Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Boys should play with dolls & other "girly" toys

Growing up, I knew I wanted to have boys. Back then, I thought I wanted three boys. Thought. After two, I have revised that. Having two boys' is awesome & while three of them wouldn't be hideously awful, I'm just not sure I'm ready for all that testosterone. There was reason I wanted boys, though; I wanted to be able to give the world some good men.

It might sound crazy but it's the truth. I wanted to teach them how be gentlemanly, what manners were and the significance of holding the door open for a lady, even if she is your mom. I didn't want to raise boys who were ignorant of other peoples' feelings, intolerant or unkind and I still don't. I want to teach them to be empathetic and nurturing so they can be good men and great dads.

It is hard.

So hard.

In a world full of macho-ness and bravado, teaching boys to be anything besides a full-grown asshole is near impossible. Boys are bombarded with commercials for shit like Nerf guns way sooner than you think. Phoenix got his first one when he was four. We didn't buy it and didn't think of it as a 'bad toy' so we let him play with it. He's seven now and wants to play Call of Duty, Left for Dead and Red Dead Redemption, ALL games that are violent, first-person shooters and ALL of which are rated M for Mature. Paxton is two and knows to use fingers as guns and clearly says 'I shoot bad guys.' ' Mom, I shoot you.'

This is when I say 'WHAT THE FUCK".

Little girls play with dolls and learn to love and care for something, even if it's just in play. We are taught to nurture that maternal instinct from the time we can crawl but our boys are being taught to embrace instincts that aren't all that ideal. Fighting. Wrestling. Shooting. Violence. Anger. Death.

Yeah. That last one is just weird to me. Why is it okay for the bad guy to die?? I'm not saying he should go unpunished but to think that "justice" means "killing the bad people" is just not cool. I understand boys will be boys but do we have to encourage them to be uncivilized brutes? Aren't there better things we could be teaching them?? Like problem-solving skills? How to resolve a conflict without violence? Shouldn't we be teaching them to express their feelings in more positive ways? Is it really a bad thing to have a boy who is caring and loving and thoughtful??

I hope not. So this Christmas, I'm going to do something new. Something I scorned my own mother for suggesting years back when Phoenix was younger. I'm getting Paxton a baby doll. He already has a teddy bear he loves and cuddles with (my old one); Paxton doesn't even mind his bear missing an eye. To him, it's just something to love on. I'll make sure it's a boy doll, if I can find one; probably a plush he can snuggle up with but a baby doll nonetheless.

Is there really anything wrong with this??
I want to teach him now there is no such thing as a girl toy or a boy toy. Toys are toys and they should help our kids grow in positive ways and encourage them to learn appropriate behavior. Toys should engage the instincts we want to become instinctual because teach our children, they will. Kids learn from play and from doing, it's no secret. So why can't we see the connection between the toys our boys play with and learn from, with the men they grow up to be??

It might sound crazy but it shouldn't. From Day 1, we teach our daughters how to become mothers, wives, caregivers and homemakers. We teach them to nurture and be kind; to think of others, to share and give. We give them dolls to dress and feed, with diapers to change. We build them dollhouses and teach them to decorate. We even buy them fake vacuums and brooms so we can teach them how to clean.

We do none of this for our boys.

Instead we give them action figures that "fight" each other; we give them toy guns to shoot at each other. We are not teaching them to be loving fathers or showing them how to express their feelings in a healthy & positive way. We are not teaching them to be empathetic or kind; we are not encouraging them to love one another and in that, we are doing them, and ourselves, a HUGE DISSERVICE.

Maybe dolls aren't the answer for everyone; I can understand that. There are definitely some 'boy' toys out there that aren't violent and at least, encourage creativity. LEGOS are a classic and come in girl-friendly colors these days, if you have a daughter. LeapFrog and Vtech both have new tablets out. Anything Crayola or art-related; always a great choice. Imagination-play toys like bar-be-ques and tool benches. Scooters, bikes, skateboards, anything that gets them moving.

I think Toys-R-Us had it right when they released that gender-neutral catalog this year in Sweden. A toy should be a toy. It shouldn't be designed for either sex; it should be designed to teach. Whether it's teaching how to love or be kind, how to clean or how to express yourself, above all else, the toys we allow our kids to play with should be reinforcing the lessons we are trying so hard to teach as parents: how to be a decent human being.


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