My hunt for weather-appropriate clothes (on sale) at Fred Meyer left me wandering dejectedly through the toy aisles. I thought that I might come across something fun to add to the collection (because Scrummy has chewed up a few of the play foods that I bought most recently), and Potamus got really excited in the cart and pointed at the dollies. I picked one up and asked, “do you want this?” and his response was a very definitive “YEAH,” and he hugged her tight (yes, I’m associating a female gender to the doll because she’s dressed in pink. Sue me). Fortunately Dolly was only $2.99 because some dolls are really expensive and I didn’t feel like shelling out $20 for an experimental toy (not knowing if his definitive ‘yeah’ meant ‘YEAH’ or he was just excited in the moment, like he does with snack-time). But Dolly, as we’ve named her, has been a permanent fixture in our house for 30 hours now.
I know the psychological benefits of boys playing pretend with dolls and other ‘typical girl’ toys like play food and stuffed animals. I read blogs where boys have long hair, or play with dolls, or wear skirts to Home Depot with their dads. I loved that he picked this toy on his own, and has been so lovingly attentive to her. He’s pretended to feed her, wants help wrapping her in a swaddle, and has laid her in a little box for a bed. He snuggled with her all last night, even when he came into our bed. I think it’s so sweet to see him holding her so lovingly while watching TV or eating dinner.
So, with all of this sweet happiness that I’m feeling in my gut when I look at this innocent little boy with his dolly, do I feel a little twang or twinge after today’s outing to KidsQuest? While nothing was said overtly, I did notice that people noticed…if that makes sense. Most of the moms I encountered seemed to have a wistful ‘awe, how sweet’ look on their face. And dads seemed to be thinking ‘is that a boy carrying a doll?’ though I wouldn’t say their looks were judgmental or hostile, but more…surprised? And then there was the older restuarant worker who almost fell over his own feet staring at Potamus and Dolly while getting back to his shift. He was smiling, but also seemed…perplexed?
Now, I don’t want to be over-analyzing every little experience we have in the future. Because I can’t read minds, and these people could certainly just have been admiring my adorable son, rather than thinking about the fact that he’s carrying a baby doll. After all, if I notice this, then maybe it’s because I feel uncomfortable? Why am I letting my son carry a doll? Is it some political statement? Is it my way of rebelling and giving the gender stereotype marketing a big eff-you finger? Or is it because he so sweetly asked for it and seems to love it more than he’s loved any other toy?