I’ve decided to get my one year old son a doll for Christmas. I never gave any thought to the idea of him having a doll. Like nursing, like natural birth, like so many things that are, despite being amazing for us, incredibly unpopular, you never see boys with dolls. You see boys with trucks and trains. But my newly verbal toddler has been asking in no uncertain terms for a “Ba-bee.”
It all started last week when I bought a package of Pampers Cruisers Size Fives. It wasn’t my first pair of Pampers, but I had been avoiding them in favor of a cheaper brand for a while. A cheaper brand that didn’t happen to have a big adorable baby pictured on the package. From his seat at the front of the grocery cart Cayce grabbed hold of that package and squeezed it like it was Charmin calling “Ba-bee, Ba-bee, Ba-bee”, putting the stress on the second syllable, and he didn’t let go for days. He carried that package of Pampers around the house, cuddled up next to it, and called out for the “Ba-bee” with every diaper change. He started asking for the Ba-bee the minute he woke up in the morning. Well that is some clever packaging on those diapers because in lieu of a doll I have found myself continuing to buy the expensive brands just to satisfy my child’s interest in the picture.
While we were out yesterday morning buying said diapers, we were also looking in the toy section of the pharmacy, trying to get ideas for Christmas gifts. Cayce’s eyes lit up when he saw all the colorful packaging, and he responded to all the bells and whistles on the toy keys and cameras and cars, but the shelf which elicited the most excited response was the one with the baby dolls. They were those ones with the sort of freaky looking rubber heads in boxes with plastic windows. “Ba-bee!” he chirped repeatedly.
So the verdict is in. I am going to make yet another unpopular choice because I am convinced it will be the best choice, a natural asset to my son’s desire to nurture. Now I’m not going to get him a doll with an alien head. But neither am I going to get him one of these new breastfeeding dolls, because that would be just silly. Even if it's not silly, even if it really is quite natural and logical for a child that spends a lot of time with his mother to want to do what his mother does regardless of gender-appropriateness (whatever that is), I’m quite certain that Cayce’s father might draw the line there, so I won’t push my luck. As it if I have coerced him into accepting the idea of a doll by suggesting that it would be far easier to produce than the alternative, another actual baby. A sweet and boyish and organic baby doll for our boy to coddle and kiss will encourage him not only to love and care for others, but to love and care for himself, for what is a doll to a child if not a mirror, a soft cuddly mirror that can be dressed and diapered and hugged and read to and strolled around the way he himself is cared for by his mother and father?
Cayce will love his doll, no more and no less, perhaps, than he loves his balls and his trucks and his blocks and his stuffed animals. But he will love the doll in a different way, because the doll will be the toy with the most human attributes, the toy that will be the most like a little brother. Why should having an imaginary little brother or sister be the purview of girls exclusively? Doesn’t a boy need just as much to have a sibling or a friend? Nurturing is not just the domain of mothering- it lies at the core of what it means to be human. And I am so grateful to find in a doll a powerful teaching tool for my son as he grows into a wonderful human being.
And if anyone has anything to say about it, we’ll take it outside.