Barbie Blunder, or an expert’s view on being a parent

blog entry by Amy Howell, Early Childhood Education, with introduction and conclusion by Tina Hovekamp, Library

dollsI recently visited Mommy Ph.D., a personal blog by one of our COCC faculty, Amy Howell.  As Amy herself explains,  her blog tries to connect her expertise in theories of child development with her actual daily experiences of raising her own children. Reading Amy’s blog reminded me of the recent news story of a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist and brain study expert, Jill Bolte Taylor, who herself suffered a stroke to become a first-hand observer of the deterioration of  the human brain. Personal experiences recounted by people with educational or professional expertise in the related areas can indeed offer such unique and interesting  insights!

So, here is one of Amy’s recent blog postings reflecting on her parenting experiences while being a professional in the field of education:

As teachers of young children, it is an interesting moment when our children see us out of the classroom context. I can recall the look of surprise and confusion on my students’ faces when they found me in the aisles of the grocery store and made the unbelievable discovery that I existed outside of the school. Young children are egocentric in the sense that they view the world from their perspective and understanding. It is difficult to consider events and situations from alternative perspectives, and children’s understandings reflect beliefs about how the world works. Teachers, in the example above, live and breathe in schools, of course. Upon talking, playing, and interacting with children, we have the opportunity to see and hear their understandings. In these moments we also have the opportunity to build on children’s understandings in new and meaningful ways. This morning I had the “opportunity” to build on my child’s new understanding that sometimes grown-ups are completely wrong.

What started off as a sincere effort to protect my child from anticipated frustration at school, turned into a great example of my own limitations in perspective.

My daughter decided to bring a toy doll to school. At home, this doll enjoys riding in a purple van and exchanging clothes with several Barbie dolls (dating back to my own childhood). (On that note, I think my children will forever associate Barbie dolls with detached heads and limbs as most of our 30 year-old dolls are frequently visiting the toy hospital for minor and major adjustments.) This particular doll is not a Barbie, in the Mattel sense; however, we call it a Barbie. When my daughter announced her plans to bring the “Barbie” to school, I made the erroneous parental leap to the moment when a child would point out to her and all her classmates that this was an impostor. To “save” her from this moment, I pointed out that this was not really a Barbie. In my effort to protect her feelings, I think I may have simply cut to the front of the line.

Following my ousting of the non-Barbie, I awkwardly tried to gather the tears and smooth away the mess I had instigated. I explained to my daughter that I had said the wrong thing: I had made a mistake. I tried to share my own experience with knock-off Strawberry Shortcake dolls and the feelings I had when a neighborhood “friend” pointed that out to me. In that moment, I realized I was the egocentric one, and I framed my daughter’s experience squarely in my own reflection. Sometimes, grown-ups make mistakes. Mommy said the wrong thing, and I’m sorry. There was that grocery-store gaze again!

How refreshing to connect with my daughter in this way–by letting her know that I was wrong, we were able to start a new conversation from a place of joint-perspective.

For more of Amy Howell’s insights on being a parent, visit her blog Mommy Ph.D.  Also interested in third party observations and advice on raising children?  Here are some good links for you to explore:

Parenting.org – this is a free resource for parenting help on all kinds of topics by Boys Town, a non-profit organization.

Parents Advice Center – this web site is a gateway to getting help and support for parents facing any kind of family difficulties.

And beyond theories and advice… do you really want to know how much it costs to raise a child?   Have a quick check on USDA’s Cost of Raising a Child Calculator.

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4 Responses to Barbie Blunder, or an expert’s view on being a parent

  1. Very good text. I’ve found your blog via Yahoo and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your posts. Btw your sites layout is really broken on the Chrome browser. Would be cool if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the good work!

  2. Never easy to be a parent because of so many responsibilities like to fulfill All the needs of children.
    That is really an interesting post.
    Thanks.

  3. Thoughtful discussion of that “huh – zebra in a barn” moment of perceptual readjustment experienced when something we’re used to morphs into something else. How brave of you, Amy, to admit a mistake to your child. And what good role-modeling for all of us as you reveal the way you let your own experience predict the experience of your progeny. I find that I do this in the classroom and sometimes I’m just very wrong.

  4. Me says:

    Interested in parenting? Try “Free Range Kids”. Good stuff there. http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

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