Monday, March 30, 2009

Fuzzy gender lines

A few weeks ago, Ian was taking a bath and I picked up a tub toy, filled it with water and squirted it. Boring story, right? Oh, did I forget to mention that disgusting black filth came squirting out of that toy? I know, I know. Ewwww. I thought the same thing. And with that, all the squirty toys were instantly tossed in the trash.

So the next day I did what any red-blooded American mom would do, I grabbed the kiddo and headed to the toy store to re-stock the tub with NON-squirting toys. We have a great, family owned toy store near our house that encourages kids to actually play with sample toys. Needless to say, Ian took one look at the place and went ka-ray-zee. He was grabbing toys and running from aisle to aisle with me trailing behind, scrambling to keep up. Suddenly he stopped and I nearly ran him over. He looked at me. He looked at a baby doll. He looked at me. Then he leapt at the baby doll, gave it a squeeze and handed it to me. I said "thank you" then gave the doll a squeeze too before putting it back. He picked it up again, gave it a squeeze and handed it to me. We repeated this routine for some time. With every other toy in the store, he spent a few seconds banging it around before running off. But with the baby doll, he was deliberate and insistent. I wish I knew what was running through his little head! Finally I scooped him up, paid for his new tub toys and we were off.

I have thought about those moments in the toy store ever since. He hasn't been around many babies younger than himself. Yet he was drawn to that doll and wanted me to snuggle with it. Where did he pick up those behaviors? One thing is for certain, kids are amazing little creatures. It's best not to underestimate their powers of observation. I finally decided that Ian should have a baby doll of his very own. I saw a glimpse into his nurturing side and that is a trait I want to foster.

So when I was shopping at Target this weekend, I swung by the doll aisle. It was a veritable sea of pink. There were dolls that cried, talked, crawled, drank from a bottle, peed, even pooped. But I didn't want any of that which left only one choice, a simple baby doll in a pink hat and blanket from the "Little Mommy" collection. I paid for it without a second thought. When I got home, the hubby was on the phone and remarked "for some reason, Lori bought a doll." "It's for Ian," I responded. "For some reason, Lori bought a pink doll for our son," he commented. "They don't come in blue," I replied.

Though that was the last I heard of it, the writing was on the wall. I knew that this doll would get conveniently misplaced. So the next day, Ian and I returned to that little neighborhood toy store to find a more suitable option. We found a simple bald baby doll wearing a striped shirt and denim overalls...for twice the price. The salesperson asked if I wanted it gift wrapped and I pointed at Ian and told her there was no need, it was for him. She congratulated me a little too heartily as she rang up my purchase saying he might grow up to be a pediatrician. Mkay, sure.

I swung by Target and returned the "Little Mommy" doll before heading home. And as I was driving, I was turning over this scenario in my head. It just doesn't make sense to me. Why shouldn't a boy play with a doll wearing pink? My hubby, a stay at home dad, carried around a baby dressed in pink after our daughter was born and no one thought twice about that. So why isn't it natural for my son pretend to be a daddy and play with a pink doll? Is it just me or does this little societal quirk seem strange to you too?


Anonymous March 30, 2009 at 4:28 PM  

Great story, Lori. That is a puzzling question! I'm not sure of the answer, but it's a good observation. --Mom

Margi March 31, 2009 at 8:37 AM  

I enjoyed reading this post, Lori. When we jumped back into the pool to adopt our second child, I bought a baby doll for our son, Owen, so he could get used to the idea of a new baby in the house. She is wearing purple overalls. He LOVES this baby! He kisses it, wraps it in a blanket, brings it books and shares his sippy cup. He loves it when we hold "The Baby" and loves to rock her himself too. He's so full of love!

We also have kitchen and cooking stuff for our son. When my husband asked me about getting "girl" things for him, I said, "He'll grow up to be a great father who knows how to cook." What's wrong with that? I say NOTHING! I think it's great!

My brother had his own Cabbage Patch Kid when he was a kid (named Travis) and I had my share of race cars and He-Man toys growing up. It was a good balance that I'm happy to pass on to my own kids.

:-) I don't see gender-specific here. I just see good parenting and love.

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