Eli plays with dolls. I don’t mean stuffed animals or action figures. He likes those also, but he really likes dolls. By dolls I mean baby dolls and Barbies. His current favorite is a Barbie that has an attachable mermaid fin.
Before I explain how this showed up on my radar I should explain why it has been almost a month since my last blog post. Remember a couple of posts awhile back about being back in school? I guess I actually thought it was kind of cute to be sitting in a classroom again. Well . . . then the actual work started. It turns out that the professors expect me to actually turn in work and just recently have made it clear that I am expected to take exams, write papers and give presentations on my . . . get this . . . research. Research? I was mistaken in believing that my professors would care about my full time job taking care of my home or give me a pass on the actual work because of my advanced age and wisdom. After a few weeks it simply became . . . school.
So for the past several weeks my waking hours have been filled with (in no particular order or proportion): The historical inaccuracies in the movie “Braveheart” . . . Mel Gibson managed to get Scotland right and went downhill from there; The political and economic ramifications of the opium trade in Afghanistan . . . did you you know that the CIA was involved in helping the Mujahedeen fight the Soviets? Don’t tell anybody, I think it is supposed to be a secret; and the reproduction and reintroduction into the wild of an extinct African horse-like creature called the Quagga by selective breeding of Burchell’s zebras in South Africa.
When I sat down in front of my computer a few minutes ago, I decided I needed to think about something else. For some reason I started thinking about Eli and his dolls. He likes them and I don’t care. That’s not entirely true. I am concerned a little because I don’t care . . . did I mention before that I sometimes over think things?
The subject has been on my mind for several days. Twice over the last week I watched a man and woman have tense discussions over gender assignments and toys. They thought they were simply having a discussion about boys and dolls . . . but it went deeper than that.
In one case I was in the toy section of a local store. A couple had a little girl about 5 and a little boy in a stroller. Getting toys for no reason should be a happy time but things were getting tense.
The little girl wanted a truck, but mom was having no part of it. The little girl was holding a pastel purple wheeled vehicle of some sort that was definitely not at truck. She was in tears. The little boy in the stroller wanted a Barbie. Mom was in favor of the Barbie for the little boy and thought Dad was being a Neanderthal for not letting junior have one . . . that’s right for those of you keeping score at home . . . mom didn’t want her daughter to have a truck but thought her son should have a Barbie. Dad gave a version of the “No son of mine is going to (insert offending behavior here) speach”. He took the Barbie from his wife and gave his son one of those stuffed WWE wrestler effigy things that I though went out of production in the 1990’s. Again, for you home score keepers: Doll representing a well-dressed, generously proportioned young woman: Bad for junior. Stuffed effigy of a steroided, violent man wearing only underwear: Much better for junior. Everybody in the family left the toy section upset.
The second episode that had me thinking was in a local bagel shop. Again, it involved a little boy in a stroller. The boy had one of those baby dolls with a head of indeterminate gender and a purple body. Works for boys or girls. The little boy dropped his doll while mom was at the counter. Dad picked it up, looked over at mom, put the doll in a bag and removed a small toy assault rifle. I am not making this up. He put it in the boys hands and acted like nothing happened. Mom showed up with bagels and words were exchanged.
I will have to take a lot more psychology classes to understand fully, but it seems to me that parents tend to believe that the toys our kids play with will determine their masculinity or feminity. I don’t buy it. Not for a second. This is treacherous territory because parenting is hard enough without my second guessing. With that in mind, I will stick to my experiences.
All three of my boys played with dolls as toddlers. All three of them experienced fingernail or toenail polish. Eli is a little more discriminating about his toenail polish and maintains it better . . . but whatever.
My oldest wanted a Barbie for Christmas when he was 6. I was against it, but not for the reasons we have discussed. His mother blasted me for being an insensitive caveman and didn’t want to hear my reasoning. So Santa brought him a specific Barbie. He wanted it for two reasons. The first was that it was an Olympic year and this was an Olympic Barbie that came with different sports apparatus. The second, and the reason I thought Santa might want to pass on the Barbie, manifested itself 90 seconds after opening. He stripped Olympic Barbie held her up naked and said, “Look . . . boobs!”.
Charlie has been the least interested in dolls. He liked a little toe nail polish back in the day but he is a Legos and sports kid now.
Heck, I played with dolls when I was very little. Her name was Betty and she was my baby. I had a tea set and pots and pans, too. I would make Betty flapjacks for breakfast like my grandmother made. Then my Dad came home from Vietnam. That’s when I first heard the “No son of mine” speach. In fairness, my Dad was barely into his 20’s at that point and it was 1966. He had hopes and dreams for me and he wasn’t sure how he was going to get me there. I can’t help but find it ironic that he took away my baby doll and kitchenware in the interest of my future and now caring for children and cooking are two of my major responsibilities.
Eli is our little enigma. In the morning he will step out of his mom’s shoes, touch up his make up (he likes to help mom put it on) pick up his football and run down the hallway to throat punch Charlie for messing with his trucks. He likes dolls and can already hold a three point stance through the second count and drive block. He likes his moms shoes. Yesterday he was wearing them along with his hockey jersey while he practiced slap shots and body checks.
I guess I am not concerned that my boys played with dolls or got their nails painted because I don’t believe that it matters in the long run. My kids will be who they are regardless of me. I figure it is better to let them decide who they are on their own and only provide input when I am asked . . . or when they are about to put their eye out or catch something on fire. Or put the dog in the dryer . . . you get the idea.
Eli will figure out who he is. Hell, the kid probably knows now. I was putting the boys to bed a few nights ago. My wife was on a business trip and it was just us guys. Eli was gathering up his sleeping buddies . . . a few animals, Barbie, a stuffed dog that plays music and a rubber alligator. Yes a rubber alligator.
I supervised Charlie while he brushed his teeth. He will sometimes wet his toothbrush and lie through his dirty teeth. You have to watch him. I walked back into the boys bedroom. Eli was sitting on the floor with his baby doll in his arms. He rocked it gently. I could here him softly singing “You are My Sunshine” to the doll. He gently lifted the doll up and put it against his chest and rocked it.
“It’s ok, baby,” he whispered. “Daddy got you. Daddy got you.”
He kissed his baby on the head. “Mommy be home soon!” he said brightly as he held it close. “Daddy got you.” He laid the doll on a blanket and kissed it again. “Night baby,” he said.
Eli plays with dolls and I am not the least bit worried about his masculinity.
Thanks for reading. I promise I will be more productive in the near future. I’ll see you again soon on This Side of The Diaper.