I witnessed something scary the other day.
I saw hundreds of babies. They all looked beautiful, sweet and healthy and they were all well-dressed and looked like they had plenty of food and toys.
The strange part was that ALL of them appeared to be in situations where they were cared for SOLELY by their moms. Not one shred of evidence existed that there were any men in these children’s lives.
For me, caring for an infant without my husband would have been a nightmare. He was so great at calming a crying baby. He could gently massage gas bubbles from tiny tummies. He could prepare and warm a bottle like nobody’s business. Tickling and piggy-back rides were other fortes of his as our babies grew older. The list of his contributions to my children’s well-being is endless.
Don’t mistake my observations for judgement of single mothers. There are women who care for children on their own and do very, very well at it. Certainly they made a great choice in having that child! But most of them didn’t choose that as their ideal situation. Lets face it, kids are a lot of work. Most mothers appreciate, at the very least, the other set of hands that having a man around provides.
That apparently was NOT a consideration when these babies I was looking at came into existence.
It was obvious that these particular babies were all purposefully created with the intention of being raised by females alone. Not one was a case of conception outside a meaningful relationship, death of a parent, divorce, a father in the military or any of the normal reasons babies are raised by their mommies alone. Weird, right? What kind of crazy society is this?
Then, I noticed something even weirder. Only a very small percentage of these babies- probably less than 5%- were boys. And many of those boys had a twin sister. I couldn’t help but think that baby boy twins were only kept around because of their attachment to their twin sister. Logically, I can only assume that there were once the regular old 50/50 ratio of male to female in this baby population. What was happening to the rest of the male infants? Were the boys sent away somewhere? Or -gulp- even worse?
The assumptions were horrifying. In fact, I got so creeped out I decided that I had to leave the doll section at the store.
Seriously, what the hell is going on in 2013, where mothers and fathers are supposed to both be taking active roles in their children’s lives, and little boys are so excluded from the baby doll world? What about a little girl who is raised by her father alone? According to many toy and department stores, that’s just impossible.
I started noticing all this after I heard the “Girls, Boys, Toys — And Gender” segment of OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook. Check it out here: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2013/12/11/holiday-toys-girls-boys. Then, I started having my own experiences when I finally got around to Christmas shopping for my 19-month-old son, who I call Buster.
Buster LOVES to push a baby around in a stroller. It’s pretty much the only thing he will throw a crying, screaming, thrashing-on-the-floor fit about. If we don’t get an afternoon walk in with his “EEEEEE” (his word for baby- It’s also his word for binky, his sister, lights, sky, leaves and tree) he will pitch a tantrum like you’ve never seen.
At his age, his sister would push the stroller but stop every few feet to check on whomever was riding in the stroller. No more than half way through our walk, she would decide she was too tired to push the stroller and beg me to carry it. I hated allowing her to push the stroller.
When my son pushes the stroller around, he’s all boy. He walks fast and pushes hard and doesn’t stop except to chase Oooo-eees (that’s his word for cats- ours is named Louie; incidentally he refers to dogs as kitties) or pick up anything large and exceptionally dirty. Taking a walk with him when he’s not pushing a stroller is much harder because he’s running everywhere, trying to tear leaves of trees and run in everyone’s yard.
So, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to get him his own baby and stroller for Christmas. But I thought maybe we’d get him some neutral or boy colored items. These are NOT easy to find. I’d like to believe that’s because I’ve waited so long to start shopping, but I doubt that’s the case. What’s harder is that even some of my family members seem to think I should discourage Buster’s behavior.
Is there some reason we’re still keeping our toddlers in a 1950s episode of Leave It to Beaver?
Everyone is familiar with “Mommy and Me” dolls. But if you Google “Daddy and Me” dolls, a bunch of really interesting but kind of sad stuff comes up. Sad but good are dolls that are made with a spot where you can put a picture of a father who is far away, like in military service, or dolls that are made with the image of a long-distance relative right on the fabric. Sad but bad are poems about abusive fathers who treat their daughters like dolls.
Do we only commemorate fathers with dolls when they are absent? Why can’t we have at least the same involvement of males in pretend child care as we expect with real child care?
Really, why on earth wouldn’t my son want to care for baby dolls? He watches daddy take care of him and his sister. He sees plenty of manly men pushing their babies around in strollers. I mean, if you see a family out and about and the mom is carrying a purse or a diaper bag or tending to an older child and the dad is just standing there, hands both free, instead of pushing the stroller doesn’t he LOSE serious man points for being a douche?
A lot of times the kitchen/cooking toys are unreasonably segregated, too. First of all, Daddy does most of the cooking at our house. Are we supposed to wait until our boys are grown up to let them watch Daddy or turn on the TV and see Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, or Anthony Bourdain? Well, Bourdain can be a little racy. In fact, I remember in his book, “Restaurant Confidential,” a pivotal moment for his career path as a chef came when he saw the chef at the restaurant where he worked banging a woman right outside the kitchen. Presumably the woman allowed the chef to do so because he was a chef. I wouldn’t want my son to read that for more than a few years. But certainly not because I fear it would influence his lifestyle choices.
I remember going through a few similar things with my daughter, Princess, who is now 4. She did get blocks and cars and even a tool set. For some reason, it’s not as big a deal to let a girl do “boy stuff.” But sometimes it got tricky. For instance, her favorite movie was Cars. So I wanted to get her some Cars pajamas. I had to get them in the boys’ section. Believe me, I got them, though. And they were her favorite. Did I mention I am in CAR sales as a profession?
For Buster, it’s really just the cooking and baby stuff that bothers me. Most of the other girl stuff is pretty lame even for girls, especially now that even Strawberry Shortcake is all slutted out. What’s up with that, by the way?
By the way, I did realize there are a couple of places that are much less segregated. One is our local toy store in Middletown, CT – Amato’s. The other, oddly enough, is Ikea. Just one more reason to shop small, shop local or get your toys at a Swedish furniture store I guess.