No Barbies for Boys, Either by Annita Woz

giantzucchinifeetPlease,” I instructed the crowd gathering in my mother’s living room, “please, no Barbies.” We had just drawn names for the holiday gift exchange and my daughter was three years old.

I had successfully managed to get into their heads, “no sticking out tongues” for fear that she would turn into a nah-nah kind of girl. I had managed to prevail with “no use of the word NO” telling everyone to say, “not for you” instead so as to limit her from learning to use the word against me. 

I had even managed to get everyone on board with my request for “boy toys” and invited screwdrivers, cars, and books about bugs from the time she was born.  I believed nurture over nature could eliminate sexism, gender bias, low self-esteem, glass ceilings, and the desire to ever become a cheerleader.

I had named my daughters gender neutral games thinking that they would get more job interviews if their resumes didn’t give them away as being females at first glance. I honestly put my oldest daughter to bed with a Beethoven CD playing in the background because I believed that it could develop the math side of her brain and that might give a competitive edge.  My sister in law must have laughed her head off given that she was raising seven and had never needed a stereo to put her kids to bed at night.

And the Barbie doll. I believed that her self image might be put to the test against that plastic woman that no one measures up against. In all fairness, I might as well have advocated to outlaw Barbies for boys! That way they would not have some sense of false expectation about what kind of beauty to measure my daughter against when they thought about who to invite to the junior prom.

They thought I was nuts.  And frankly, I was kind of nuts.  Or at least, I was on my way. I was racing against the growing-up clock that no one should try and outrun.  I was peering into the future and thinking about my kid’s life, her confidence, her career, her hopes and plans, her future, her potential-  and I believed I could control her environment in a way that would make all her dreams come true.

I was really working hard to read everything, say everything, do everything I could to make sure I didn’t negatively change this girl who came into the world with such perfection.  I had, of course, read somewhere that what screws kids up are their parents, since they arrive innocent, wonderful and full of big dreams of their own until their parents change their lives forever.

I was also afraid of the day when I would witness my daughter disowning me at some local high school ball game. I saw my baby girl unwilling to run to me in the hallway at school if her friends were around or refusing to acknowledge my existence at a community function.  Oh sheesh,  my kid might know who I really am and might run directly to the opposite corner of life.

And let’s not forget how hard this line of thinking is on grandparents.  For years, they are our parents, doing the best they can, mostly appreciated, have survived the teen years, now a good friend during the pregnancy. 

Then Whap! Their daughter is going to have a baby and she starts reading all the books. 

Suddenly, everything Grandma has done has to be reviewed, analyzed, pros and con lists are made, points are given for good choices, criticism for opposing theories, gasps of “what was she thinking!” can be heard by first time moms from all sections of the labor and delivery prep class.

How much of parenting is fear?

If you’ve ever looked into the eyes of a child, you know they can see right through you. If you don’t really love to play with kids, and you are the one starting up the game of kickball,  they know it. You get out fast.

In hindsight, I should have thrown out my wristwatch entirely then and there and just sat there taking time to stare at my creation and let her see me for what I was.  That alone would have scared her directly onto the right path toward adulthood.

There must be nothing more convincing than looking into mom’s eyes and seeing raw love for the safety and smooth transition through childhood into adulthood.  The honest glaring truth that a parent will do almost anything  to put a kid on the straight and narrow is probably a truth that translates into all cultures of moms everywhere in the world.

It’s a delicate balance this resistance to be everything we are. To let our kids see everything we are.

-And everything we aren’t. 


A. Woz.

2 Responses

  1. I like this. I’m sure each generation wonders why our children have so little faith in the way they were raised! I just try to look at each generation as an attempt to improve.

  2. Barbie is only fantasy and not reality. They are inferior to real females. I’d collected them. Never did I judge a female to be compared to that toy. I was attracted to the doll as a toy. Never had I been gender confused, gay, or less masculine. They were Only toys. No piece of lifeless plastic can define who I am inside. They taught me to judge females on substance and not superficiality. My wife looked nothing like the toy. She had more beauty because of her real humanity.

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