I recently read a debate on a public forum where mothers were discussing whether it was appropriate for their boys to be playing with dolls and toy strollers, pink or otherwise.
The arguments on either side were fairly simple. One side put the choice onto their husbands, who apparently would rather their toddlers were playing with footballs and toy cars, and felt uncomfortable with their manly babies being exposed to too much pink. The other side took the banning of ‘girl toys’ to be the parents way of bringing up mini chauvinists, who would shun both cooking and childcare, and treat their future wives as second class citizens.
I was particularly interested to note that from what I saw, no-one was making the argument that it simply doesn’t matter. Toys are toys. No one was insisting that your son either cooking up a frenzy in a plastic kitchen, or angrily causing mini car pile-ups has no effect on what kind of boy or man they will become.
So does it? Personally I found the conversation slightly ridiculous. If your son wants a buggy, let him have one, If you can find a blue one, great. Otherwise, get the pink one! The idea that by your child playing with a fake baby they are going to be anything less than a “proper boy” is frankly ludicrous, and yes, as I saw one mother say, bordering on homophobia. Pretend play, which includes feeding a fake baby, cuddling it, kissing teddies, and taking care of a toy in a nurturing way, is an important developmental milestone which every child, male or female should be experiencing and indulging in.
Just in case anyone needs any help working out what is worrying male behaviour, it includes wearing female undergarments and recognising shoe designers by the heel size. Your toddler is simply learning and growing. In my opinion, there is no difference between your son hugging his Action man and hugging his sister’s Barbie doll.
On the other hand, I also had to stifle a laugh at the mothers who are rallying against the wife-beaters of tomorrow. If for whatever reason, our sons do not end up with buggies and dolls, because they are simply not interested or perhaps because we can’t all afford to indulge this weeks interest, I think there are far more important ways of showing them how to grow up to be well rounded and sensitive men. You want your son to know how to cook, even without a plastic kitchen? So take him into the full sized one and let him pour the flour. You want your baby boy to be a hands-on father, then lead by example and be the kind of dad that inspires that behaviour in his kids. Shoving a pink plastic buggy in front of him isn’t going to make him a nurturing parent, any more than it will make him gay to be frank. Both concerns seem to me to be rooted in social ignorance. This idea can only be reinforced when you realise how little you worry that your daughters enjoy playing with cars and planes.
On a personal level, after an afternoon at a public stay and play, where R spent an hour cuddling and feeding a baby doll, I decided to get him his own. Due to his sight, his developmental play has been somewhat behind, and this was the first instance of pretend play I had seen him take part in. I was delighted. We got him a blue ‘boy’ doll, (as if he knows the difference) and a pink stroller, mainly because it was cost-effective and cute looking. He loves putting the baby’s clothes on and off, taking him for walks in the stroller, and giving him cuddles and kisses.
Just in case that worries anyone, he also loves throwing the baby against the wall, building towers on its face, and discussing the football scores with him at length. At least that’s what I assume his babbling must be when he chats to it. They are both boys after all.