We have a beautiful son.
He loves his doll, and gives her kisses on a regular basis. He often pulls her out of the bin and kisses her face. He does the same to his stuffed animals and even some of his favourite books.
His doll has blue and brown hair and rosie checks and a pink and purple outfit.
We really could not care less about it, but I write this post to join the mass of parents and teachers rejoicing in the spirit of boys playing with dolls and kitchens and “girl toys”.
Yes, he is allowed to play with the doll.
Yes, we gave it to him.
When he plays with his doll, which like all of his toys last for a short period of time, he learns:
- to be gentle. We tell him and show him how to hold a baby and how to be gentle with her.
- that pink and purple are colours. And that’s it.
- that kissing your baby gently is an important part of being a good caregiver.
- that we don’t care what he plays with, as long as he plays with it appropriately and respectfully (read this as: he doesn’t beat the pulp out of it if that’s not what it was meant for).
He may stop bothering with her in time, or she may become his favourite toy. It doesn’t matter.
When I was younger, we had lots of trucks to play with. I chose the Barbies. My closest-in-age-cousin had them and I thought it was fun to play with her, and so I wanted to play with her Barbies. You got to pretend to be someone else when playing with them – why would I NOT want to play with them? My parents didn’t care. In fact, they bought me a Ken and probably in there somewhere a Barbie, too. Eventually I grew out of it, but do you know what I learned?
- It’s okay to be yourself.
- It’s important to be gentle and kind.
- How to be caring and compassionate.
Now, I am a father, and I am probably better at expressing myself to my son than I would have been had I pretended to be a truck. Of course, I did pretend to be a truck, too, and a car and probably at some point I pretended I was a whale or something weird, because I was SO weird. But am I damaged? Nope. Am I a good dad? Yes.
The same thinking goes behind giving him a kitchen set. He sees Mommy AND Daddy cleaning and cooking in the kitchen, and now in the kitchen he has his own to work at, and work he does – for longer than anything else that he does, you can find him in there moving around pots and pans and plastic peas and corn. Plus, he makes a great cup of coffee.
As plays in his kitchen he is:
- practicing fine and gross motor skills, and he moves around the kitchen, brings us things to “eat”, opens the stove and fridge, picks up and places “food” into containers
- learning to share with others when he offers us “bites” of his delicious plastic food
- learning to be responsible like Mommy and Daddy
- experiencing life
- potentially igniting a passion for cooking or baking
NOT going through the tupperware drawer and making me rewash them 7,001 times!
Along with his once-thought-of “girl” toys (I personally like to call them TOYS), he has:
- a rocking horse that his uncle built him
- a wagon
- a hair brush
- stuffed dogs and lions
- a billion books
- and twenty nine thousand other species of toys
Will they define him? No. They’re toys, not drugs. He’s a kid, not a dog; he will make his own decisions, and be his own person. In the process, he will learn to be resilient, persistent, gentle, kind, compassionate, empathetic and fun.