My husband and I are joyfully celebrating our first Christmas and holiday season as parents. We refer to our 11 month old son as “little man”. He has started doing things that we envision young boys doing – he kicks the soccer ball around the apartment when he walks, he runs from room to room (he started walking at 8 ½ mo), and he seems to have a real interest in climbing onto things (his favorite is the shelf in the fridge).
We started looking for gifts to add to his Christmas wishlist over two months ago – gifts that would be found under the tree from Santa and from his grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins. There are many traditional toys for a young boy on our list – some arts and crafts, sport-related items (t-ball set, soccer net), a beginner race car and track, a tricycle, motorized 4-wheeler, building blocks, and sand table, to name a few.
However, after spending an afternoon with my 3 ½ year old niece, a lightbulb went off in my head. She has always been so gentle and loving towards her younger, smaller cousin (my son). I never gave it much thought as to why she is so great with him as there are likely many reasons (she’s being raised well, she’s surrounded by lots of love and family). But I watched her play, care for, and love her family (more like an army!) of dolls and realized that her exposure and introduction to them from a young age could possibly be playing a part.
I think my son is a sweet boy – he gives me “love” (he makes an “ahhhh” sound and puts his cheek to mine), he gives (open-mouthed) kisses, and when I cover my face with my hands and pretend to cry, he comes over to remove them and touch my face. As he grows, I want him to stay sweet – I want him to be loving and caring towards other kids, especially those younger and smaller than he is and I want him to be a good husband, father, and friend.
I proposed the idea of adding a doll to our son’s wishlist – and my husband surprisingly agreed.
There’s the belief that little girls are supposed to play with dolls and tea-sets while little boys play with toy cars and action figures. I have no problem with my son having these items– he will always get age-appropriate “boy” toys from Santa each year. But, I think these beliefs are based on a family structure from generations ago – generations where the man was the primary source of income for the family and the woman stayed at home and raised the children. So of course – it was very important for young girls to play with dolls – to learn how to rock, cuddle, and soothe their babies – since they were the ones who would be solely responsible in later years. However, these days it’s not uncommon for the husband to be a SAHD (stay-at-home-dad) or for both parents to work outside the home – and thus share the parenting duties at night and on the weekends.
I think it’s also important for my son to have a childhood doll to hug, include in activities, and take care of. I want him to be compassionate and sensitive and one day, a hands-on father who is comfortable changing a diaper and holding his child. (Note: I am not saying that just by us giving him a doll, he will be compassionate or a great father.)
I’m sure there are many who feel that a boy having a doll could make him “soft” and less of a boy/man – that if he is a sensitive young boy, he could be made fun of or picked on. If you asked me this question even a year ago, I would probably agree with this opinion. But, what then, makes a man masculine? Is it using exploitative language? Being rough or violent? I’ve met plenty of manly men who are extremely compassionate, loving, and sensitive. I feel that by introducing a doll to my young son, it will only help foster these qualities. And in my opinion, the earlier he is taught this and practices these lessons, the better.
* Finding a boy (or at least “boyish” looking) doll was not an easy task. None of the large toy stores in the area carried them – the doll aisles wouldn’t have been any more pink! I finally tracked one down on Amazon – a sweet looking baby boy dressed in blue!
What are YOUR thoughts on this subject? Did you give your son a doll? Did you ever consider it?