Feed on

A Boy and His Doll

Nearly all the moms I knew in San Francisco and Berkeley-the ones a generation older than me-had a similar story to tell about boys and dolls. All these moms grew up in the progressive 60s and 70s and swore they’d work to overcome rigid gender divisions in their kids. Moms would be seen having meaningful work, dads would be seen doing their part in the house, and boys and girls would each be given dolls and trucks to play with.

To their amazement, all these well intentioned parents then sat back and watched their girls rush for the dolls and boys rush for trucks. All the moms of boys reported having unloved dolls to then dispense with-the detritus of a grand experiment in gender neutral child rearing.

Given these stories-which even make it into several child-rearing books-I never bothered to get Simon a doll. He’s got stuffed animals that he likes, but I never pushed it past that. The thought occurred to me a few times: when I’d read about a pediatrician modeling his exam on a doll before approaching his patient or when milestone check-lists would say “can feed a doll”, for example. I’ve even thought that getting a modern Dapper Dan might be good way to teach Simon to dress and undress and finagle buttons and zippers. Something like Haba’s Phil the Doll would do nicely.

But each time I’d consider a doll, the cautionary tale of discarded dolls would enter my mind. “Forget about it,” I’d think. “Why throw good money away?”

Derby eve, friends David and Lisa came over with their 2 ½ year old daughter Sophie. Sophie brought her doll, and was kind enough to share her towards the end of the night. Simon loved it! He held the doll, cradled the doll, and carried the doll around. And unlike with his stuffed animals, he never tossed the doll aside or threw her. Nope, he modeled gentle, caring behavior throughout.

Was this a fluke? Shall I bring Phil home to live with us? Stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.