Two new toys. The last toys I thought would ever cross the threshold of our house. Two of them. And I bought them myself.
Akka has shown a passing interest in Barbies. I always scoffed at them and, being no dummy, she picked up on that. Once, in a toy aisle, she stood captivated by shelf after shelf of pink, self-effacing, narrow-waisted, big-busted, small-footed Barbies, then turned to me with a shy look and said “we don’t want to buy those, right?” Right. I didn’t. She did, though.
Last week my friend and her son came over for lunch. Three-year-old E. walked through the door carrying his sparkle Barbie. Akka was captivated and played with it whenever E. let it out of his grip. After they left she asked me for one outright. Something occurred to me: if my son asked me for a Barbie, I’d probably get him one. And I’d be weirdly proud of it. We’ll see…
I have the girly debate frequently with my friends who are parents. It’s not much of a debate, really; it’s us congratulating ourselves on not succumbing to the aggressive Disney-Barbie marketing campaigns and sharing proud stories about how, due to our successful stonewalling, our daughters can’t even tell the difference between Ariel and Belle. But Akka’s interest was piqued and the issue kept coming up. A friend sent me a link to an online discussion about Barbies. One mom was bemoaning the fact that her daughter wanted one and most of the responding moms were telling her to lighten up. Something struck a chord:
“… now I worry that by making them forbidden fruit she wants them all the more. We have tried explaining why we don’t like them, but this seems to really hurt & embarass her, she is very sensitive and she then feels as though she is doing something wrong in wanting them.” (motheringdotcommunity)
That’s what I’d inadvertently done to Akka. She knew she wasn’t supposed to like the things she liked. What kind of message is that? Other moms on the discussion forum talked about their kids building cardboard box houses for their Barbies, cooking and feeding them pretend food, creating clothes out of paper and fabric scraps, building shoebox cars for them and basically just playing. They’re just dolls. They’re just toys. So I went to Value Village where second-hand Barbies are disturbingly sold in clear plastic bags:
I sorted through them and found two clean and clothed and un-chewed ones to bring home. She couldn’t believe her luck.
Their names are Daisy and Lisa. They play Simon Says. They sleep in a little basket. They have unrealistic body proportions and permanent make up. Daisy can only walk on tip toe (or, presumably, in high-heeled shoes). Malli took Lisa for an airplane ride. We don’t need to watch Barbie movies or buy Barbie backpacks or get the lavender camper van. Just two new dolls and a happy little girl.