A while ago I spent some time researching dolls. I eventually settled on two by the North American Bear Company: Rosy Cheeks Baby and Big Sister. We finally got around to ordering because both kids are really into playing with their stuffed animals as babies. They put them to bed about once every five minutes, and at other times, I hear all of the language I use with the kids directed at the stuffed animals. It was time, past time, for them to get dolls. Both kids immediately started playing with them and continued all day.
Tag Archives: dolls
Now I have to find dolls I can deal with. I recognize that dolls are a very important part of the toy chest for both boys and girls.
My initial search turned up Girls Explore Dolls. These are based on real people: Amelia Earhart, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Bessie Coleman, Dot Richardson, Harriet Tubman, and Mary Cassatt. I was hoping for a scientist, but orthopedic surgeon and former Olympian is pretty good. Amelia Earhart and Harriet Tubman are so integrated into the storytelling fabric of our culture that it is hard to pick out the myth from the fact, and I would be interested to read the biography that comes with each.
Further searching turned up the Only Hearts Club dolls. The idea of a club, the pink sprayed liberally around the site, and the merchandizing that clogs the store make this a bad choice for a child who would access these things. However, the dolls, all girls, are more realistic than Barbie. The context in which they are presented is troubling to me including a featured McDonald’s Promotion on the front page of the website. Many of the dolls veer into the gender types I am trying to avoid, but there are a few that could be considered. Each girl has a dog or a kitten; that is just weird. Their stories read like teen magazines. They look like they have evolved from the more neutral group of girls I see in an old photo of their lineup.
Next I ran into Karito Kids which also have an annoyingly animated, glitzy webpage designed to suck in girls and make them feel like they are helping the world by buying these dolls. At over $100 per doll and then the extra outfits and more, these are a big investment. They all come with books that have their stories, and they, too, have been painted by the pink brush.
Similarly, there are doll choices that look OK over at American Girl, but the same issues hold true here. The base cost is high, the extra items are equally outrageous, and the text that goes with the American Girl dolls is not creating stories of strength. An excellent critique of the American Girl empire can be read here.
I then turned to Ebay and found a defunct line of dolls that included a doctor named Haley. And then Etsy turned up a tomboy doll. Where to next?
Over the last few days, we have had two house guests, friends from our college days, staying with us, and my father-in-law staying at my brother-in-law’s house. Our guests came to attend another college friend’s wedding on Friday, and our FIL cared for the two kids to free up both my wife and me for this celebration. The ceremony and the whole event were wonderful. The bride, our friend, was truly radiant and joyous.
In the midst of the bedlam of extra people in the house, event schedules that are not necessarily aligned with our children’s timing, and being cared for by others, our kids did pretty well. Both are showing signs of needing a bit more attention, and both realize on some level that their mommy is leaving today for a trip. I think the ripples should settle by Tuesday or so.
One ripple was that one of our house guests, in a beautiful gesture of reaching out to us and of generosity, brought some presents for the kids. For our daughter, she brought a Cinderella doll which I did not even see. I was working in my office, and my wife came in to inform me she had seen it too late, and now our daughter was asking for it.
A quick switcheroo was performed prior to my wife coming in, and my daughter was occupied by the sticker book that had been meant for my son, but she still wanted the doll. My wife and I huddled and came up with a plan. I had to be out the door in fifteen minutes to chauffeur my friends and their parents to their wedding (I even ordered a costume cap to play the role!).
We called our daughter into my office and closed the door. Obviously this was different from normal, and she hunkered down; I worried that she was thinking she had done something wrong. We explained that it was about the doll. I asked her what she knew about Cinderella, and her response was, “She’s a princess.” Disney has indeed penetrated this market. I then asked her what Cinderella’s story was, and my daughter did not know. She did parrot back the words I have been saying that princesses (and other royalty) have to take money from people rather than doing jobs like mommy and daddy. I really have to stop that line of reasoning. She just wanted the doll because it represents what she sees in the clothing, language, toys, and behavior of her peers.
I gave a quick synopsis of the story pointing out that Cinderella had a loving father, that her step mother and sisters were not nice to her, and that the prince liked her because of how she looked. I also talked about at the end of the story, Cinderella’s step mother and sisters were hurt, and maybe that would not help them from being mean. Bottom line, Cinderella was a loving person who could do things like cooking and cleaning like we do. However, the point of this story is that some one liked her just for how she looked.
We then talked about why we choose our friends, and we came up with a list together. My daughter chipped in as much as my wife and me about traits: caring, creative, smart, etc.
At that point, I noticed the Lego Mindstorms kit I brought home from school to learn this summer. I offered these things:
- We would find dolls of people who fit our list of what makes a good friend. I have found these, and am looking for more.
- She and I would learn the mindstorms together
My daughter seemed to accept this solution and even wanted to start that moment with the kit. Now I have to research dolls to see what might fit with our conditions. At least they should not be branded and have a predetermined role and story.
My wife talked several times with our friend who was completely gracious and supportive of our parenting; she is a parent, too. Later during the reception I entered one of these conversations, and she clearly articulated her perspective on it. I absolutely respect her opinions while at the same time not sharing all of them. I am just thankful that she seems not put out by this incident. I hope that it will not affect her relationship with my wife, and at the same time, I tremendously value my wife’s support in these issues.