Thursday, October 27, 2016

My son has a Barbie doll and it makes me uncomfortable.

Wherein my reasons are definitely not the ones you are expecting to find.

My son has a Barbie doll and it makes me uncomfortable. I never thought I'd be one of the parents that said that.

I'm trying to raise William with more... European.... values than I myself was raised with. I admire those values. Among them I think that violence should be more shocking and disturbing than nudity. However, sometimes my American upbringing gets the best of me.

On a recent Saturday, I had the opportunity to take William to the park, and then I wanted to go to the thrift store. A block away from the park we saw a sign for a garage sale, so we stopped in. There wasn't much, but while I was looking at a set of coffee mugs on one table, William was looking at some nick nacks on another table. He said to me “Oh, Mom, I see something you will want!” I looked over, and it is a salt shaker, in the shape of a naked lady. She's tastefully bare, but still very bare. I say, “Are you sure it's not you that wants that?” I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, “Yeah, ok, I want it. Will you get it for me?” Sure,why not, it's just a salt shaker. And European values, right? I get the salt shaker and the coffee mugs, and we head back to the car.

“Thanks Mom, for getting her for me.”

“You're welcome.”

“Mom... I like naked ladies!”

“I know William, I know.”

Next we head to the Goodwill thrift store. While looking for some shoes to fit my children's fat little feet, William finds a Barbie doll that is missplaced by the shoes.

“I couldn't play with her. If I did, the boys would say it's a girls toy.”

“And you would tell them that you can play with whatever you want, and there is no such thing as girls toys and boys toys!” I say, emphatically. Gender equality is a huge issue in our household, as is gender identity, since William is referred to as 'she' just about every time we leave the house because of his beautiful long hair. But William knows he is a boy and will happily correct strangers.

“Can I get her, Mom?”

“Sure, why not?” I agree. I find it important to note at this point that the Barbie dolls sold in this store are sold naked.

After not finding any shoes, we moved over to the actual toy section where William sees a whole pile of naked barbies. “Oh, actually I want this one. And Tristan can have this one. Is that ok, Mom?” “Of course!”

Because certainly we can't exclude little brother from our trip down European Values road.
I check. There are no Barbie Doll clothes on the toy aisle.

My child carries his naked barbie doll to the checkout, but then she is bagged up. He asks to hold her in the car, but when we get outside it is raining and the bags go straight into the back.
It's time to go home and eat lunch. William tells me he wants to name his barbie doll Marina. The other doll is her twin sister, and she is Tristan's, and her name is Trina. “Can Marina sleep in my bed when I take my nap?” “Yes, that's fine.” I answer. He often takes a toy to bed. “Will you talk like Marina when you're reading to me?” “I can do that.” I'm often all of the Mane Six Little Ponies, and sometimes a Ninja Turtle is thrown in. “Let's get home and have lunch first.”

We get home, have lunch. Marina gets to come out of the bag and lay down with William. William introduces Marina to his other toys, and cutely says “You can sleep beside me, in my bed.”
“Oh thank you, let me get under the covers, it's cold in here.” I answer in a high pitched Marina voice.
“I'm sure sleepy. Let's go to bed!”

When William wakes up from his nap, I am cooking, and he brings Marina into the kitchen. “Oh William, I'm cold! I would like to find some clothes to put on,” I say in Marina's voice. I am trying not to let it bother me that my child is carrying around a naked Barbie doll, but I am losing.

“How about,” says my ever-bargaining 4 year old, “you can wear clothes when we go outside, and when you're here with me you can be naked?”

Here I had to step in. “William, it is NOT ok to tell someone what they can wear, especially when they can and can not wear clothes! Marina has said she is cold, so we should find her some clothes.”

We don't have anything resembling doll clothes in the house, so I take a receipt paper and wrap it around her into an asymetrical shift that actually looked quite fetching. William says we need to make it more 'fashionish' by removing the top portion. In the spirit of compromise, I allow this. While I start making dinner, we discuss some cool clothing we could go buy for Marina.

“She could be a scientist, or veterinarian or doctor, or firefighter, a paleontologist, or even an astronaut! Would you like to get any of those clothes for Marina and Trina?”

When Clark comes home, I let him know about the situation, and I tell him I'd like him to pick up some outfits when getting something we needed for dinner. “We decided Trina was going to be a paleontologist, right, William? And what was Marina going to be?” I direct the question towards William, since I have forgotten.

“Uhh,” he answers with a sly smile, “A naked Egyptian.” Just in case anyone was wondering, no, that was not one of the options we had previously discussed. Clark and I look at each other as if to ask how exactly our baby seems to have gone directly into being a teen.

Clark agrees about the immediate need for clothing, and the overall weirdness of the situation. He and William go to Walmart and find Marina a cheap outfit, which comes with a purse and heels, which Clark makes sure to tell William are like prisons for feet.

It's been a couple months now, and Marina still finds her way into William's bed for naps. He occasionally requests I read in her voice, and I sometimes oblige. She has long since lost her clothes, and I haven't yet bought her more.

Usually, when parents worry about their son having a Barbie doll, they think their son is too feminine. I've never heard of anyone being concerned over the opposite.

I never thought I'd be the type of mom who cared if her son played with a Barbie doll, but my son has a Barbie doll, and sometimes that makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes I realize I'm trying to raise my children to be comfortable being outside the 'norm', even when it is outside my own comfort zone; and then it makes me proud.

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