Things That Scare Me

Kid's bike and news flyerYesterday when I picked up the little one from daycare, he insisted we go get ice-cream. I decided it was a reasonable request, and moreover there might not be that many good ice-cream days left this year. I called the girl who I knew to be hanging out at home, asking her to meet us at the store.

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Harry Potter – Gendered?

Harry Potter

Today, a girl in my daughters class asked my daughter “Why are you reading Harry Potter – that’s a boy’s book”.  My daughter doesn’t care – she reads Harry Potter because she likes the story.  But I’m confused – is Harry Potter really considered a boy’s book?  If so, why?

The only thing I can really think of is that the gendering madness has reached a point where everything children do must be gendered, and hence a gender choice must be made for HP. It’s absurd, of course – why would HP be considered gendered?  Sure, like so many children’s books it tends to cast boys as active and girls as passive, but it’s far from uniform (HP has a refreshing number of examples of girls in the active role), and anyway that’s such a cliché that it’s hardly specific to boy’s books.

Either way – it’s annoying  that 10 year old children worry about this rather than just reading the books they like.

Advent Calendar

For me, Christmas is a time of traditions; food, cakes, decorations, things we do – lots of traditions small and not-so-small. I always liked these traditions, and I find that I enjoy passing them on to my kid. There’something about having the same decoration up, or throwing the same party, or making the same cookies, year after year, that feels good. And it’s fun to see how early kids start to recognize this and enjoy it – even (or maybe in particular?) in a household where few things are “by the book”.

One of the traditions that kicks off the season is the advent calendar. They can be really simple – a piece of decorated cardboard with cut-outs you can open and find a picture ore similar each day, or they can be really elaborate. with wrapped presents, one for each of the days 1-24 December.

This year, ours look like this:

Advendt calendar

As a kid, I had an advent calendar with presents. Small things – a couple of pens, a few Legos, etc – but the excitement from waking up each day and rushing to see what was there was more about the warm feeling of a present each day than what was actually there. I get the same with my kid, even if our presents are more elaborate than what I had then. The advent calendar has grown to be an important item in her Christmas.

Happily, it’s fun to make, and it’s fun to have the little ceremony of opening presens each morning. In not-so-many-years it will be of no interest to her anymore, so I’m going to enjoy as much as I can while I have the chance. Not that the advent calendars ever goes away entirely if I can help it; I one for my wife, too, but with a present for each of the four Sundays of Advent.


Pebernødder (pepper nuts) is a traditional Danish Christmas cookie. It’s a small, crunchy, light cookie, slightly spicy. Like most things traditional, there’s lots of variation, but they usually involve cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Some like to make them hard (like real nuts), mine are more crispy.

In my famlly, pebbernødder is always the first cookie we do. We make a huge batch as the season is getting started, ready for the first seasonal get-together. The batch is made so that pebernødder can be a steady ingredient of family and social life all through December.


(pebernødder piled up for cooling)

Since pebernødder is the first cookie we do for the season, baking them is special. Baking is always fun, and a great way to spend time with kids. Baking Pebernødder involves a lot of simple, repeated tasks, easily done by kids – and the result is quick in coming, and tasty. In Denmark, winter is mostly dark and cold, and so we enjoy cozy, relaxed activities we can do together indoors – “hygge”, we call it. This is probably why we like the xmas season; it’s a chance to do a lot of things we like doing anyway.

Baking pebernødder is traditionally the first xmas thing we do, and it’s certainly fun and relaxed. You get to spend a lot of time together, talking, drinking tea, collaborating. And we get in the mood for all the other traditions coming up for the season. A nice time for the grownups, and kids love it.

Pebernødder (Danish Xmas cookies)

(Done: 2 kg pebernødder.  Xmas can begin)

(Update: recipe here)

Gender, sport, and TV ads

Fair warning: rant ahead. See, I have this hot button about gendering stuff, and in particular about how we build up images of what genders are and what a person of a given gender do. I always did, but let me just say that having a daughter has done nothing to lessen my sensibility in the area.

There’s so so many ways we tell our kids what girls are and do, and what boys are and do. And then when they come back and tell us what we’ve taught them, we say “see, boys and girls just have different aspirations right from the start”. Again and again we forget (or ignore, or whatever) that gender is a social construct.

This is so, so prevalent (all-pink girls section in the clothes store, anyone). What triggered me today was this little gem I found on YouTube (via Sociological Images):

Innocent, you say? Sure – except it tells little boys watching this they should strive to be heros and do stuff that will be admired, and it tells little girls that their role in spots is to admire the boys as they do their heroics. Which is not a good role model for girls who want to play ball themselves (did I mention that my daughter is really good at sports? No? Well, she is). In fact, it’s a model that tell girls that sports is not really for them, that their role is a passive one. With enough messages like this, active girls will go elsewhere – or learn to not be active. ’cause, you see, the message of “boys do, girls admire” is one of these patters that we (possibly unconsciously) teach our kids over and over, with TV adds being just one channel.

Messages that push women into a passive role (in sport or in society at large) are not good for our girls; as a father to a girl I’m annoyed by stuff like this. And frankly, messages that teach boys they should expect that a woman’s role is to admire them is not good for the boys either. These little boys in the ad may do good in basketball. But they will also grow up in a world where young women do better than young men in college, get better university degrees, and will get good jobs. These young women will not be looking for a boyfriend who expect them to sit passive and admire him (while he plays NBA2021 on his game console).