(Update: I now have FOUR boys, but my feelings about this remain the same.)
I have three boys. My husband likes to say we’re specializing. So of course I often find myself tripping over light sabers, stepping on Lego’s, and dodging Nerf darts. But the toy that sometimes surprises visitors to our home is a couple of baby dolls. Why would dolls have a place in a “testosterhome” like ours?
I bought that first doll shortly before my second son was born. I wanted a prop my oldest son could use to warm up to the idea of a new baby and practice soft touches and necessary boundaries. Likewise, when he needed to play out the frustration of feeling displaced, the play baby was there. And when that curious toddler wanted to play with the new baby’s binky, there was the toy baby with his own binky to pull out and push in over and over again.
Dolls are widely marketed to girls, with their pink wardrobes and sparkly accessories, but as a prop in sociodramatic play, dolls provide for roles that apply to both girls and boys. They are able to experiment with sibling relationships, replay scenes with babysitters, and try on the role of Mom or Dad.
Perhaps there was a day when swaddling a baby doll was considered a strictly feminine act, but in our home, our boys see their dad changing diapers and snuggling babies almost as often as they see me do it. In my opinion, there’s nothing more masculine than a good dad. I’m glad my boys have many good role models in that arena, and that they aspire to fill that role themselves.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that my boys don’t play with dolls quite the same way or with the same frequency that little girls do. That’s OK. But when I see one of my boys scoop up the baby doll in order to play the role of “Dad”, I’m glad that wedged somewhere between the Spider Man costume and the tool bench there’s a doll or two to be found.
Top photo by D. Sharon Pruitt of Pink Sherbet Photography.