Published on November 6th, 2013 | by Joe DeProspero0
My Son Plays with “Girl Toys” and This Is Me Caring
When I was little, and the neighborhood kids were being punished, or if it was raining out, or if it was after dark, I played with my older sister. And it didn’t matter what it was. House, Nintendo, Barbies…okay, especially Barbies. I was on board. I can just see most of my male friends reading this and gasping, but rest assured I enjoyed taking off Barbie’s clothes and being disappointed that there were no nipples on her plastic boobs. Regardless, I did plenty of “girly” things growing up. I did my share of “boy stuff” too, like collecting G.I. Joe figures, obsessing over WWF, and getting mild erections over the aforementioned naked Barbies. But ultimately, my childhood was peppered with more than a decent helping of femininity. It didn’t make me gay. It didn’t make me “confused” about my sexual identity. I believe what it did make me is balanced (and in case you’re wondering, my Barbie affinity has subsided drastically over time).
I suppose I have my parents to thank for either being open-minded about gender roles or simply too caught up in life to notice how often I played with dolls. But I find that as an adult with boys of my own now, Mom and Dad’s example resonates with me now more than ever. For starters, my sons have a kitchen. They “make me coffee” in it, bake cupcakes in the toy oven and we hold regular “shopping sprees” where my older son gathers groceries in a shopping cart and comes to me with funny money to pay for them. Not exactly the kind of activities that fit into the boy stereotype. I suppose traditional male norms would dictate that I should stop this activity. But I’d rather my kids were happy than confined to a predetermined gender barrier. My older son’s favorite color is purple. He also loves Legos, soccer, and punching me in the groin. Of those interests, there’s really only one I’m looking to change. Oh, and I’d be more than happy with both my sons growing up to make others coffee rather than sitting there waiting for it to be made by a woman.
I’m not hoping to pat myself on the back here for being more progressive than the next father. But if you’re a parent to a young boy and you find yourself taking dolls out of his hand or insisting that “boys don’t cry,” ask yourself if you’re doing this for his benefit or yours. If you’re only doing it based on your own preconceived notions, I can’t honestly say that you’re being the best parent you can be. After all, my parents enabled my creative freedom and now I’m writing in a public forum about how much I appreciate it. Wouldn’t you want the same?
I’m a 34-year-old man who can recite every episode of The Golden Girls or every starter for the New York Jets. I’m into twisted Quentin Tarantino films, but I don’t mind the occasional Hugh Grant romantic comedy. In fact, I like to think I embrace more than I reject in life. It is with this open mind that I aim to approach parenthood. My parenthood, anyway. So next time you use the words “that’s for girls,” remember the proper way to say it is, “that’s for girls…or Joe.” I’d rather be known for encouraging happiness and exploration than as “the jerk who ruined my childhood.”
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