My daughter will be turning two in the spring. As she starts to assert herself and express her wishes with full sentences, it seems the transformation from baby to little girl is in full gear. With this transformation, and having also tuned into some recent posts at The Mule and PhDinParenting that discuss the appropriateness of the messages in some products that are currently being marketed towards girls, I have been thinking about Barbie dolls,female role models, and the choices we want to make as a family.
Having two boys first, I haven’t really focused much on the implication of high-heeled shoes for three year olds, scooters that come with make-up kits or dolls with disproportionate bosoms’ or the potential messages these “girl” toys may or may not have on my baby daughter’s life.
When there were just boys in the house, I took a lot of time to consider whether or not guns or any figurines that represented potential violence should be allowed in the house. When my first son was born I was sure I didn’t want them at all. Then after a lot of research and pondering, some interesting insights on play-aggression and actual violence, I became more flexible in allowing a select few toy weapons in the house. Playing pirates, knights, and cowboy, cop and robbers types of games can be wonderful playful outlets for learning social skills and sharpen emotional regulation. Not being a big believer in only having gender specific toys, we also had a baby doll, a play kitchen, and a mini doll house in our playroom, long before I had my daughter.
Now, my daughter plays with the tool bench, the pretend drill and with the knight’s fort just as much as the boys. But in reflecting on these two recent posts about Barbies and high-heeled little girl shoes, handsome hubby and I started talking about Barbie dolls and Disney Princesses and whether or not they would be something we would want our daughter to play with.
My initial reaction; These dolls portray a totally unrealistic image of women with the giant bosoms and invisible waist line. His reaction; If she wants the doll and has fun playing with it them then he doesn’t see the harm.
Ok, Wait! Then he said what really got me thinking: It doesn’t matter as much what doll Bella plays with three or four years from now should she ever want a Barbie, but, more so what image I, as her mother, the primary female role model in her life make for her of women and women-hood, now and for years to come.
I don’t always agree with handsome hubby, but this time, he might be right. The positive role-modeling, the healthy body image, self-confidence and the “I can do anything” attitude is what I should focus on and what should hopefully matter in the long run. I haven’t made up my mind whether or not Bella will have a Barbie doll in years to come or a scooter with a make-up kit but this much I think I have figured out:
What I model matters. I don’t have to have the perfect body because, well I don’t, but it does mean I need to love it and take care of the one i have. I don’t have to accomplish my every dream because I will not, but I should dream, dream big, and share my dreams with her. I don't have to master power tools or the art of gardening, because I can’t do either well, but my children and I can try those things together. Whatever I try to do, even if I fail miserably, it will show them that I’m willing to try anything. I don’t have to have all the answers to all the questions, but I do need to have the wonder to seek out information and the patience to share, learn and grow with my children.
Does it matter what message those products are trying to send? Will I try to stick to more wholesome, esteem-friendly products for my children? Probably yes. What about for you?