InfantilizationPosted in Parenting, Socialization By Single Dad On February 13, 2011
in·fantil·i·zation (nfn-tl--zshn) n. : The act of treating or condescending to as if still a young child
Pearlsky got her first wheelchair when she was about three years old. We were given two choices for conveyance, a wheelchair or a special needs stroller. The wheelchair shyster salespuke RTS slime ball vendor assured me repeatedly that there was no medically significant difference for Pearlsky, and he did not outline any other differences to help make the choice. I now know much better (one is better for transport, one is better for school environments, one better for support, etc.) but at that time, there were no real parameters to base a choice upon. We chose the chair. And I insisted on the big wheels. And black. Why? In my mind, the stroller, especially as she got older, would cause her to be infantilized, especially by others. Big wheels, like “normal” wheelchairs. Black, like normal adult chairs. My rationales would be different now, although the same outcome. Big wheels make the chair significantly easier to use, and black, because personally, I think the way the colorize the chairs is not as aesthetically pleasing.
A couple of times a year there is some food based event in Pearlsky’s classroom for the students and the family. Thanksgiving, Cinco De Mayo, etc. Because I happen to sell the best coffee on the planet, I usually send in a bag for these events. At the last event, I was having lunch with Pearlsky and gave her some of my coffee. This drew some funny looks and a bit of a negative reaction. I asked if they thought it was wrong for an eighteen year old to drink coffee? Should college kids be allowed to? That quieted them down, but it’s not like I am going to give her alcohol when she is twenty-one, although, if not medically contradicted, why would I not?
I recently needed to pick a color for Pearlsky’s body jacket tlso thing. I showed you all of the color and pattern options, Jules and Rachel chose tattoo. Possibly against my better judgement, I chose white. I found it interesting that the very experienced orthotic guy (CO, Cped, FAAOP, Clinical Director … not that I understand any of those titles) told me that “tattoo” was the most popular with today’s teenagers. Why did I choose white? I felt that most of the colors and patterns infantilized her, that adults would typically choose the white, which would, at least optically, disappear under most clothes. I guess I do know adults who would have chosen Marvin Martian or Lola Bunny had they needed a tlso for themselves, but not knowing Pearlsky’s preference, I chose what in my small mind was the most “grown up.”
We went to visit Pearlsky’s brother David last week. As you can see, I dressed her in a purple heart-themed shirt. I think she looks great in blues and purples and this shirt fits her well. It has been pointed out to me that no eighteen year old girl would wear that shirt … it is more appropriate for a younger child. First, I’m a guy, so how would I know? Second, I don’t have a normal daughter, never did, doubt I ever will, so again, how would I know? I think it is clear that I want her “normalized” to age, or barring that, to a more mature age, so here, I messed up. I think I imagine Pearlsky to be more of twelve or thirteen in fashion age, not sure. One part that throws us off is that Pearlsky is about 4’10” (147 cm) and 85 lbs (39 kg), hence she is more the physical size of a young teen. Conversely, I won’t give you her actual measurements (needed for the body jacket tlso), but I will tell you they are numbers, both in ratio and actual units, that many women would die for, very adult.
How do I buy her appropriate woman’s clothes? She is very borderline woman’s extra small. Additionally, because of wheelchair / diaper issues, she cannot wear the same jeans that the high school hotties girls do (they are too low riding) so she needs to wear male jeans.
This gets into all the issues of the famous Makeup Sex post that looked into makeup, styles, and sexuality. Should she be “age appropriate” in dress (hence show her belly and cleavage, wear makeup, …) or do I “age down” her dress and looks? Being her father, and especially because of her disabilities, I am torn in lots of directions here.
People, more often women than men, will talk to Pearlsky in a bit of a “sing song” voice, or a voice that one for whatever reason uses with infants and the very young. Why? I talk to her pretty much like I do to other adults, even at times inappropriately not censoring my words. The “right” thing is probably somewhere in the middle … does it depend on her (totally unknown) mental age? Chronological age?
Television. CSI Miami (her favorite) or SpongeBob SquarePants (my favorite) (and, yes, “SpongeBob” and “SquarePants” are each one word, capitalized like that) (how educational). Cartoons or political talking heads? She reacts to each about the same. She’s eighteen. She is technically old enough to see any movie without an adult. Do I take her to see Inferno when it comes out? (eh, without Lohan, why bother?). For those of you who don’t know what “Inferno” is … it is a film chronicling the life of ’70s porn icon Linda Lovelace (of Deep Throat fame), hence a movie about a moron (and yes, that is an educated opinion) that was to be played by a moron (another educated opinion).
Now, don’t get your knickers in a twist, I won’t be taking Pearlsky to see Inferno. But why not? Seriously, why not?
When should I infantilize her? When not? Is it right to ever do it? Is it ever wrong? And right or wrong in whose eyes? Mine? Strangers? Teachers? Yours? HERS?
In my humble opinion I think Pearlsky looks great in the purple heart top and I favor blues and purples myself. She should wear purple the color of majesty and royalty as she is sitting on a throne.
I think life should be lived in color so please don’t choose boring colors like white(although technically a shade) in the future plus so hard to clean.
You have done a fabulous job as a dad so far so don’t listen to other people go with your instincts. A guy who plucks his eyebrows(and you think twitter shares too much?) knows what to dress his child in. I think P should wear what is comfortable for her and the easiest for her caretakers to deal with.
Where can one buy the world’s best coffee?
For what it’s worth, I’m 31 and would totally wear that shirt. It would be a bit young for me, yes, but I see high school and college students wearing similar stuff.
First of all, your instincts ARE good, so keep on trusting them. Secondly, I highly recommend the website Boden — especially JohnnyB which has decent, stylish clothes that aren’t trashy. They’re not cheap, but they are really well-made, and Pearlsky could easily fit into an XS or S. My Sophie will be sixteen next month and is very tiny, but I try to dress her appropriately for her age, too, without looking trashy as so many girls do. If she were “typical,” I would probably enforce some rules, anyway! On the subject of movies and books and conversation, well, I say go for the adult — I think it’s an opportunity for good taste, actually, and for exposing her to classy stuff. That might include SpongeBob — I actually love him, too.
I find it odd that someone would remark negatively on that top. As for clothes that are “age appropriate”…who doesn’t wear a top with a pair of jeans?? Sophie is tiny too, with no figure to speak of even. It’s easy to see her as a younger child and people do sometimes talk funny to her, but I think it’s because they are nervous. She loves coffee and I teach her to say “crap” and “shit”…’cause she already knows the “f” word!! It’s tricky, though, like you say. She still likes to watch “Big Comfy Couch”, but got a lot of the jokes on “Friends”.
I don’t let anyone talk to my daughter in ways that might diminish her. She wears mostly t-shirts and sweatpants, rather than jeans, for comfort. Although she’s 30, she doesn’t have a single cocktail dress. Oh well. I don’t either. And I began drinking coffee when I was three.
I’m 28, and while I tend to like entertainment geared towards kids more than most adults, most adults I know enjoy some kids’ things. For example, a report I saw on Nightline said that around a quarter of regular SpongeBob viewers are childless adults. As much as we like to think there’s a clear line between childhood and adulthood, it’s always mixed, and the same goes for the tastes that go with each. I’d disagree with treating Pearlsky like a small baby, but I also disagree with treating her completely as a stereotypical adult.
Generally, go with what seems to please Pearlsky where you can. As long as she likes the coffee and it doesn’t harm her physically (like with caffeine or some other component I’m not aware of), give it to her!
Fashion-wise I’d absolutely wear that shirt. And many women who don’t like the low-cut jeans or who have narrow hips wear men’s jeans. Dress her in what fits.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ve read recently about mobile beauty services that provide in-home salon services to people with chronic illness or disabilities. It might be worth seeing if something like that is available in your area.
Ok, I am so frustrated. I just spent an hour shopping for your daughter online, posting links on here for you, and it was deemed spammy and completely deleted!! Dagnabbit. I found some really cute things that matched her coloring, were contemporary and came in petite sizes. I’m too tired to do it again.
Do a google search for some of these sites; and also ask to have catalogs sent to your house. You can do a lot of shopping online, many catalogs even have measurement pages inside so you know what size to get.
Black House White Market (found a gorgeous blouse for her here)
Levis for jeans
Delias (tops only, the pants are awful)
coldwater creek (there are some gorgeous lavenders and blues that would look great on her in their spring collection)
My comment was something like this… she doesn’t have to be infantalized to dress conservatively. Those aren’t the same things. She can have classy style while still being on the cutting edge of teen/young woman fashion. If you get high quality clothing it will cost a bit more but last a long time with just a few accessory changes. The plus is that the clothing itself often feels really good – nice quality fabrics. I have some clothing that is over 8-10 years old and still wears nicely. I buy a new piece or so every year.
I hope this helps.
grrr. lost a post again.
For the fourth time, I am trying this. I just spent an hour online shopping for your daughter 🙂 Unfortunately, I posted links and was deemed spammy and it was deleted, along with my comments. So I tried a few more times without links and it disappeared. Dagnabbit. Don’t know what I am doing wrong.
First of all, dressing your daughter conservatively and infantilizing her (is that even a word? I’m so tired right now) is not the same thing. You can buy her things that are stylish, classy, and contemporary without being cheesy. Lots of women aren’t showing belly or breast.
Second, online catalog shopping will give you some ideas of outfits. Ask to have catalogs sent to your home. Often measurement pages are in the catalogs so you can get a better fit.
Third, I will just list some sites for you to google. I found some pretty things for her, with her coloring would look great in lavenders and blues, you are right. I found a gorgeous ruffled blouse on J Jill that would be so beautiful on her.
Levis for jeans
Black House White Market
and I can’t remember the rest
ok, what is going on? Why is it that none of the posts I have just written come through but the one post that I didn’t want to go through?
I went online shopping for Pearlsky, found great stuff, listed the sites. Infantilizing her is not the same as dressing her conservatively. If you want the sites, email me.
I’m high functioning autistic, 21 years old with a high IQ. In my case, though I’m very intelligent and (I’ve been told) think & write like a graduate student, in emotional maturity I’m often more like a very strange 10 year old. I still feel like a kid, still need my parents, etc. My clothing choices, as much as is possible given the selection (I’m physically normal), tend to be somewhat more childish and aren’t at all motivated by attractiveness. I play pretend on occasion, I hug my parents and sit on their laps, etc.
I’d say that the biggest concern is how she feels about it. I’d hate for someone to pressure me to act more adult because I’m 21, on the other hand, I’d also hate for someone to treat me like a 10 year old just because I often act like one. (For example, I’ve enjoyed some R-rated movies, like Daybreakers.)
On the other hand, whereas people tend more to treating me my age even when it’s not appropriate to do so, with Pearlsky it’s more likely that people will infantilize her, so it’s probably a good idea to push for more adult appearance and such. (Though personally I wouldn’t recommend making her look sexualized.)
I find that as my daughter gets older-she is 14- I try to go with less cutsey stuff and go more with simpler styles. I look at the teen girls her age and they wear jeans, hoodies, t shirts and headbands or ponytails. Sometimes I dress her up with fun stuff like funky sunglasses. She does wear 2 simple bracelets and 2 rings. I did get her ears pierced when she was 2. She wears glasses, but I got her contacts also. She sees better with the contacts and she’s not hidden behind the thick glasses. She’s fine about my putting them in and taking them out.
My 25 year old son said she has the perfect stomach for a belly ring! Like that would ever happen-lol.
I do struggle with the bra issue though. She hates them! She gets mad when I put one on, but in the summer, she needs one when wearing a simple thin tshirt. It was her older brothers who clued me into that one. Ha! I don’t put one on in the winter because her clothing is heavy and you can’t tell. In general I dress her plainly with a few little accents. I find that other kids are more likely to approach her if she looks pretty.
What about make-up? Not much. A tiny, tiny bit of blush or lipgloss on occasion if we are going somewhere special. Otherwise, she’s a natural girl.
So that’s where it all stands right now. Your daughter has beautiful hair!
There’s nothing wrong with that shirt. I’m 32 and I’d wear it with jeans and some Converse sneakers and call it a good day.
If you want her to look more adult I’d say be careful with prints. A solid, neutral color is always going to look more conservative and therefore more adult.
Does she really wear jeans when she sits all day? If it were me (it’s not!!! I know, but still) I would prefer regular pants, preferably cotton, because the seams on jeans can be bulky and the fabric is not very giving. But if it doesn’t seem to bother her and she doesn’t have marks on her skin when she’s undressed afterwards it’s probably fine.
I have to say, I agree with the above poster re: sexualized clothes. Not because she doesn’t have a sexuality, but because she can’t tell people to fuck off if they mess with her.
That top is absolutely wearable by anyone from any age. Though on an adult/adolescent it would be considered casual.
I still agree with the white for the body jacket. It’s an undergarment and undergarments, especially those that you want to wear under a lot of different clothes, should be neutral in color. Imagine here “tattoo” jacket shining through that shirt. That wouldn’t be fashionable for anyone, no matter age or style.
And as for jeans, there are shops where you can buy pants tailored for wheelchair users. They’re designed to be more comfortable when sitting, as opposed to standing/walking, which is what normal jeans are designed for.
I loved this one, fashionable, stylish, not too prude and definitely not trashy: http://www.wheeliechix-chic.com/shop/product_info.php?cPath=26&products_id=111
No offence meant to Elizabeth, but the fashion on that Boden site does not look like what any girl 15+ would wanna wear. Pearlsky is 18 now, she has the figure of an adult woman and can dress like an adult. Let her wear tops and blouses that are tailored in the waist.
And maybe try some dresses with a legging to match, like this: http://www.wheeliechix-chic.com/shop/popup_image.php?pID=53.
And if she likes coffee, why not?
When I grow up I want to BE you.
The questions you ask yourself are so well-thought out (and most of the time well-ANSWERED beforehand) did you ever at any time in your life consider being an attorney?
I like the choices. Except one. I hate all-white clothing. It is hard to keep clean and it just reminds me too much of a horrible two-part episode of the 1970’s Battlestar Galactica where the Colonial Pilot uniforms were all-white in some weird kind of ‘reality’.
I now fear white clothes. But then again I have issues. And I just like the mystery and fear that black brings out in people, which is why I mostly wear that single color.
I think Pearskly should be able to drink coffee and curse and do whatever she wants. In the end I always think that if Bennett says ‘Fuck You, Daddy!’ on his own with no prompting I’ll take that any day of the week rather than say a word a dozen times in a row and have him finally half-way repeat it only because he knows some reinforcement is waiting for him if he does.
Not all 18 year olds dress provocatively and the ones who do don’t dress that way all the time. Jeans, flattering juniors t-shirts, hoodies and converse are everywhere at the nearby university and junior college. If you’d like to buy her womens’ jeans, check Lee or Riders jeans, they have styles that are high waisted. Womens jeans are mostly cotton, but with 1-3% spandex, which might allow for better fit and less bulk. You can buy big and then have things tailored down. I’ve done it a few times and it is vastly cheaper than you might expect, like $5 to take a pair of jeans in and up.
Pearlsky’s hair looks young to me, I’d probably gel back the wisps with a little aloe. It’s hard to tell quite what the texture of her hair is from the pictures, but it seems curly. French braids hold curly hair out of the way very well and French braided pigtails are popular with the college girls around here…but you’d have to learn how.
I was under the misapprehension that the jacket would at times (like during the summer) be the outermost layer, which is what made me think tattoo.
I think you should take her to any movie you think she’d like. Inception doesn’t sound much like CSI, but heck, she might like it.
I can see two reasons not to give her coffee or booze, 1) if she can’t convey to you that she doesn’t like the buzz, 2) that both are diuretics and can exacerbate kidney discomfort when kidneys are functioning suboptimally. I say that as someone who has had one minor kidney infection that causes me discomfort whenever I am slightly dehydrated. Aside from that, I think she should be allowed coffee if she likes it or a few sips of whatever alcohol is appropriate for the occasion.
I don’t think anyone likes to be infantilized, it’s condescending. At the same time, no one knows right now what is age appropriate for her. The best you can do is insist that she is treated with respect, provide what you think is best and take others’ assessments of age-appropriateness under advisement.
I am 29 years old and SpongeBob is something I also watch on a regular basis. When I took a look at those patterns I based my decision on the the following:
What would I select for myself as a 29 year old woman who was formally an 18 year old woman?
I feel that my previously being an 18 year old woman allowed me to make an informed decision. But in the end you are her Dad and you know her best, so it’s your call, and I think your choice was fine.
It’s the Ship of Lights, episodes, Ken!
Fun fact- there was a third episode, the head guy in white was the big man from Knight Rider.
No, not the hoff- the old guy.
Something wrong/inappropriate about a purple heart shirt? Never! Those who love color and style wear what they/we like without worrying what others think. I am sure that Pearlsky loved her shirt because it came to her with Dad’s love and care (and the colors are awesome – biased though I am!).
Not a big fan of jeans, myself – always prefer leggings – especially when sitting for most of the day.
I think you know better than to ever think that anything purple could be bad for your Princess!
You are an awesome Dad
Teenaged and young adult women do tend to wear highly stylized clothes, from what I can see. However, when we women get into adulthood, we often wear heart printed tops, holiday sweaters and the such just for fun. I own a whole collection of brightly colored holiday sweaters that I wear for a bunch of holidays.
I agree with you that Pearlsky should be dressed the way young women her age in your area dress, Look at the high school girls and take your cues from them without going into the extremes. It makes a huge difference.
I collect dolls, and was avoiding a short fitted jacket that was on the market for them, feeling that no one would wear something like that for cold weather. Wrong! At my sons’ football games, I became very much aware that those short fitted jackets with a hat and scarf, leggings and Ugg boots was THE look this fall/winter. I think it makes a big difference in impressions for Pearlsky to be dressed just like her peers. I think it is great that you are aware of this. I’ve seen handicapped folks of all ages who are not dressed with care.
When my son was dxed with cancer at age 5, one of the things I did right was to go to a store and buy several brand new sweat suits for him with matching baseball caps. He was always dressed well during his treatment. Even bald and swollen, he was in fresh matching outfits. I think it made a big difference in the way he was perceived. So absolutely spend the extra time and money to put her in clothes that an 18 year old would wear.
Just a quick point – I realise your relationship with Pearlsky is perhaps not the average father-daughter relationship but if my dad took me to the cinema to see a film that had anything remotely sexual in it I would be so embarrassed! I’m not saying she shouldn’t watch those types of shows, but I know myself I’d want a companion other than my father for them!
Also, I like the top. But then I’m not reknowned for my fashion sense.
My apologies for being late, Professor.
Our near-18yo would wear a shirt like the one that you chose for Pearlsky. Tastes vary wildly and I have no judgment on your choices for her.
Oops. I must be off – be back later to finish.
The professors wife here (love your blog, btw). You need to find a fairly hip woman and go shopping for some fashionable clothes for Pearlsky. From reading your blog I would venture to guess that she can see and understand that her clothes are a little different from the clothes of other girls her age. I bet it would make her feel awesome to have some hip and trendy clothes even if it would be a bitch to find some that fit her correctly. That’s just my 2 cents…of course this is coming from a mom who dresses her NICU baby in super stylish clothes that coordinate with her hand made bedding every day…So you may want to ignore me all together…
A few helpful pointers:
1.Yoga pants are very “in” right now, they’re basically sweatpants without the elastic and extremely comfortable (also rather diaper-friendly).
2.As someone trained in speech therapy, I can tell you that people (particularly women) speak to infants in that sing-song voice because it elongates and emphasizes vowel sounds which are most important for comprehensible speech production. This gives the infant a better chance to process and learn these sounds earlier.
3.I don’t know how people in your area are, but here people talk to my sister in that sing-song voice because about 9 out of every 10 people you meet are freaking idiots.
I hope that you find this comment at least somewhat helpful.