Isla is four months old today. It has been four months since she arrived through the passageway, sort of like coming through the wardrobe. I imagine that this world so far is as strange and magical to her as Narnia must have felt to Lucy and Edmund. I wish life could stay that magical for my children forever. Too bad about the White Witch, that would be me.
There is no danger of Isla’s bubble being burst any time soon but Esther is another story. With her growing capacity to grasp concepts comes the gradual seepage of reality into her otherwise fantastic world. She heard a friend of mine talking about a mammogram the other day and said, “Mummy what is a mammogram?” “It is a way for doctors to take pictures of your boobies to see that they are healthy,” I said. “Why wouldn’t your boobies be healthy?” “Well sometimes people can get sick and it starts in your breasts,” I answered. “Boobies can get sick?” she asked. “ What kind of sick?” I was already at a loss for words. Ian jumped in with the word “disease.” This only started a whole new set of questions. “Dis-whats?” she asked. “What are they?” “It isn’t something you need to worry about Sweet,” I interjected, trying to put an abrupt end to the conversation. Must she know at age four about the ravages of disease ? No, I think not. I should have simply said that a mammogram is a message that comes from a place called Mam and left it at that.
Speaking of breasts, our penchant for dancing has inevitably led to Madonna. Esther loves her. Esther carefully studies the kaleidoscope of images of Madonna on her CD covers from her “Like a Virgin” days to her tantric “Ray of Light” stage. She is mesmerized by the chameleon that is Madonna in the photographs. She is intrigued by the daring lipstick and the way Madonna’s hair can change from short to long, black to platinum to red. I tell her that when you are as rich as Madonna, you can have any color hair you like at any given time of the day. Esther thinks this is funny.
I feel like we have turned a corner that I wasn't yet ready to turn. Where once our evenings were spent singing along with Mary Poppins, the Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, they now find us gyrating and posing in front of a throbbing loudspeaker. Who needs Julie Andrews when you can have Madonna?
My four-year-old has gone from worshipping a nun and a nanny to emulating a hyper-sexualized, self-promoting queen of reinvention. Hey, I buy her albums and admire her biceps just like anyone, but, now that I am the mother of girls, I am conflicted. On the one hand I think that Esther is just being exposed to a bold woman who has the world by the tail and molds it to suit her needs. On the other hand I see a questionable role model whose most impressive achievement is having the discipline, and free time, to work out four hours a day to keep her 47 –year-old body looking like that of a 20 year-old’s. I'm not exactly sure what Madonna is doing, if anything, to advance womankind but she is certainly helping us get through those tedious, late -winter afternoons.
Perhaps I am reading too much into all of this loss of innocence, but it is hard not to want to expose your potential-filled little girl to all the right things and none of the wrong things. Granted, Barbie is in the house, but she doesn’t walk, talk, or sing. Esther does this for her rather imaginitively. Madonna leaves no room for the imagination. Her message is loud and clear. And Esther responds to it by strutting around the house in her leotard and dress-up heels singing, “ I don’t want to hear, I don’t want to know, please don’t say your sorry, I’ve heard it all before, and I can take care of myself.” And, scarily, it looks as if like she can.