How often do we play to the default premise being “dad sees boy with doll, dad freaks out because boys don’t play with dolls, dad gives kid a superhero instead and points him at something to shoot.” Let’s stop that.
I recently saw a video that I loved which showed a dad in the car with his kids talking happily about the Ariel doll his son picked as a birthday present. It has all the things that make videos great for me: well, mainly, it has smiling kids. The rest is inconsequential to me. I’m sure the dad thought about what he was going to say and maybe even tried the video a couple of times before settling on one he liked. The kids might have even shouted multiple times because kids love to shout. Then it all came together in one marvelous clip in which it is revealed that boys play with dolls, because of course they do, and that is great. Boys, in fact, play with a wide variety of toys. (Click here to see video via Youtube).
What I don’t like about the video is the way people are sharing it with lines like “dad gives unexpected reaction to son’s toy choice” or “you’ll never guess what this dad thinks of his son’s toy!” or commenting that they “didn’t expect that!”
Honestly, I believe these types of headlines – and that kind of thinking – are a major part of the problem plaguing the young boys of today. These messages imply that boys can’t cry, can’t wear pink, or communicate that liking princesses is an act of rebellion instead of an act of childhood. We’re going back to the classic line of thinking that girls play with their “girl” toys and boys play with their “boy” toys. As we fight to make sure our girls are granted access to Star Wars toys and to see more women superheroes in movies and on toy shelves, we let the boys who like dolls or who want to wear a dress do so – but as the exception.
Like we have for (ever?) hundreds of years, we play to the default premise being “dad sees boy with doll, dad freaks out because boys don’t play with dolls, dad gives kid a superhero instead and points him at something to shoot.” Let’s make a dad who doesn’t let his boy pick a doll become the unexpected. Let’s stop looking at a man with muscles and assuming he’s a hard-ass parent who wants his young son to “man up” and stop “acting like a sissy.” Let’s stop trying to yell and scream and coerce a smile onto a child’s face and instead let them pick what brings that smile naturally. Whether it’s a mermaid for your boy, an airplane for your girl or a set of baseball bats for your twins. Let’s stop apologizing to little boys when they come to our houses and all we have for them to play with are Disney princesses and baby strollers. Let’s not tell them to stop coloring in the My Little Pony coloring book or for wanting to play the role of little sister in family theater production of “When We Went On Vacation.”
I believe dads are ready for that. I know dads are doing that right now. Dads are raising their sons to love what they want to love and dads are calling out other dads when they pull shit like holding up a gun to their daughter’s prom date’s head. Parents don’t decide what toys their kids like but they do decide what they get to play with. Maybe that toy will be a baseball, maybe it will be a pen and paper. Or maybe, like it is with any boys who don’t feel comfortable enough to say so, it’s an Ariel doll.
In the words of that boy and his dad, “Yeah!”
Originally appeared on Puzzling Posts. Reprinted with permission.