I try to live my life avoiding gender stereotypes as much as possible. Obviously that’s not something that can be completely done away with, but I do try to teach my kids it’s OK to be who they are, it’s OK to go against the grain of what society feels is normal.
If my son wants to play with dolls, then I’m all for it. If he wants
to watch “girl” cartoons, then by all means, blast that “My Little
For my daughter’s second birthday, my mother bought her a princess
dress-up outfit. My son, who loves dressing up in costumes, wanted to
wear it. Absolutely, kid. Have at it.
I had zero problem with it. And if he wanted to wear a dress when
he’s older, then fine, as long as he’s being true to himself. To me,
that’s the most important thing.
Of course, now, no matter how hard I’ve tried to instill gender
neutrality, he insists anything princess is for girls, especially
Cinderella. Also Barbie dolls. Those definitely are girly, according to
him, though he did become interested in some of my old ones when I
pulled them out.
Now my daughter, of course, has defied all gender stereotypes. I
know she’s just 2 and a half, but it’s hard not to compare her to her
brother or to myself as a child.
Her greatest joys are basketball and soccer and running and animals.
She’s so incredibly athletic and wild-spirited and full of action that I
can’t keep up. She’s so different from me, from how I remember playing.
I was involved in sports and enjoyed them, but as a young child I
remember mainly being interested in dolls. Dolls galore. Dolls I could
mother and hug and feed and pretend-nurse. Dolls I could dress and
change and put down for a nap.
But while encouraging my daughter in whatever she seems to be
interested in, other than aggravating her brother, I also felt like
maybe, as she grew older, we wouldn’t have as much in common as I’d
hoped. And I don’t think I ever voiced that to myself until I saw her
pick up a Cabbage Patch doll and try to change its diaper.
All of the sudden, I felt like, “Yes, this I understand.” This was
something I could play with her that I had experience with. My son is
completely entranced with Legos and Star Wars and all things I didn’t
partake in as a kid, so I’m learning as I go. But playing with baby
dolls? Well, let me show you how to feed that baby. Let me show you how
to change her diaper. Let me show you how to sing her a lullaby.
Sometimes I hear my daughter on her monitor reading the baby a
story. And the baby has to have its own blanket. And she’ll tuck it in
and say “snug as a bug in a rug,” just like I do. And then I fall over
from the cuteness.
I am restraining myself from buying her a special doll with diapers
and a stroller and a bottle because I don’t have a reason to at this
point. Her birthday isn’t until September and there isn’t a holiday
coming up. But that doesn’t stop me from browsing through all the
listings online, researching which would be the perfect one for her.
Most important in my search, of course, is that the baby doll have
the ability to withstand a basketball to the face or a dinosaur attack.
Because with Adele, that’s just common sense.
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on June 26, 2013.