Thursday, March 13, 2008

Big Plans and Big Feet

For Lily's third birthday, my brother Josh and his wife Lana bought her a cute Barbie doll, all decked out for the beach in her fairly conservative bathing suit, wrap and big, beach feet. Honestly, her feet look HUGE compared to her unshapely stick legs. She can't even wear tiny Barbie sandals, but must resign herself to slipping undaintily into Ken's footwear. Poor dear. Despite her perfectly manicured toenails, she'll never make it as a foot model. I'm sure behind her pasted-on smile she's devastated and buries her big flippers in the sand the moment she hits the beach.

Okay, enough about Barbie's surprisingly big feet. I think it's great that little miss perfect has a body flaw...and this is coming from a gal who grew up HATING my big, Fred Flinstone feet. I loved going barefooted--I still do!--but as a teen I would keep my feet crammed into hot shoes in mixed company out of embarrassment. Now...I don't care who sees my big bare feet. (I'm a little less self-conscious now.)

Someday when Lily's older, I'll share with her about the ancient Chinese custom of foot binding. Shortly after bringing Lily home, I read a novel by Lisa See, Snow Flower and Secret Fan, that details the process of foot-binding. In ancient times, Chinese mothers forced their very young daughters to undergo the horrific reshaping of their feet lest they never find a good marriage match. Apparently, a good family--meaning wealthy or politically important--would never consider allowing their son to marry a woman unless she had bound feet. Foot-binding was actually outlawed in China in 1911, though it continued until 1949 when under communist rule China became "The People's Republic of China." Some one million women still have the deformed "lotus flower" feet. Here's a picture of an 86-year-old woman with her foot, deformed for the sake of beauty. Notice her other foot in a shoe that is probably no more than four or five inches long. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo news.)

So, hurray for big feet, I say! Spread your toes wide and wiggle them proudly!

A funny story about the Barbie doll...

Caleb found it in my hide-away place about six months ago, and he BEGGED me to let Lily open it. Oh, I forgot to tell you: even though Lily received the doll as a gift almost a year and a half ago, I just recently let her open it. I really wasn't ready for all the Barbie accessories and getting her undressed and redressed and, "Mom, I need help!" every time Barbie decided to change her outfit. I'm not exactly one of those anti-Barbie moms. (Maybe you are? Maybe I should be? Any dialog on this?) Even though I scoff at her unrealistic proportions, I don't think she ever had a negative effect on my self-image, and I don't think she will for Lily either. She's not real. I'm more concerned about magazine covers and teen pop stars making Lily feel like she's not __________ enough or that she's too _______________. You can fill in the blanks with all the self-image flaws that young girls concoct.

So Caleb found the Barbie doll. "When can Lily open this?" he asked a million and one times.

"I don't know," I responded a million times, and then "Stop asking me!" one time.

I never thought to ask him why it was so important to him, but when I finally allowed Lily to open her Barbie, Caleb let out a cheerful whoop and cried, "Finally John can get married!!!!!" (He never liked the name G.I. Joe, and so he named his big army action figure John.) He ran into his room, dug out poor, lovesick John, who was forced to wait a year and a half (how many years is that in Barbie-years?) to marry his true love. And Caleb doesn't like the name "Barbie" either and convinced Lily to rename her doll Selena. "It's such a beautiful name," he said.

So John and Selena got married that lovely winter day. Caleb and Lily played wedding all day long.

When Caleb was very small, he loved to play "family." He wanted three spoons so he could have a mommy, a daddy, and a little boy. He wanted to have three teddy bears, three blocks, three....everything. Even now, his sense of family and his own role in it stretches beyond that of most eight-year-olds. Just this week he told me that he can't wait to be a father someday, and he told me of a certain song he heard on the radio that he wants to share with his first baby. I don't know any other boys his age who look so far ahead into their own futures as husbands and parents, especially with such longing the way Caleb does. I know that God is preparing him to be an amazing family man. Somewhere out there, some little girl is going to be one very blessed wife and mother...even if she does have big feet.

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