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I managed to snag the family car and escape, with both boys, to Target. We wandered the aisles with a strict list and stopped only to ooh and aah over every Christmas Tree. We sang carols and walked through the toy aisles. When I asked my boys what toy they wanted, my eldest piped in with “Barbie.”
This wasn't his first request. Since I was by myself, I didn't question it. My spouse is okay with them having “girl” toys, but he likes to redirect them to the Hot Wheels; it is a cost savings measure.
To be fair, I took my sons to the Hot Wheels first and offered a shiny new toy car. Both children shook their heads no; my youngest threw the box at me. Clearly that was a no. I figured if I wandered every aisle, they'd find something else they wanted.
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Boys aren't allowed to play with kitchens, or babies, or have little houses. According to the very important color coding, my boys are not meant for those aisles.
My sons love Doc McStuffins and Sophia The First. They have stuffed characters from both shows. Their Christmas wish list includes Doc’s purple doctor bag, and baby dolls. They love pretend play.
Last year, I put such things on their Christmas list. Not only were these things universally ignored, people chastised us for letting our boys play like “girls.” As a girl with four brothers, I can tell you girls can play with the best of them.
My sons will likely have children, will cook for themselves, will have to sweep. Telling girls that it’s okay to aspire to these things but forbidden to boys is absurd. I'm not afraid of pink.
The only barrier to the Barbie aisle was the baby dolls.
Oliver, my eldest, asked for a baby sibling for Christmas. He’s getting a Cabbage Patch Kid instead. They both cried for wanting a baby. I wasn't bothered because I see it as a sign of their nurturing and loving natures. The fact that they both want to take care of a baby is a sign of their growing relationship.
As we hit the pinkest of the pink aisles, I offered every Barbie that had a duo available. It was a hard decision, but my boys love their princesses.
Ollie picked Princess Tiana because as he says, “she’s green and pretty.” Zander had fewer options in order to not have the same one as his brother. He got to choose between Belle and Cinderella. He went with Belle.
The boys hugged the Barbie box close and giggled excitedly because they finally got to have a princess.
While I was busy offering various choices to each child, a family was shopping on the other end of the aisle. There was also a grandmother shopping for her grandkids in the next.
The family stared shocked at us while their preteen boy laughed at my boys. The little girl offered her congratulations while the mom shook her head and directed me to the blue aisles. The grandmother asked us to move because she “actually had to shop for a girl.”
I wanted to stand on my soap box and explain how my children weren't afraid of pink. How boys grow up and become dads, and it's a wonderful thing to encourage pretend play. That they have become closer as brothers by pretending to be mommy and daddy to their toys.
I could explain how, as a child, I played with my brothers toys and he played with mine. Maybe I was too young to notice, but I don't remember being separated. It wasn't an issue to see a little girl with a GI Joe or a boy with a Barbie. Maybe that's because I was too busy playing with other kids to notice the ridiculous judgment.
Dear ladies at target, next time I suggest you try playing with those toys instead of judging. I bet you'll find it’s not very girly or boyish and is exactly the kind of play little kids should do.
I will be buying more Barbies. They loved them and totally need accessories. They also have babies and more kitchen supplies on their list. They have tons of Hot Wheels, cars, gears, blocks, and superheros.
A Princess or two isn't going to pink up their play room too much.