Arddun went to her good friend and neighbour Charlotte’s Star Wars-themed birthday party on Saturday.
Seeing how her middle name is actually 睿 (ruì – pronounced “ray”), I thought it’d be rather poetic if she turned up as her kickass namesake.
We’ve been reading Alice in Wonderland to Arddun lately – the unabridged version. She’s watched the Disney version about ten times and has a very short board book version of it. But it wasn’t until she kept asking me to read the Ladybird Classic version – broken into chapters – that I wondered about her appetite for the whole hog.
I ended up downloading Alice for the iPad. More ebook than app, it features the unabridged version of AiWL with some cute interactive bits now and again – falling cupcakes, Alice elongating like a telescope as she gets bigger before shrinking again, comfits bouncing off a Dodo’s back… A childhood classic imagined by Lewis Carroll, illuminated by John Tenniel and then brought to life through the wonders of technology.
I don’t know that Arddun pays attention to the whole thing. There are lots of talky bits and Alice herself tends to go off in tangents that a 4yo can hardly keep up or be bothered with. But by and large, Arddun understands what’s going on. And she really looks forward to doing the book together come bedtime.
So it was little wonder that when Book Week was around the corner and Arddun was to turn up in school as a book character, we did Alice.
Lots and lots of rules about the dress-up, actually. They could only come as a book character, not a TV one. Please, no princesses or superheroes (read: no last-minute raiding of your child’s dress-up box). They had to bring their book along to school (so I had to run out and buy one because she wasn’t going to traipse into school with my iPad!)
After a quick rummage through existing stash and a dash to Top Bargain for that cheap and cheerful traffic-stopping yellow wig, our Alice was born. But just so there could be no mistaking who her book character was, we needed a storytelling prop.
All in all, a rather fun non-uniform day.
It’s the 31st of October, and I’ve got something big on my mind – the final settlement of my birth home in Singapore, the flat my mother and aunt grew up in. But to the rest of the western world, it’s about something far more entertaining – Halloween.
Australia isn’t real big on the Halloween shindig. Part of it is due to the Aussie aversion to anything they perceive as overtly American, and part of it just got left out of its immigrant DNA way back when British settlers arrived, all newly buttoned up and Victorianised. As to its origins, there is a little argy-bargy there too. Some say it was a pagan festival made Christian (like Christmas and Easter – which also have debatable origins, by the way). Others say both early Christian and pagan festivals co-existed before they got merged when Christianity moved through Europe. Mostly out of expediency, because both festival dates were so close.
The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”
As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual—the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That’s what happened to All Saints Eve—it was the original Halloween alternative!
Why am I telling you all this? Because this morning, Arddun finally got to wear her Spider Witch costume – the one with the pointy hat. It’s Halloween dress-up at school today, not that Arddun would have understood its debated Christo-Pagan origins, nor cared. If Spider Pig
Arddun would have gone to school as Spider Pig. Because that would have been funnier. And I like funny.
But today, she went to school as a pink spider witch.
On Facebook today, I’m getting a weird mix of Halloween costume selfies and groupies, and a couple of rather upset feeds decrying this pagan festival and its growing encroachment into Australian culture. And while the former is largely to be expected and can be quite entertaining, it’s the latter types that are perplexing me.
Because they seem to be saying – repeatedly – that as a Christian mother, I’m being spiritually remiss in allowing my daughter to participate in these festivities.
I’ve thought about Halloween in passing through my Christian walk, and I’ve had at least three years to think about my convictions on the subject in earnest since I became a mother. So yes, the decision to get Arddun a Halloween costume was hardly a flippant one.
Of course, there are a few elements to Halloween (as it tends to be celebrated) that I take issue with. The sexualising of costumes as children get older, for instance. The fact that Halloween adult parties can rapidly descend to drunken debauchery in certain circles. The greed and sense of entitlement that can come about. (Had quite a few kids expect candies from our house, but didn’t think to prepare a trick when we didn’t have any. They just wanted the lollies and were miffed we were such killjoys. Actually, we forgot.)
The thing is, all of these are within the parents’ control – certainly in the very early years. As with anything, moderation and consistent teaching are required. Manners when approaching someone’s home. Stranger danger and safety. Values surrounding modesty while still maintaining fun. Arddun is not going trick-or-treating this year because I think she’s still too young to be exposed to that many lollies. But that’s a personal judgement call. I think it’s actually a wonderful way to foster neighbourliness, and she’d love it. And maybe we’ll do it next year.
The verses that many Christians often quote to underline the evils of Halloween are as follows:
There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18: 10-13)
Except why limit that to just Halloween? Don’t we need to be vigilant at ALL times? In such an overwhelmingly secular society as Australia, the religious/pagan element of Halloween has been neutered by supermarket commercialism. And yet, think of other forms of literature we’ve exposed our children to.
Ironically, the only times I’d encountered anything remotely resembling Deuteronomy 18 was when I did door-to-door evangelism in Singapore, and knocked on the doors of a few bomohs and Chinese mediums. Believe me folks, it wasn’t Halloween – it was broad daylight – and there were no scary costumes or candy. But my skin prickled and my hairs stood on end in a way I’d never experienced before. Nor ever want to again.
My faith in Christ is my victory. In Him, there is no darkness and I am under His protection. If I honestly believe that – and I do – then I believe that I can cautiously and intelligently allow my daughter to enjoy this day of dress-up, just as I’ve allowed her to read about Hansel and Gretel, and pretend to be Elsa making a magic living snowman. All while still teaching her who God is.
Apparently, this week has been Superheroes week. Tony, who usually does the drop offs and pick ups, didn’t get the memo so we were rather bemused when we turned up on Monday, and there were little Spidermen walking around nonchalantly, and playing with blocks. Two little girls were also dressed as ladybugs, which was cute and all, but NOT to theme.
“The boys usually get to dress up at Superheroes,” explained the room leader. “But the girls… they usually get dressed up as fairies or ladybugs because there just isn’t as much choice for them out there.”
Well. Challenge ACCEPTED.
To be fair, the room leader had a point. While I’m not averse to shopping in the Boys section for Arddun’s clothes, I’m a bit thingy about dressing Arddun up as a male superhero. Because Arddun is a girl. And she’s super. And I don’t see why super-little people costumes have to be so MAN. SpiderMAN. BatMAN. Teengage Mutant Ninja Turtles (admittedly turtles, but young MAN turtles.)
The trouble is, female superheroes have largely been drawn by men with a fixation on long legs and large, high breasts, and a penchant for drafty wardrobes. I really didn’t want to sexy up my toddler.
So I did a call for ideas on Facebook, and got the following suggestions.
All had great possibilities, but in the end, I remembered a onesie of Arddun’s that had a cape. After rummaging through Target, I found the tights and a matching skirt to hide the fact the onesie is at least a size too small, and voila! I present to you….
And here’s the Super Girl in action.
Yes. It would appear that one of her many superhero powers includes Turning. When done repeatedly and to music, this superpower gets boosted to the more stupendous Twirling. It is one to watch, because it mostly involves getting Daddy – a usually serious and dignified man – to twirl also. Super, indeed.
I haven’t given a summary of Arddun’s development in ages, but she has grown up so quickly lately, that I thought I’d try and capture what she’s like now.
Arddun has always changed from week to week, but her mental and physically developments in the last month have left Tony and I a little short of breath as we try to catch up. Since my return to Canberra from my week-long stay in Singapore on 9 March, Arddun has started speaking in short sentences, and has become a wonderful mimic. (Today’s new sentence was a rather demanding, “Come here, Daddy!” Which we corrected for tone, but secretly thrilled over.)
Things are starting to truly spark in the brain – she’s connecting words with concepts and meaning faster than ever, and now counts to 14. She recognises numbers and some letters, is able to follow simple instructions quite flawlessly (“Press 9”, when choosing which button to press in the elevator), picks up new songs within 2 tries, and even thinks she can juggle.
She is also besotted with Peppa Pig videos (I mean, besotted). And she drives the neighbours downstairs nuts, because she is still in love with Big Girl’s shoes… except she doesn’t understand the concept of our floor = someone else’s ceiling. And 8am being too early to wear heels.
More stylo shots:
I have told some of you in person that God’s timing – both in the macro and micro sense – has just been astounding. Arddun, all toddling innocence and joyful, boundless energy, has been a wonderful way to channel my energies and brighten my days. As I mother Arddun, I miss my mother… but in having yet one more thing in common with that amazing woman who birthed me, I feel closer to her all the more.Photos mostly by Arddun’s proud second cousin and original fashionista, Aunty Andy.
I’ve been reading The Wonder Weeks off and on for a year. (Thanks, Saz V!) Great book to follow, as it outlines really useful details about growing children aged newborn to 20 months – namely, what their brain is going through, what skills they are capable of (or not), and what growth spurt they’re about to embark on. The book also flags what behavioural changes are coming up with the leap and so far, it’s proven bang on target for Arddun.
If you’re new to the baby thing as I am, I recommend getting this book. At the very least, it has helped reassure me that some of the rough behavioural patches Arddun goes through are perfectly normal, predictable, and can be managed – even harnessed for the greater good.
Anyhoo, Arddun is currently making a “leap” in her mental development – what the book calls the stage when a child crosses over from one mental and physical milestone to another. She is starting to figure out Systems – the concept that principles can be adjusted to fit circumstances. All rather technical speak but basically, she is starting to develop her notion of Self. She is starting to understand that she owns and controls her own body, that she can make decisions… and that she can therefore orchestrate things.
Welcome to the world of plotting.
So far, it’s resulted in some lovely things. Like how she waits for Tony to undress from work, before picking his clothes and trying to stuff them into the washing machine to get washed. And this morning, she started to try and dress herself.