Archive for the 'My complicated feelings about…' Category

My complicated thoughts about the Angels Pageant

January 31, 2013

a close-up of a plastic crown

image courtesy of Allison Ko via Flickr

People keep asking me if Chloe is going to be in the Angels Pageant. And I want to say “do I LOOK like someone who enters her kid in a beauty pageant?” But I do look like someone who enters her kid in this pageant, because it’s not a beauty pageant exactly, it’s a pageant for disabled kids. They get dressed up in fancy pageant gear and get their pictures taken with crowns on. The website is full of grinning girls in wheelchairs. And, since this is a feel-good, “exciting and super-fun experience,” I assume everyone is a winner.

And when you have a disabled kid, you do stuff like that. There are so few activities out there that are guaranteed to be fun for disabled kids, you leap at every chance to give your kid something exciting to do. But I have complicated feelings about this one, and here they are:

  1. This is great. The kids love it, the parents love it. The kids get to feel pampered and recognized by people other than their parents, which for many of them probably doesn’t happen very often.
  2. So why do I feel so repulsed?
  3. When I see “beauty pageant” and “kids” together, all I can think of is Honey Boo Boo.
  4. At the Angels Pageant, they believe every child is a gift from God. Okay, fine, but is this religious? Am I expected to be religious for this?
  5. The pageant is open to “any boy or girl newborn to 105, with a special need,” and the website constantly refers to children.  So apparently, if you have a disability, you are a perpetual child.
  6. It’s “not about ability.” It’s about celebrating our kids just for existing. That’s not enough for me. My kid has abilities. Every kid, no matter how disabled, has something to offer the world, and these things are rarely celebrated. Other kids are recognized for what they can do, why not kids with disabilities?
  7. I’ll admit, number 6 is probably a politically correct attempt to say it’s not about disability. In other words, it’s a break from the constant obsession with large challenges and tiny achievements that make up our kids’ lives. And that’s great. But it IS about disability. Because it’s for disabled kids. It’s not a typical beauty pageant. It’s a disability pageant. Just admit it.
  8. I’m not against this in general; it’s probably the greatest thing ever for some kids. But I don’t think we’ll be doing this. Chloe already goes to drama camp, where her awesome teacher finds ways to make her a star right alongside the typical kids. If we want to get her dressed up in taffeta for pictures, I’ll take her to my friend’s photography studio. Extra attention from adults outside her family? She already gets too much of that, because she’s a charmer. Before I had Chloe, my plans for parenthood never, ever included a beauty pageant. And I’ll be damned if I let a diagnosis change that.

My complicated feelings about the skulls on Chloe’s pajamas

October 21, 2010

close up of dress fabric, pink and black and decorated with skulls

image courtesy of crafty_dame via flickr

For this entry, I’m going to take a break from the subject of disability and write about something that concerns every parent–kid’s fashion. Recently, I’ve noticed a trend in clothing for small children: death. More specifically, the skulls that once signified poison, pirates and anti-social sentiments have joined the ranks of hearts, rainbows, cars and cute animals as appropriate images for kids to display.

Of course, skulls-as-fashion-accessory is not a new trend.  In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is celebrated with images of every kind of skull you can imagine.  The difference is that these skulls, no matter how jolly they look, clearly signify death.  They are reminders that, no matter what we are doing right now, no matter how loved and important we are, every human being is actually a walking, breathing skeleton, which will spend a lot more time on this earth dead than alive.

Is that what I am supposed to think when I see a two year old in a pink, glittery shirt decorated with a grinning, heart-eyed skull?  Did her mother wake up that morning and think, “I’m going to put Emily in her skull shirt today as a reminder that one day we’ll both be rotting corpses”?  Somehow, I don’t think so.

So where did this skull theme come from?  Like most kid’s clothing designs, it must be targeted at the parents at least as much as the kids, which means that originally, designers were probably thinking about parents who spent their teenage years listening to the Misfits or the Grateful Dead.
Grateful Dead Skull and Roses

I supposed this is just another example of the way fashion evolves over time–things that start out as edgy, images that are associated with strong feelings and beliefs, become familiar and commonplace.  But not all images can or should lose their meaning so easily.  Most people do not wear crosses, Stars of David, or Islamic crescents without thinking about their religious significance.  And can you imagine a swastika, a Hindu symbol that will probably never recover from its Nazi associations, decorating pajamas alongside hearts and rainbows?

What does the skull trend say about our culture?  Have we overcome death, reducing it to a fun hobby, like gardening or bird watching?  Not likely. Maybe, with concerns about healthcare, school shootings, global warming and war looming over us, we figure that if we gloss over death, if we cutesy it up a bit with pink hearts and bows and proclaim that it’s nothing more than a kid’s fashion accessory,  we can reduce it to something more manageable.  Obviously, this plan is doomed.  Just like we all are.  Think about that next time you pull the grinning skull shirt over your child’s own grinning skull.

Updated: okay, so a friend of mine has pointed out that the skull thing was probably started by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Duh. Most of this still stands, except that any trend that involved Johnny Depp can’t be all bad, right?

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