I mentioned this to a friend last week and she asked what my husband thinks about it. Surprisingly, I did not even consider that he might have an opinion on the subject. In my view, our son has asked for an age-appropriate toy for his birthday so I was just going to hop online and order one that looked cute.
Turns out, I was right, and Andy just shrugged and asked if I needed him to pick it up at the toy store near his office. But, my friend’s question got me thinking about boys and dolls.
Chase is a typical three-year old boy, he loves just about anything with wheels. Right now, Thomas the Tank Engine toys maintain their ubiquitous presence in our lives but he also enjoys playing with generic race cars, taxis, buses, front end loaders, cement trucks . . .you get the idea.
But, in addition to all of the “right” kinds of interests, lately Chase is also extremely into everything involving babies.
He loves hearing the story about the day he was born, he’s always asking me if babies like this or like that. Most of his narratives while playing involve babies — my favorite is where Percy the train is pulling a freight car full of babies into the station—and, he’s divided the Thomas engines up into “big boy” engines and “baby” engines using “baby-talk” to have them communicate with each other. (This is all very cute, but at times it is heartbreaking for me since I’ve actually been trying to have another baby for about two years now, but that subject has its own post!).
Nearly all of his little three-year old friends have become older siblings in the last few months so he has seen lots of babies doing all sorts of new things like breastfeeding and rolling over or smiling for the first time. It’s very interesting for him so of course, he wants a doll for his birthday!
I never understood the thinking that dolls are exclusively for girls. My father was always very involved in my life—he gave bottles, changed diapers, pushed strollers—when, in the early to mid 1970s that was not always in vogue for dads to do.
My sister and I were raised to view caring for one’s own children as neither a uniquely feminine nor masculine role.
When Chase was just learning to walk, I bought him a doll stroller to bring to the playground. It was a good tool for those wobbly days before he really mastered the art of walking. And, he needed a proper place to put his Elmo doll, after all!
On one of our first outings with his little stroller I struck up a conversation with another mom who mentioned that she bought the same stroller for her son, but her husband “made” her return it. She said that her husband insisted that she buy him a lawn mower toy instead because the stroller was too “girly”.I thought this was interesting so asked a few questions: (1) does your husband ever take the boy out to the playground without you (“yes, of course”); (2) is the playground within walking distance for your 14 month old son (“no, of course not”); (3)does your husband use the stroller (“yes, all the time”); (4) do you have backyard with a lawn on the Upper East side of Manhattan (“right, I see your point”).
In all likelihood, her child has no context for which parent should and should not push a baby stroller and which parent should or should not push a lawn mower. In his eyes, as in my son’s, dads push kids in strollers just as much as moms do. As far as Chase knows, both parents feed him, change his diapers, give him a bath and put him down for a nap. These are the types of tasks that he mimics when he plays with dolls at his cousin’s house. And, exactly the types of nurturing behavior that I look forward to watching him develop as he grows up.
So, it’s off to the toy store for me. I’m buying my son a doll.
How do you feel about gender roles and toys?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Allison Charleston of NY, USA. Allison is our city-dwelling, attorney-gone-stay-at-home mom!
Photo credit to Mr. Adwin. This photo has a creative commons no derivatives attribution license.