I wasn't very happy when my little girls were picking out a generic Barbie from the dollar store… one clearly lacked appropriate clothing. I was pretty shocked at the doll staring back at me and wondered how anyone thought this was ok. Layla laughed and said something was wrong with her clothes. Penelope (4) happily exclaimed, "Mom, look! It’s nursing Barbie with a nursing shirt for nursing babies."
This made me smile.
Perspective is everything. I'm glad I didn't say anything ---and I generally don't because I do not like to point out what I deem is wrong to an impressionable child unless I’m sure something needs to be corrected or taught. Six and four are not ages that I worry about my girls getting the wrong message because they are given the right message everyday all day at home. To make a big deal out of something is usually the worst thing to do. In this situation Penelope showed a gleaming example that sometimes it's what you are raised around that really makes the biggest impression on the mind.
This actually reminded me of a great article called "Bang! Bang! You're Dead!" Like a lot of parents I once struggled with the rough play that accompanies swords and guns ...and boys. I was one of those parents who thought it was too violent. For a time was constantly concerned about the gun play with my first two boys. I thought I could curb the behavior at a young age, switch their interests to more peaceful themed play. I took weapons away, or wouldn’t buy them; to my dismay they made them out of things anyway: sticks, carrots, pencils, Legos, a finger…all can be used as weapons of mass destruction to the right imagination.
I complained that it's not good to shoot people or stab people. I dramatically worried for their future. Thinking back now it's laughable. A funny thing happened when Penelope was two and a half. She was playing guns with her brothers and as she was saying, “BANG, BANG!” I said in a tender voice, “Penelope I don’t really like that kind of play because guns can hurt people.” Penelope looked up at me with her deep blue eyes, blinked and replied, “Silly mom, this is a p'tend gun, not a real gun!” I laughed gingerly and agreed that was silly of me. I couldn’t cope with the difference between real and fake? But my bright, happy girly-girl of a daughter could? This gave me some food for thought.
What I realized many years ago was that *I* was putting my fears and knowledge of the big scary world on my very young children. It wasn't right and it wasn't fair. Not only was I smothering their natural instincts of play I was also shaming them. I was often times accidentally making my boys feel bad or awkward for wanting to play with things that is very much part of who boys are. Stereotype it all you want –and my girls do like weapon play too- but it's nothing like my boys.
Good guy vs. bad guy is as old as time and I soon realized I was taking all the fun away...and learning. Now you’ll hear me saying things like: "When you’re done playing put your weapons in the weapon box!" "Don’t leave your wood swords in the rain." “Please let your little brother play with that sword.” “Where is the gun Sebastian likes?”
We have two weapon toy boxes, one upstairs and one on the back porch. My girls and boys have lots of fun and their dad joins in too: potato guns, marshmallow guns, squirt guns, Nerf guns, swords, sticks, daggers, plastic grenades. I enjoy seeing my kids being kids.
From the link I shared above:
There is a gap between how adults see weapons play and how children experience it. As one psychiatrist put it, "We are so afraid of aggression in this society that we haven't been able to talk intelligently about it." While adults disapprove, children are often doing the child's work of play: experimenting with power and excitement, action and reaction, in a safe, make-believe world.
While I have no interest in changing my mindset about our ‘too sexy too soon’ society when it comes to young impressionable girls (and boys!) the situation at hand with the dolls breasts exposed was a cute and memorable reminder that how I see things vs. how my child experiences them just might be two very different things.