In this much-anticipated (?) second installment of the ABC’s of Parenting, we’ll look at a misery that strikes most households in which young girls live: Barbie.
Lest I offend anyone with my dislike of the popular Mattel “fashion doll,” allow me to state here and now that I myself had Barbies as a child. Hundreds of stupid little plastic shoes, dozens of ridiculously impractical, glitzy outfits. I don’t recall actually playing with them, but I was apparently drawn to dressing them up in fancy clothing. I do recall not being so drawn to putting them away, and my mother often banished me to my room until I’d unearthed my floor somewhere beneath layers of miniature skirts, pants suits, and evening gowns.
I can only imagine how it must have pained my ultra-feminist mother to have such empty-headed toys littering the house. I do know that when my own first two children were girls, I determined NOT to introduce Barbie into our carefully selected collection of neutral- gender, learning-oriented toys. Yes, my mother taught me well.
But…best-laid plans. Barbie wormed her way into our household in the form of birthday gifts from little friends and Christmas gifts from older relatives who ignored my ban. Thankfully, I had already indoctrinated our oldest in the evils of Barbies when they first started infiltrating our bastion of higher-level thought. When I overheard her at age four telling a friend during a play date, “Barbie is not a good role model,” my heart burst with pride.
The Barbie hoard grew over the years as the girls had more birthdays, but it became evident that I had no cause for worry. By the time their brother came along and was old enough to play with them, Barbie and pals had an interesting place in our kids’ play time. Our Barbies spent their days bungee-jumping, parachuting, getting dressed up in aluminum foil armor, and starring in unusual videos the kids made together over long summer vacations. Their heads were frequently removed and replaced with odd heads from other toys in an homage to “Toy Story.” I never needed to fear that any of our three would be warped by Barbie’s outrageously disproportional measurements or her obsession with fashion.
The moral of this story: It’s pretty unlikely that any given toy, book, or game will screw up children of intentional, thinking parents. Looking back, the advice I would give my younger parent self? “Get over yourself. Your children will be fine.”
I think most moms and dads need to hear that message. There’s a lot less to worry about than we might think at the time.