The Girl and Her First Song

The Girl loves to sing of course. But, lately she’s been wondering about how songs are actually made. So, on the weekend she asked me if I wanted to write a song with her. I told her I’m more of a fan of songs and songwriters, and that I’m familiar some of the moving parts of the average pop song, because I’m an avid listener. But, I’m not much of a songwriter myself. Her response was: “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll help you”.

So, we wrote a song, which we recorded on video. Here it is.

I put some chords on it and tweaked some things here and there. I also added the middle-eight section. Amazingly, most of the words are hers, and so is the basic melody.

Every day/Every night/Coming home and sleeping tight

Broken heart/On the mend/I sure do miss my friend

I’ll be alright without you

Waking up/Missing you/Feeling lonely without you

Going out/Of my head/tears are flowing – sadness, fed

I’ll be alright without you

Coming into my head every day/I remember your face the same way/Everybody looks like you/I really miss you

Every day/Every night/Coming home and sleeping tight

Broken heart/On the mend/I sure do miss my friend

I’ll be alright without you

My favourite line is probably “everybody looks like you”, which hooks into that  phenomenon of missing someone and seeing them in the faces of everyone you meet. That’s a pretty sophisticated idea, and I’m not sure where she got it. She wanted this to be a “happy/sad” song, which I was able to get behind pretty easily, since I love happy/sad songs best. And it ends up being one of those songs where you don’t know where one emotion ends and another begins. Not bad for an eight year old.

I don’t know if she’ll want to write any other songs. But, my goal is to encourage her to write anything that occurs to her to write and in whatever form it takes to express herself. I think everyone should have an outlet for that. I believe it’s a necessity for a happy life, basically. I was very happy to join her in this project, which (amazingly again!) only took about an hour. But for that hour, she was totally focused, which is another thing I want to help encourage.

Without any prompting, she dedicated this song to “future Maya, and future Dad”. I still haven’t worked out what that connection is in her head. But, I wonder if its about taking part in an act to getting thoughts and ideas down so it’s possible to remember who one was when one had them. That’s another pretty sophisticated idea –  that we are beings in time, and things never stay the way they are, including how we see the world, and perhaps how we see ourselves in it. Maybe she’s hit on a reason that anyone makes art; that it’s our defence against feeling that we have no control over our destinations, our identities.

Either way, I hope she keeps writing, whether it’s songs, or poetry, or stories, or a journal. Making art to wrest control of one’s life away from the forces of chaos, or mindless rule-following order for that matter, is a pretty good approach to living one’s life.

The Girl and The New Wave Do

Well, maybe not exactly new wave.

She’s growing out her bangs so that when she gets her hair cut, she can wear it off of her forehead. More on that later (or sooner).

In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of feedback on this picture I took in May at the Blenz at 6th and 6th here in New West. After this shot was taken, The Girl and I took a long walk around the neighbourhood and talked about houses. She wants me to move into one. I just like looking at them.

Girl in the Blenz May 2014

The Girl and Singing At Her Desk

The Girl and the fountain

The Girl sings. I mean, a lot. She sings mostly to herself. Her mind is full of music.

We had a chat last night about the people in our workplaces. Her workplace is her class, of course. I told her about the people I work with; what they look like, their personalities, their backgrounds. But, it was a quid pro quo deal. So, I asked her about her workmates, those being her schoolmates, of course. So, she filled me in.

A number of the kids she talked about I already know about. But, one I didn’t – “T”.

This kid sits behind her, or did until he requested a move. It was the Girl’s singing that got to him.

“Will you stop singing?!” T said one day.

“I can’t help it. It’s in my head.”

“Well, can you SING it in your head??”

This was the exchange that the Girl re-enacted to me. I can’t say that I can’t relate, and not to T’s point of view, but rather to my daughter.

You see, another conversation we had that very same day was about DNA. I explained that DNA is (very roughly) the instructions inside every cell of every living thing that makes it what it is.

This dovetails very nicely with this fact; I sing at my desk, too.

Luckily, everyone around me is too polite to tell me to shut up.

The Girl and Nunavut

The Girl is a winter person.

Or at least, she finds the idea of playing in snow to be irresistible. This may or may not be because where we live at this point in history, it doesn’t snow all that much. But, when it does, it really does. And then it’s playtime.

But here’s another thing about where we live at this point in history. The snow doesn’t tend to stick around. Rain rules supreme here. So, there have been disappointments. And when that happens, the region of Nunavut has been mentioned, even evoked.

“I wish I lived in Nunavut,” said the Girl at one point, tearily when the rain washed away her snow one day, killing her chances at creating a snowman.

The Girl In Winter Clothes

Nunavut comes up a lot. She loves the idea of a place where seeing all kinds of animal life, and having plenty of snow around is an everyday thing. When it comes to the cold,  I think maybe her Quebecois connection on her Mum’s side may override the Barbadian connection on my side.

But, that’s neither here nor there.

A few days ago, it snowed. And we went out to Moody Park, not far from here. She pretended to be  a husky to my arctic explorer. She was in Nunavut in her imagination.

Maybe one day, a real life trip there is in her future, and she’ll remember what it was like when it was just a mythical place in her mind.

The Girl and Cultural Objectification

A friend of mine on Facebook linked to this article from the Guardian about the sexualization of girls below the age of twelve that has somehow become mainstream in our culture.

Despite having deep admiration of and friendships with women over the course of my life, I have not always risen above certain cultural ideas about how women are perceived. Even now, there are many instances where I cannot see the inequalities between genders in our culture. There are times when the dynamics of “women as decoration” are invisible to me.

But, now I have a daughter. And shit has gotten real, as they say.

The Girl and Pillars

It is perhaps telling of our culture and about how far we’ve come (or not far) where women and girls are concerned that I am forced to confront this so early in the life of The Girl. With all of the mainstream forces aimed directly at her about how she should appear rather than how she should think or achieve, I feel like I’m not just engaged in the rigours of parenthood (which I am), but also up against the forces of a term I understood intellectually before I became a father – Patriarchy.

Where raising my daughter in the face of that is concerned, this isn’t about that stupid cliché about the overprotective Dad who insists on her daughter being locked away in a tower, guarded with the help of some kind of firearm. As a matter of fact, I think that whole thing plays right into what we’re up against. And I do mean we, as a culture. Because, this isn’t just about fathers and daughters, or even just about women and girls. It’s about everyone. It’s about boys and men, too.

For instance, what is it that we really want as men when it comes to relationships with women and girls in our lives? When it comes to intimacy with a woman, do we want a prize to keep, like some fishing trophy? Is the “hotness” of our partner meant to be some extension of our own competitive edge as a man? Or do we want someone in our lives who understands herself, and therefore has the capacity to understand us as well, all the while provoking our admiration as much as our libido?

And where this article points to places where girls can pledge, as Disney princesses, to be gentle and kind, why is it that those same attributes are often derided in boys, and later as men? What are we doing to boys when we reinforce this kind of stuff? Will they be better men if they resist these attributes in themselves? Or will the demand for that resistance against gentleness and kindness in a man be something they must overcome, or be crushed by?

Let’s forget for a minute about how all those cultural forces affects us as men. What about the ramifications of how every woman in our lives that we care about is forced to confront the idea that her mind is secondary to her appearance, and that other girls and women are to be viewed as hostile competition for the attentions of men, even in childhood? In a culture where everything is a commodity, I suppose this dynamic stands to reason. But, that doesn’t make it less dehumanizing.  And it doesn’t mean that it can’t lead to some very dark places that a father fears to even write about, let alone say out loud. The fear is this. When a girl or a woman is reduced to the status of an object, she can be owned. She can be dominated. Or she can be resented for not being attainable as a thing to own and dominate. Countless tragedies have sprung from this.

When I think of the Girl growing up in a culture where sexy makeovers before puberty are a thing, the fact is that even if she doesn’t buy into this stuff, she will still be judged on her looks, perhaps more so than she would if she were born a boy. A part of her self-esteem is more in danger of being based on the visual judgements of other people; boys, men, and even other girls and women. There is no getting around that in the historical short-term, it seems. This thing we’re up against in terms of how women and girls are perceived in our culture has deep roots.

What can we do, as her family, her friends, people who care about her?

Well, tell her she’s beautiful, sure. Beauty is good, and a worthy thing to celebrate, coming as it does in many forms. It is important to be able to appreciate and accept one’s outward beauty, and even to indulge it. I’m not down on beauty by any stretch, personally speaking.

But, let’s encourage her to feed her mind, too. Let’s teach her what it means to be a critical thinker, and to see the sometimes hurtful flaws in our culture for what they are. Let’s encourage her to develop and pursue her passions, and trust her own instincts. Let’s teach her about the importance of building her own character, of having empathy for others, as well as being able to judge the character of others so as to choose the right people to surround herself with, and to put her trust in as she grows up. Let’s show her that true friends and worthy partners are those people who understand that appearances change over the years, but love and respect remains the same. Let’s create a space for her that allows that her interests and passions should not necessarily rely on the approval of others external to her, including that of her father, or any other person in her life. Her own sense of self should dictate her direction, with our influence as a set of tools in her belt.

It’s a tall order.

When I read the article above, I realized that I not only want to help to raise a confident, empathetic, and passionate person. I also have to speak out against a system that is teaching little girls to believe that getting a boyfriend (or a husband), and gearing everything in her life to keeping him even at the expense of her own sense of self, is the most important thing she can do. Those ideas are insidious. They are the enemies of happiness, and self-worth.

To fight them as a father of a daughter, I’m going to need some help. And I’m lucky that I have it, with friends and family around her to help her make her way, even if the shape of that journey is ultimately up to her, which is as it should be.

The Girl and Snowpeople

The Girl is a winter fan. She has been quoted as saying it is her favourite season. So, when it snows around here (which isn’t all that frequent), the game is on.

Today at the time of writing, we had taken to Moody Park to make snow representations of ourselves. Luckily, the snow was of the packing variety, and the project a storming success.

Girl and snow

Here is what would soon be my snow doppleganger’s head. Or was it the torso?

Everything came together pretty quickly after that.

Girl and snowpeople

The difference may not be exactly proportionate, with the possible exception of that nose. But, there again, she is getting bigger.

handprints in the snow

We made handprints in the snow. Hers is on the left, and mine on the right. I don’t think I have particularly small hands. But it looks like there isn’t much difference in size. Amazing.

Maybe my camera is faulty. That must be it.

Anyway, for those who are observing it, Happy Christmas everyone!

The Girl, The Boat Ride, and Holding a Snake

Photo 208

The Girl: Let’s play “would you rather”.

Me: Sure.

The Girl: You go first.

Me: OK. Would you rather eat an apple or an orange?

The Girl: Apple. Orange gets in your teeth.

Me: That’s true. Your turn.

The Girl: Would you rather take a boat ride, or hold a snake?

Me: What?

The Girl: Would you rather take a boat ride, or hold a snake?

Me: OK. Boat ride, I guess. You?

The Girl: Hold a snake. Not the poisonous kind. I’ve never held a snake.

Me: Well, no. But, that makes sense. You’ve already been on a boat, haven’t you?

The Girl: But, I’ve never held a snake.