The Baby Doll Effect

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You know you are the mother of a toddler when you have your first temper tantrum – that moment when you desperately want your child to do something, and they simply refuse.

Such was the scene in my son’s preschool earlier this week when each child was lovingly gifted a handmade pillow by the crafting ladies of the church. It was a beautiful gesture. Really.

Except my son didn’t want the pale blue pillow placed in his cubby. He wanted the vibrant floral one…with the obnoxious lace ruffle. His kind teachers allowed him to switch. And just when I thought I could let it go, I snapped.

I felt the need to justify his choice to every parent we encountered down the hall.

“Oh, yes, his sister will inherit this one!”

Clearly, something deep was happening. Why couldn’t I support my son’s decision?

In truth, the event that set my emotions off occurred a few weeks ago. My daughter –who had just turned one – was fighting her brother for the opportunity to unwrap her birthday presents. In the midst of the fray, I caught a most surprising glimpse through the decimated paper: a baby doll limb.

If there is one thing being a scholar mom has made me, it’s careful. I remember all the time and energy I invested into registering for gender-neutral baby items during my first pregnancy. Yes, I didn’t want to spend more money if we had a girl down the road, but, really, the last thing I desired was for oppressive gender norms to be cast onto our little boy. Let him be little.

But despite all the freedom in toys, books, and clothes we offered our son, he has largely pursued the stuff of stereotypical little boy dreams: cars, dirt, and loud machines. And we have accepted this is who he is. But I suppose this is why the unopened baby doll box presented such difficulty in my mind. What if my daughter embraces female gender norms – and all the trappings along with them?

It didn’t take long for reality to catch up with my racing thoughts. Within seconds, a plastic doll nestled in the safety in my daughter’s arms. And a toothy grin calmed all fear.

Just last night, as I was picking up our children’s toy room (i.e. the entire house), I came across the pillow and the baby. And, truthfully, I felt the hard exterior that I had been building begin to melt with gratitude for two objects that have brought my children such joy.

As for my kids, they won’t be perfect, and they won’t always make decisions I can understand. But all things work for good – even when I can’t see it.

And the little things only change everything when we let them.

::today’s daily inspiration::

7 thoughts on “The Baby Doll Effect

  1. I know what you mean. And I saw all go out of my control when they started school ha. It’s really amazing seeing them making their own choices and becoming a person different from us. It’s when I start to learn again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I am trying to prepare myself for the craziness that will transpire (at least internally!) when school begins. Two more years…I agree, though. It’s all about learning to marvel at what they choose and who they choose to become. Many lessons ahead indeed 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

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  2. I was hoping that, when I read the line about being a parent of a toddler and tantrums in the post preview, it was going to be about a mommy tantrum;)

    Oh, can I relate with you on this one. All of my boys have cradled baby dolls, and have gone through their own pink phases, but my little girl is a girly girl. She is a walking, talking stereotype. At first I blamed myself for not being careful enough to uphold the standards of gender neutrality. Eventually I realized that M is just being true to herself and her experience of herself in a family with three boisterous brothers and ZERO sisters. Her femininity is more pronounced because it’s part of how she understands and defines herself amidst so. Much. Testosterone.

    And I can’t help but wonder if we are looking at gender the wrong way. If anything, we can’t allow cultural influences to define gender norms for our children. I am still convinced of that. But kids seem to know what they like. We can’t let our own parental values interfere with what our kids feel to be true of themselves– even if that means being a girly girl, or fitting into another gender stereotype. If they change their mind later (and they totally go through stages that call all you thought you knew about them into question), no harm no foul.

    Our culture will judge them either way, right? May as well let them remain blissfully ignorant of that pressure as long as possible;)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ditto to all of that! I don’t have kids but I work with 1st and 2nd graders at an after school program and have nieces and nephews. I can’t describe how frustrated I am when I hear my brother-in-law tell my nephew he shouldn’t like something because it is “for girls” or when I see the little boys not letting the girls play with them in football on the playground.
      Regardless of all of that, most little boys and girls I’ve ever come in contact with are pretty into what they are expected to be into naturally, even when they haven’t been forced into it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, those situations in which people try to push children into convenient, socially- constructed boxes drives me insane! Thank you for sharing your perspective. In watching my own children, I was beginning to suspect that most little ones default to the kinds of games, activities, and interests that hold to the long-standing gender stereotypes. It is pretty amazing, however, when they break out of the box to chart their own course!

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    2. It is such a complicated issue, but, yes, the child’s ability to choose is natural (I will learn how to cope…at some point!), and gender identity is something that will develop as they do. It has truly been fascinating to watch our little boy and girl embrace the things that historically have been classified into their “sphere”. I do, however, love that they can appreciate toys, books, and nature without culture’s powerful filter. Just wish I could keep them blissfully ignorant forever of all the pressure they will face!

      Liked by 1 person

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