Where I grew up, in Zimbabwe, girls were given dolls to play with and boys were given cars. I can remember my mother telling me a story about how when she was a little girl she swapped her dolls for the neighbour’s son’s cars and what a big deal was made of it.
Anyway, when Joshi and I first went to Steiner playgroup together, in one of the corners of the room lay quite a few dolls, each in their own cradle with their own blankets. It was very beautiful and obviously someone had arranged them there with a lot of love and care. After a couple of sessions the teacher told us we’d be making a very simple doll for our child using pink cloth and stuffing it with wool. Immediately I thought, “What about the boys?” Of course the dolls were for all the kids. I realised how conditioned my mind had become over the years, how I automatically assumed that the boys wouldn’t be getting dolls.
And now, when I think about it, it makes so much sense to me. I mean, why wouldn’t you give a boy a doll? And why shouldn’t the doll wear pink? I think where I was raised parents did what they thought they needed to to ensure their boys turned into ‘manly’ men, whatever than means! Boys weren’t supposed to cry or play with dolls or show their feelings much because it was considered girly and weak. It was what was happening around me as kid, and I never even gave it a second thought, but when I think about it now, it’s outrageous. Boys should be allowed to cry as much as they need to. They should be given dolls and they certainly should be made to feel that it’s good and healthy to express their emotions rather than bottle them up inside.
There are so many benefits to giving a boy a doll. A doll gives a boy an opportunity to imitate the behavior of his carers as he nurtures and cares for another little “person,” someone smaller and needier than himself. All those nurturing and loving qualities in him come out. Those qualities don’t make him into a sissy, they make him into a deeper, more connected, more sensitive human being. In this day and age men often play a major part in child-rearing, so they may as well start getting used to it from the very beginning, right? I’ve heard mothers say how their sons were really quite rough and rowdy in their play, but when they were playing with dolls they often become really soft and gentle. Playing with dolls didn’t take away their more masculine qualities.
So last week I bought Joshi (now 19 months) a lovely handmade doll. Yes its a girl doll and she’s dressed in a lovely pink woolen dress. I got it for him for Christmas but was too excited to wait another 3 weeks and gave it to him straight away. He was so thrilled and delighted. He couldn’t stop laughing as he held her and carried her around the apartment. As soon as he got her he went into caring mode – putting her into bed, tucking her in and giving her cuddles, putting her in the bath, giving her a drink, etc. It was just the cutest thing to watch. When I asked him what her name was he said, ‘Baba’. Now I’m totally converted on this one … I really think parents ought to make a conscious point of giving their sons dolls. It’s awesome. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below.
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