Thursday, September 27, 2012

What's Wrong with Barbie?

by Julie

I was taken aback by a letter from a reader to an advice columnist in the paper recently.**  The mom of a soon-to-be five-year-old wrote in worried about her daughter's upcoming birthday party. She was seriously concerned that her daughter might receive :::gasp::: Barbie or other "fashion" dolls as gifts. What to do? Should she contact parents of attendees ahead of time and specify that such dolls would not be welcomed?

I remember when my kids were five and I can relate to how a parent's decision of what to allow and what not to allow should be honored. If this mom really thinks that Barbie dolls are evil and she prefers to keep them out of her house, so be it. I'm guessing that she's afraid that her little one will become fascinated by clothes and learn a false sense of beauty.

But...I think she's overreacting. I can't help but see drama in his household in future years. From the very beginning, I have always believed that it isn't necessarily a "thing" that is bad, it's how a person relates to it. When my kids encountered new experiences, I like to believe that I helped them understand it and determine whether it worked for them or not. Teachable moments, you know? I worry that this little five-year-old will miss out on skills that allow her to decide whether or not things work for her.

My thought is that if you imbue an object, a word, a person, with so much power that you avoid it at all costs, then you've lost a little bit of your own strength. Rather than run away from items, words, people, why not learn more about them and grow from the experience?

Getting deep here, and that was not my intent...seriously... I started out talking about plastic dolls, right?

For the record, I had Barbies. Still have some. My daughters, too. Barbies can have lives, and horses, and careers in a way that baby dolls don't. The Barbies in this house have lived stories that my kids made up. They have (hideous) clothing that my kids sewed themselves. They have homes and places of work made from cardboard boxes and plastic crates. The Barbies in this house helped grow my kids' imaginations the same way their books, building blocks, squirt guns, Hot Wheels, puzzles, and art supplies did. Honestly, unless a toy posed a physical danger (swallowing, poke an eye out), it was allowed.

Have you ever encountered a kids' party where certain gifts were prohibited? Do you think there are situations where a parent *should* tell others what's allowed and what's not? I mean, barring some allergic situation...

Just wondering...
Julie

**The advice column was ASK AMY, in the Chicago Tribune.  Amy's Facebook Like page is here: Amy Dickinson.