Friday, May 30, 2008

A fox can't eat a big brown bear

Yesterday I sent Fred (yes we got her back) to pick up the mail while I kept the car's engine running (yes yes, because I flattened the battery, read yesterday's post if you must). Fred came back with our tax returns (between us we're getting just enough back to cover the accountant's fee - no joy, no rage, an unemotive tax year) and a thank you card from Martin's cousin Christine and her new hubby Justin (I mentioned fred's wrapt response to the wedding in her birthday post). I let Fred open the card and a beautiful photo of the bride and groom slipped out.
After exclamations and showing the photo around, Fred continued to stare at it thoughtfully as we went for a drive up Butterman's Track in order to keep the motor running a little longer. I had an idea of looking for the old rusty car that I've seen on my walks and showing Fred, but you can't really see anything from the car.
'You don't get to be a princess for very long, though, do you mum?' Fred said, a little wistfully.
'Don't you?' I asked, distracted, looking for somewhere to turn around. 'Why not'
'Because then you have to be a mother.'
I realise we're having one of those important conversations, one of those conversations that reveal her ideas of the way the world works, that I could fudge in a second by giving her another lecture on diversity and feminisms. I decide not to say anything and make some kind of non-committal remark, probably 'Do you?' again.
She's thinking for a while. Then she says, 'Teachers don't have to be princesses or have babies.'
'Are you going to be a teacher?' (About seven months ago she went from saying she was going to write noggles like mama to saying she was going to be a teacher like Dad - Oedipal much?)
'Yes. I'm not getting married.' (my internal response is utterly complex - glee that she doesn't aspire to bride or princessdom or motherhood, sadness that she still sees things in such stark categories, a shade jealous that she wants to be like Martin instead of like me, and, irrationally, a sadness at the idea of her being unmarried and childless - I want grandchildren). Fred is still thoughtful. As we pull into our driveway she says, 'Actually, I'm going to be a storyteller.'
'Really? Like the ai ai ai ai lady?' (I sing the insect chorus from the much loved storytelling cd my dear friend Jo sent from New Zealand).
'Yeah.' Doubtful. 'No! I'm going to be an ice cream girl, remember? And you're going to be in my shop too.' (This refers to Christmas time, when just before getting on the boat to Tasmania we stopped to buy an icecream. The couple who ran the shop had their little girl with them behind the counter helping to fetch and carry. Fred was entranced at the idea that a little girl could have a job, especially when Martin said, 'Do you think she gets to eat all the ice cream she wants?')
I relax. I'm relieved to know that Fred sees more in her future than princess/bride and mother. That she sees all sorts of possibilities for herself, despite Barbie and Disney and her fascination with Bratz dolls. I am sure it won't take long for her to realise that you can be all these things at once - bride, mother, teacher, storyteller, ice cream seller...

I posted on a friends [popular social networking site] wall today, to say happy birthday to her son and said how according to Freud five kind of marks the end of the Oedipal dramas and entry into the relative peace of the latency phase. As I reflected on this conversation, I thought how that seems to be true for Fred. She certainly seems to be less tormented these days, her world is apparently more orderly, there's rules and laws of physics, a fox for example can't eat a big brown bear (that's not a Fred quote, but something a four year old girl, Hannah, said to me 15 years ago when I worked in childcare - pretty much the most sensible and insightful thing anyone has ever said to me about how the world works). She can slip backwards of course, and I notice especially that she finds many of the absurd things Una says - 'You're a sandwich, Daddy's a girl, I'm going to dream about ALL the unicorns and there's none left for you' - seem to really distress Fred, as if she's just come to grasp reality but it's a reality that could crumble, that the chaotic force of Oedipal Una could destroy with her super toddler power.


  1. Tara told me today in the car:

    "Mum. I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up."

    "What is that Tara?"

    "An acrobat. I think I would be really good at it and I love the clothes they wear."

    End of story. She's going to be an acrobat.

    Molly at fifteen now wants to study Criminology and Creative Writing at Melbourne uni ;-)

  2. My son has wanted to be an ice cream seller since he was old enough to express the desire. He's five and a half now. There is something very peaceful about that aspiration.

    He was terribly concerned about having to get married (when he and his betrothed were about 4) because he didn't want to move away from home. He didn't seem very interested in my suggestion that marriage wasn't compulsory, but he was very relieved when I clarified that he didn't need to marry or move out until he was grown up.

  3. What an interesting conversation. I love reading the perceptions of children with feminist parents and comparing them to the mainstream views.

  4. F says he never wants to marry a girl, so if he decides to have a partner, he's going to be gay. And yes, he knows what it means (my mother-in-law, aunt and cousin are all gay with partners).

    It will be very interesting to see how that develops.

    Make sure you keep those predictions written down so you can show them when they're older.