The other day, I started my morning just like every other day: I fixed my coffee and sat down to check my emails like I always do to start my morning. I was super excited to see a sale going on at The Disney Store (and you can get 3% back if you shop through Ebates!) for the Toy Story talking action figures.
My son Sawyer loves Toy Story. Last spring, a little boy on the street gave him his old Woody, Buzz, and Slinky toys and Sawyer fell in love. He runs around the house carrying Woody yelling “Eeeee-awwww!” (Yeehaw!) and he tries his hardest to quote Buzz’s famous “To infinity and beyond!” catchphrase. One character he loves and doesn’t have is Jessie, so when I saw the sale going on, I immediately let his Granny know so she could snag it for him for Christmas.
After I sent the text, I began to think about how many times over the years I’ve heard that “boys don’t play with dolls” or that boys shouldn’t play with certain things because it’s not “right”. When I was a kid, one of my cousins came over to play. My sister and I used to be obsessed with Barbies, so we mostly had Barbies and Kens to play with. He made do, and we all played Barbies together. I remember my older brother snickering and calling him “gay” because he played Barbies with us. Just last year, one of Sawyer’s ABA therapists brought a baby doll for him to play with, but asked my permission to let him play with it first because “other parents have complained in the past about boys playing with dolls”.
Why, in 2016, is this still an issue? With all the progress being made for equal rights for the sexes, why do people still feel weird about a boy playing with a doll?
My son absolutely loves dolls. He has pretty much claimed his 8-year-old sister’s Cabbage Patch babies as his, and he also loves playing with her old Barbie dolls. Yes, my son plays with dolls; he also has a healthy obsession with cars and trucks. When my husband and I look at him playing with those dolls, we don’t think it’s weird or wrong; we see a little boy learning to be gentle and sweet with babies, and playing pretend when a year ago he would have pretty much just lined them up and been done with it.
There’s such a stigma about genders and toys. If you walk down the toy aisles of any store, you’ll immediately be able to tell which ones are supposed to be for girls: everything is hot pink and purple. The boy aisles are filled with Tonka trucks and action figures of WWE wrestlers and super heroes. What’s so wrong with a girl who wants to play with a bulldozer? Maybe she’ll grow up to work in construction or engineering. What’s so wrong with a boy who wants to play with that Doc McStuffins checkup station? He could grow up to be a family physician or a veterinarian.
I saw a meme once that I loved. It had a picture of a boy playing with a baby doll and it said “Do you know what happens when boys play with dolls?! They grow up to be….” and then at the bottom it said “dads, doctors, or teachers”. I wish I could find it now, but the point is… we should not be telling our children that it’s wrong for them to want to play a certain way; this stifles their creativity and their sense of self. I know that everyone has their own beliefs, but it’s NEVER ok to teach your child that being a certain way deserves mockery or shame. Children should feel free to be whoever they want to be. Adulthood is filled with judgement and plenty of people telling us what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives; let them be innocent and free as long as they can.