Thursday, October 15
When my daughters are seen at the park pushing big trucks through the sand while they make loud vrooming noises, the other parents smile and nod. But when some catch a glance of my little boy zipping down the slide with Baby Sarah, his doll, proudly postured in his lap, some parents can look downright uncomfortable. This difference is why I feel a tad sorry for little boys.
My girls are allowed to play anything they want; dolls, trucks, blocks, trains, kitchen, family-- all are acceptable forms of play for my girls. But my son, who has loved Baby Sarah since he was barely two, has heard many times at the tender age of four that dolls are for girls. He has watched parents at the park pick Baby Sarah up off of the ground and assume that he (yes, a boy named Sarah!) must belong to his twin sister standing by. My husband and I have re-assured him more times than we can count that there is nothing wrong with him loving Sarah.
But I think our culture at large must disagree with us. Just a quick glance of the doll aisle in most stores fills one's eyes with a sea of pink and ruffles. I hate to admit this, but even at our store, the doll section is filled with "girl" dolls. We do have a soft boy peapod doll in the infant section. And we have a set of twin dolls, one boy and one girl, but no separate boys at this point in these more traditional dolls. We have tried boy dolls. They just don't sell. In fact, Baby Sarah, a doll created by Corolle to look like a boy, has been discontinued. It must not have been a big seller for anyone.
But I just don't understand why. Dolls teach children so much! Experts in this great article about the benefits of doll play explain, "Pretend play, of which dolls are a part, benefits all areas of development. By dressing and feeding dolls, children enhance fine-motor skills. By assuming roles and interacting with other children, they practice language and social skills, including sharing, cooperation, helping, and problem solving. They learn the different roles people play and begin to see their own place in the world. " How are these skills only important to girls? Of course, they are not. So what's the problem?
I'm guessing we're stuck thinking of doll play as just rocking them to sleep and feeding them. My son does indeed treat Sarah this tenderly at times. I think it's a good sign that he'll grow to be a caring, loving father like his daddy. But he definitely puts his own twist on doll play, too. Sarah slides down fire poles that are too scary for him to try first. He also gets put in handcuffs as the bad guy and knocks over block towers as a mean bully. And one of my son's favorite summer games is throwing Sarah in the pool and swimming frantically to save him. In other words, my son finds "girl" ways and "boy" ways to play with his doll. Like any other good toy, it sparks his imagination and creativity.
I'm sure the time is coming that my son will start feeling too self-conscious to bring Sarah out and about with us as he does now. But until then, this is one family who is fine--make that more than fine-- with their boy playing with dolls.