re “passionate” about, they also spend quite a bit of time researching how much each of those careers currently pay. So the pressure is double. Not only should kids be “passionate” about their work, they should also be “passionate” about work that is well paid. Trouble is, some jobs that people could have a spark for, may not pay well, like education for instance. C’mon teachers. Is it about the passion or about the money? Cause you well know, we don’t always get both.

Find-Your-PassionBut here’s another truth: not everybody has an overarching passion that is career specific. Sure, the hubs will admit that he’s currently not paid to do his “dream” job. But he’ll also tell you that he doesn’t know what that “dream” job would be. From a man with more working years behind him than in front of him–he still can’t define his “passion” down to a specific job title. What he can tell you is that he’s passionate about being with people. He’s energized by conversation, is a great communicator, is unafraid of conflict and wants to help improve people’s lives. That said, he could potentially be employed in over a dozen different fields. In a dream job? Maybe not. But are we living the American dream? Absolutely. Plus, he can sew a button on a shirt and cook a meal from scratch, something he likely learned in home economics.

I understand the pressure in today’s economy to want our children to be college educated and I believe in the value of higher education. (Although some are beginning to question the value and that’s a topic for another discussion.) But, I do wish we had talked more to our kids about the value of a hard day’s work in whatever field they find themselves in. That living your passion might not be as simple as following a clear-cut career path. Your passion may be bigger, broader and harder to define than a job title.

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Say No to “FOMO” Parenting

fomoRecently, I had the privilege of speaking to a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. I guess they invited me because they assumed I’d have something inspiring to say since I was once a mother of preschoolers and have survived to tell the tales. I also initiated the launch of a local MOPS group approximately 10 years ago. There was a great need in our area for the type of nurturing support MOPS provides to mothers and their offspring, and that program continues to be attended by hoards of harried mamas each month. Praise the Lord.

So, what would I talk about with these young mothers whom I feared would look at me as if I could impart some great wisdom? Well, I attempted to talk about the universal mama burden of worry. I talked about how worry seems to begin in pregnancy when we fret about our blood pressure, glucose levels, prenatal vitamins, birth plans and getting registered for a car seat that ranks near the top of the Consumer’s Report.

How once the baby is born, we worry about its breathing, sleeping and eating. And then how worry can morph and grow like the blob oozing through a fictional town in a campy horror movie. We worry about crawling, walking, falling, screen time, vaccinations, bicycle helmets, bullies, environmental toxins, developmental milestones, swallowing quarters, swallowing Polly Pockets, swallowing Legos, toilet training, finding Legos in the toilet, homework, sports, piano lessons, voice lessons, swallowing beer, throwing up beer, ACT tests and college applications. This is only a basic list of typical mom worries but you catch my drift.

And what I’ve discovered over years of trying to manage my mental state when it comes to parental worry is that parents today have the added burden of abundant choices. Yes. Just as an immigrant mother once told me how she’d stood frozen in an aisle of canned tomatoes in an American grocery store unsure which to choose, so can American parents develop serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when considering all of the options we have for our children. Families are inundated with parenting options about everything from fitness to nutrition to education.

I think back to when I started kindergarten. It seems my mother simply found the school bus that came nearest our home and put me on board. I’m not sure she even knew exactly which school that bus took me to. But all of the other moms were doing the same thing, so I’m sure this gave her some confidence in making and sticking by her decision.

Contrast this simplification to today. In our hyper-competitive educational atmosphere, where parents seemed terrified that little Jane won’t get into the best college if she doesn’t attend the most dynamic and leadership-focused preschool, we have the added burden of choice. So many choices. Language immersion schools. Religious schools. Montessori schools. Classical education schools. Global learning schools. Play-based schools. Farm schools. And the worst part is that unlike when I was little, many parents seem to be doing something different. And they often want you to do what they’re doing because either they feel so strongly about their choice (bullies) or are secretly unsure of their choice and want you along to validate their decision (wimps).

Those who have a bit more sanity and who are less obsessed with making the “perfect” choices for their children in the arena of education may look around and wonder, “Is something wrong with me that I’m not freaking out over which school to send my 2-year-old to? Maybe I don’t love little Brenden as much as I should. I’m a terrible mother.” Then you flip through Instagram photos of moms who lost their baby weight in two weeks while you eat a box of SlimFast bars.

Now don’t get me wrong. Choice can be a good thing. I understand that not all square pegs will fit into one round hole of a single type of instructional method. But when we lack the community support provided by peers who are all pulling in the same direction, we can get caught up in second-guessing our decisions and this can make us miserable.

That’s why groups like MOPS are so important. We crave community. We crave reassurance and support. Now, of course not all the moms in whichever type of community group you choose are necessarily going to be making the same parenting decisions as you. But hopefully, you find a group of friends or mentors with whom you can talk through important parenting topics and gain a sense of confidence in your personal choices.

Like my international friend who was just looking for some canned tomatoes, maybe ask yourself if some of the decisions you’re afraid to make are truly going to ruin your sauce. Unlikely.

The things we worry about as mothers can be important but are rarely the most important. The most important thing is to raise moral and ethical children who love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls and who love their neighbors as themselves. When I was pregnant and really worried about the health of my unborn baby, my doc said something like, “You could have a perfectly healthy baby who grows up to steal twenty bucks out of your purse.” I think she was saying, there are no perfect children and no perfect parents.

If you’re going to worry about what they’re learning, this is the most important thing we need to teach them. And community groups for parents or circles of friends whose lives are rooted in biblical principals can help redirect our focus toward what’s most important. You may also find that learning to reduce your own anxiety when it comes to pursuing perfection for your kids may result in more confident, comfortable children who worry less about performance and pursuing perfection just to please you. Something to think about…

 

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Is Unemployment Better for Busy Teens?

credit: Google images

credit: Google images

Some parenting standards can be planned in advance. We imagine we’ll know precisely how to respond to many parenting situations and be easily guided by our experience and values. New parents talk at length of the value of making their own baby food and limiting screen time. But then, real life happens and naïve certainty evolves into a realization that we’re often not sure what to do. This can lead to less thought through parenting decisions, like letting your toddler stand in the back of a shopping cart or allowing your teenage son to watch the Fast and Furious franchise while on the verge of getting his driver’s license.

So I’m asking you, dear blog readers, to help me think through an upcoming parental decision–whether to encourage our sooner-than-I-could-ever-have-imagined-to-be 16-year-old son to get a job. Seems easy. Right? Old enough to work means get your butt to work. I mean, hey, I got a job as soon as I turned 16. I remember how proud I was to don that polyester poop brown and orange jumper and a plastic nametag for my first gig at the Ponderosa Steak House. I had a driver’s license and my mom’s hand-me-down ‘76 Chevrolet Chevette that needed gas and insurance coverage. I had responsibilities!

And I suppose having a job during the school year was fine for me. Unless you factor in an early immersion into a grown-up world of restaurant co-workers who happened to not be all high school students like me. Some were high school dropouts. Some were struggling single parents. A few were rehabilitating criminals. But aside from this early exposure to the wider world–something I’m not sure I want for my own kids–my grades never suffered and my little blue hatchback always had a full tank of gas.

I’ll argue this wasn’t always the case when I went to college. That’s when I really needed money to pay for tuition, books and housing. But the heightened difficulty of college coursework meant that holding down even a part-time job during my college years caused my grades to suffer. Making ends meet during college is something I truly hope our kids won’t have to worry as much about.

For me, there seemed no other way. But that’s not the case for my children. Our son doesn’t need to have a job right now. The hubs and I are fortunate enough to be able to provide for his needs. And, unlike some kids with more refined tastes, our son rarely asks for extras. He seems perfectly content with bargain priced t-shirts, a few pair of no-name-brand jeans and wearing one pair of athletic shoes at a time until they’re either outgrown or worn out.

But even though he doesn’t necessarily need money, shouldn’t he get a job to learn responsibility? Start saving for college? Gain some work experience? My immediate answer to all of the above is yes. (Although please God not at a place like the Ponderosa.)

But what about his already busy schedule? My son participates in high school sports–something I never did. I’m pretty sure our son isn’t on deck for any college sports scholarships. It’s not that. He just likes to play. It’s part of his high school experience and something he most likely won’t get to be a part of once he goes to college. And these activities often mean he doesn’t return home from school until after 6 o’clock. Sometimes later. Then there’s dinner and homework for courses admittedly tougher than what I took at his age. You probably don’t need to read another blog post about how kids today are pushed too hard academically and have more homework than we did in high school. So I’ll skip that for now.

I suppose he could find a job that only requires him to work on weekends during the school year. But that would mean zero down time day in and day out and that cannot be a good recipe for a healthy mind and body. So I’m tempted to discourage any paid employment during the school year. Am I wrong? The hubs thinks so. He says kids on more competitive traveling sports teams typically have games or practices most every day including weekends. What’s the difference? He says a weekend job wouldn’t really be like “working” if it were outdoors and connected to something our son already enjoys. In the hubs’ mind, there isn’t much difference between the kid spending all day on a winter Saturday skiing for fun or getting paid to  teach kids to ski. Is he right? Do our kids have the energy and ability to endure long days every single day? Cause I don’t. Good grief, I sure don’t.

So, as much as I’ve always been a believer in young people having some skin in the game, I’m reluctant to have my boy grow up so fast. I’m thinking a summer job might be sufficient. But maybe I’m being too soft. I prefer to give this decision a bit more thought than the time I let him stand up in the back of a grocery cart. Cause you can likely imagine how well that turned out.

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What Planet Do You Live On? How elitism exacerbates the achievement gap and makes you look like a jerk.

My elementary school in Flint, Mich.

My elementary school in Flint, Mich. built in 1928. Closed in 2011due to low enrollment and sold in 2015. Photo taken in 2009.

I grew up in Flint, Michigan. Maybe you’ve heard of it­–that blue collar town known for being the birthplace of General Motors, the UAW, Michael Moore and Mark Ingram. A city that once boasted one of the highest median incomes in the country, now with sad regularity, tops lists for highest unemployment and crime rates. Not surprisingly, its public education system leaves much to be desired. As much as 35% of Flint residents read at only a first grade level.

I don’t live in Flint anymore. Today, I live in an affluent suburban community with well-maintained parks and trails and regular trash pickup–something I see as a marvel when considering places like Flint that struggle to provide basic services. And the schools here! Oh my goodness, the quality of public education in my suburban land of enchantment is astounding. So much so, that sometimes when I overhear seemingly trivial things that parents in this district complain about, I think, “REALLY? You have no idea how good our children have it here compared to the state of public education in other, less fortunate communities.”

But of course parents in wealthy school districts have high standards. Why wouldn’t they? It’s most likely part of why they choose to live in areas with the “best” schools. But I wonder how much of our perception perpetuates reality.

It’s my belief that few schools are inherently better than others. Schools are made better–as defined by test scores and graduation rates–by parents who are educated, involved and typically wealthier than families whose children attend schools considered “not the best.” And when educated, involved and wealthy parents decide to move their children to schools they perceive are “better,” they take their education, involvement and disposable income with them, leaving a higher concentration of less educated, more dysfunctional and less affluent families behind.

Gradually over time, this money, stability and brain drain likely impact the quality of educators available to families less able to relocate. Because, let’s face it. It’s got to be easier for teachers to manage classrooms filled with kids whose home lives are not as negatively impacted by maladies associated with lower incomes. It takes compassion and conviction for quality educators to choose to teach in less affluent school districts. Their jobs are tougher and their burnout rates are higher most likely because they lack the advantages of teachers at richer schools.

But it is my assertion that kids of educated, involved and affluent families succeed in large part due to their privileged home lives. Successful, stable families tend to produce successful, stable offspring. Going to the “best” schools is simply icing on our fortune-filled cake. And if that’s the case, then are wealthy families partly responsible for the “underperformance” of some schools by refusing to send their children there? By chasing the perceived best, the rich get richer, a principle known as cumulative advantage.

Maybe you’re not convinced that you have any responsibility beyond providing the best opportunities for your own kids. Fine. I get it. I really do. I worry sometimes about how my children will achieve the American dream in such a competitive meritocracy. But let’s at least acknowledge our privilege and not look down our noses at schools we believe aren’t good enough for our own little darlings. For example, there are three senior high schools in the suburban school district where I live. Each one is governed by the same school board and education standards, thus presumably deliver the same quality education. But they are geographically located in three distinctly different socio-economic areas–albeit all suburban mind you. And yet, the most common perception around here is to rank these schools as bad, better and best in direct correlation with the age of the building and the number of students who receive free and reduced price lunch.

Worse is whenever I encounter a teen who laments spending even a few hours for a sporting event at the school they (and their parents) consider the “worst.” I’ve heard students say things like, “It was scary, like going to the ghetto.” What?! The school isn’t in Beirut. Hell, it’s not even in Flint! We’re still talking about a suburban high school located in a city with a crime rate well below the U.S. average. Plus kid, it’s by God’s grace, dumb luck or the adroitness of your parents and their realtor that you get to go to the shiniest schools. So let’s dispense with the elitist attitude lest you turn out like this…

Flint’s deterioration is certainly due to a confluence of many factors, chief among them, deindustrialization. But the degradation of some of its schools began long before that. It began with rich folks bent on moving their kiddos to “better” schools lest they be forced to rub shoulders with the lower classes. My mother, who still lives in Flint, once asked me if it ever feels like I’m living on another planet. The answer is, “Yes Mom. Sometimes it does.”

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How a Young Feminist Got Played

Our youngest, a seventh grader, had to interview the hubs and me as part of a school project. His questions included the normal stuff, “Where do you work?” “Where did you grow up?” etc.

But he also inquired about our favorite childhood toys. Oh the nostalgia of pondering what entertained you as a kid. And having your child assigned to ask about such things gives parents an excuse to prattle on about the good ‘ole days while the offspring are “forced” to act interested.

I thought for a moment, mentally scrolling through my memory banks in search of favorite toys. There was the Baby Alive that ate real baby food and soiled real diapers, that is until my cousin jammed a crayon down its throat. Baby Alive gagged on this early introduction of solid food and died soon thereafter. Plus, my box of 64 colors was permanently short a blue violet.

R.I.P. Baby Alive

R.I.P. Baby Alive

Then there was my Barbie Star Traveller Motor Home that I used to take Barbie pretend camping. But having actually lived in trailer park made a toy motor home seem less aspirational than say, a Barbie Dream House.

Barbie Star Traveller

Barbie Star Traveller

Later in life, the hubs and I would camp quite a bit, about which another cousin once remarked, “You spend your whole life working to not be poor. But isn’t camping like pretending you’re poor and calling it a vacation?” Never thought of it that way, but I suppose she makes an interesting point.

So I guess, when pressed, I’d have to say my favorite childhood toy was my Bionic Woman action figure. Remember Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers on the 1970s television show, The Bionic Woman? That show was my first introduction to the notion that women could be badass; that women could not only fight their own battles, but also could be counted on and called upon to help others who are in dire straights.

A toy more badass than Barbie.

A toy more badass than Barbie.

As someone who was raised by a single mother whose heroic adventures included juggling childcare while going to college, becoming a registered nurse, obtaining a driver’s license near the age of 30 and buying a house all on her own, it’s no wonder I was more drawn to the idea of a bionic woman than a fashion model who pretended to be poor.

My Bionic Woman action figure also came with some sort of high-tech computer station play set. It had these rubber cables that plugged into my toy’s bionic arm and leg. It had charts and graphs that I would imagine displayed readings of her increasing levels of strength. I proudly told my son that this beloved childhood toy of mine was pretty much a pioneering female Project Lead the Way education project.

But then, he did a Google search to see for himself if such a toy existed. The search revealed that the bionic play set I was so fond of and believed to be a groundbreaking toy for aspiring young feminists everywhere was actually called the Bionic Beauty Salon. What the…?!

You've got to be kidding me.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

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