But there’s just something about her. I don’t want to be a helicopter parent or go all Victorian on my daughter. Nor do I want to over-analyze this friend’s magnetism, but I’m wondering if I should nip this relationship in the bud before it blossoms into anything more serious.
I’ve tried to be nonchalant about this particular friend. I avoid talking about her and when Madeline brings her up, I quickly change the subject. But my daughter is growing more and more persistent. She’s always been a tenacious one. She works very hard to break you, and I’m starting to think that my stance against this friend may backfire and make her even more desirable to my daughter.
“What don’t you like about her?” Madeline asked recently.
“What do you like about her?” I countered.
“She’s pretty,” Madeline said simply.
But that’s just it. She is pretty. Too pretty. Too fake. Too perfect. I’m worried about the peer pressure that comes in to play when your peer is carved from shiny plastic.
Yes, the friend my five-year-old covets answers to the name of Barbie, and she’s more than just a pretty face. She’s gone all smart and nerdy on us. That’s a good thing, right? I’m not so sure. As if having amazing (and impossible) measurements, lustrous hair, and red-rose lips wasn’t enough pressure, now Barbie’s sending a message that you’d better be in the running for Mensa membership and look like a bombshell if you want society to notice you. Ugh.
So I’m probably being overly dramatic here and perhaps over-analyzing Barbie a bit too much. (It’s in my nature to overthink the smallest details.) What’s my deal with the doll anyway? She is just a doll. Yet, while I wouldn’t go so far as banning my daughter from visiting houses where Barbie hangs around, I’d prefer for the beauty to not become a permanent fixture in our home.
1. We already have too many toys. I’m afraid two decades from now Madeline might end up on that show Hoarders. I’ve never seen the program, but my mother-in-law has and she informs me the “stars” of the show are people who just can’t part with stuff. Their houses are overrun with things to the point that they cannot move around or function within the walls of their homes.
While Madeline is a sweet, generous girl who is eager to share with her sisters and friends, parting with stuff isn’t easy for her. Just the other day she discovered a bag I’d stuffed with old clothes and toys to be given away.
“You’re giving away my polka dot shoes?”
“Yes, Honey. They don’t fit you anymore.”
“Keep them for Rae or M.E.” (Rae and M.E. are her younger sisters.)
“They were hand-me-downs, and I think I’m ready to give them someone else. Plus, they’re a little scuffed up.”
Sigh from Madeline. “Okay. They smell like pee anyway.”
I forgot about the peeing in the shoe incident (don’t ask).
Then she noticed the puzzles. The girl has dozens of puzzles. She does enjoy putting the pieces together, but you can only have so many puzzles.
“No! You can’t give that puzzle away. It glows in the dark,” she says.
I look at the space puzzle and sigh. “Fine. Then pick out another puzzle to give away. You don’t need all these puzzles.”
To her credit, she quickly selects a board book that actually contains several never-used puzzles. “This one,” she says.
So I toss it to the pile, wondering why she clings to stuff so much.
Maybe it’s part of her genetic makeup. Truth is, I still have notebooks from the second grade where I scribbled down silly stories. I’m all nostalgic about those stories. Besides, I can’t give away my nonsensical story about Jake the Snake. (Although I could afford to part with some of my clothes from long ago.)
Maybe my little hoarder is only preparing for the possibility of drought and lean times ahead. You know, like the pioneers hoarded and preserved food by stashing it in root cellars and by drying, by smoking, by pickling and salting everything. Maybe you can’t take the Laura Ingalls out a girl who wants to thrive and survive.
Even babies seem prone to want to pile things up (think block towers). Still, I’m not sure stuffed animal dogs and random beads she’s found on the floor at the grocery store are the best items for a survival stockpile.
Once I freed a new toothbrush from its plastic prison but before I could toss the package, Madeline snatched it from my hands and said she wanted to keep it because it was “sparkly.” I refused to let her, which in retrospect was silly of me. I should have let her keep the sparkly cardboard and then ditched it while she was sleep to save both of us from some intense emotions. Of course, she probably would have discovered it in the trash just like she found those polka dot shoes and puzzles out in the garage.
Every day I work to teach her that when we have too much stuff, we not only add unnecessary clutter to our lives, but we don’t end up using half the stuff we do have. Wouldn’t it be nice if each of our kids only had one toy but it was a really, really treasured toy – like Laura Ingalls’s beloved doll named Charlotte? (I wish that part of Laura remained deeply planted in my daughter.)
Not to mention, there are so many people with so little. A few days ago the girls were running in a sprinkler laughing with a neighborhood friend. I watched the endless supply of clean water spray on the children, and I felt a pang of guilt. Here these American children were playing in a sprinkler when there are millions of people who do not have access to clean, drinking water.
What does this have to do with Barbie? Not much, I suppose. Just as forcing our kids to clean their plates isn’t going to save starving children, not allowing my daughter to start a Barbie collection isn’t going to save the children. It may not even help her to detach herself from things. However, I do think it’s good for kids to want for things. Besides, there are just so many better toys out there. I’d rather buy her ten new books than one Barbie.
But onto reason number two…
2. I worry about how Barbie’s perfect and unattainable beauty and curves might impact my daughters’ body image. I loved Barbie as a kid and while I don’t for a second blame her perfect beauty on my own tortured relationship with food and my body, I don’t completely discount her from sending some sort of subliminal message that if you want to be valuable, powerful, and/or happy, work on getting yourself a great pair of legs and you-know-what-else.
As a kid, I remember giving two of my favorite Barbies (I’d named them Aurora and Rosie) bad haircuts. At first, it felt good to see their uneven bangs and their silky hair turned all spiky, but then regret and even shame crept in and made me wince at their crowns of glory turned crowns of gory. How dare I destroy their pristine beauty? Big brothers were supposed to do that, not Barbie’s beloved protectress. I still can remember crying crocodile tears over the pile of shiny hair and delivering a eulogy of sorts to it. So I was a weird kid. Clearly, there were some issues that had nothing to do with Barbie. But still. I don’t know. My girls will already have to wade through and learn to ignore the barrage of messages and images that being thin and beautiful equates to desirability, success, happiness, and social acceptance. Why should I allow one more thing – as innocuous as poor Barbie may be – to tempt them to fall prey to the narcissistic pursuit of a perfect body and good hair to boot?
3. Now perhaps my weakest argument is the physical threat Barbie poses on my youngest daughter. Long before she notices her shiny beauty, my baby will lust after her shoes – not because she cares a thing about style. In fact, if you try to put anything on her feet, she wrestles with them until her piggies are bare and free again. However, tiny toy accessories draw my baby in like a bug zapper lures in insects. I have already fished out a safety pin, beetle, and a plastic gem stone from her mouth. I do not need any other potential chokers littering our floor and threatening the life of our youngest child.
There you have it. These are my current arguments against Barbie. Now here’s where you come in. I need your input. Am I being ridiculous? Be honest. Am I making things worse by being so adamant against the bombshell? Fact of the matter is Madeline talks far more about Barbie now that she knows I won’t let her have one.
Likewise, I don’t want my girls thinking I’m eschewing all that it means to be feminine. I like cute shoes (people have teased me and said that I have Barbie feet because of my high arches and the fact that they’re a small size 5 to 5 1/2). I enjoy dressing up. There’s nothing wrong with my girls being drawn to prettiness provided it doesn’t transcend into the Holy Grail of their happiness. Should I relent? Do you think if I let the poor, deprived child have one Barbie (if she’s willing to save for it and buy it with her own money, something she has petitioned for), that would be the end of it? Forbidden fruit always appears so much tastier until you take a bite, right?
Madeline doesn’t see commercials, so the only way she really learns about new toys is from her friends (who are, by the way, all great little girls who don’t seem brainwashed by Barbie’s beauty at all), but the only toy she really seems to hanker after is Barbie. Am I wrong to boycott the plastic beauty from our home? What are your personal feelings on Barbie?
Then again, I’m not a wishy-washy parent. I will set certain rules, limits, and boundaries and stand by them, and not care what the rest of the world is doing. But this isn’t really about taking the moral high road. It’s about having one stinkin’, albeit busty doll, for goodness’ sake, and a doll that many, many of her other friends own (and ironically completely ignore rather than obsess about like my own daughter).
A Prejudiced and Conflicted Mom
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by the end of the day April 13 with all the carnival links.)
- Replace hitting with…? — Acacia at Be Present Mama is at a loss on how to handle her three year old’s hitting.
- Two Questions — Alexandra at Breastfeeding Momma would like some ideas on how to strengthen her bond with her 8-month-old daughter; she’s also looking for input on an emotional topic: vaccines.
- Balancing Needs When Baby Trumps Mama — Alison at BluebirdMama wonders how her child’s need for noise and energy balances out against her need for quiet and space. (@childbearing )
- The McDilemma — Annie at PhD in Parenting is on the arches of a McDilemma. (@phdinparenting)
- Where is the mutually agreeable solution? When parenting calls for blood draws — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick has a child who needs regular blood tests that are torment for him. How does a parent honor a child when his health is on the line? (@RaisingBoychick)
- When To Wait To Nurse — Cave Mother wonders what age toddlers can be asked to wait to nurse.
- I don’t love you Mama! — CurlyMonkey wonders what to do with her daughter’s intense feelings. (@curlymonkey_)
- Help a Mama Out — Danielle at Born.in.Japan isn’t getting much sleep with her cosleeping, night nursing, cranky little guy and hopes you can help with some suggestions for shuteye. (@borninjp)
- Dear Abby: My daughter really misses her Daddy — Darcel at The Mahogany Way needs to know how to help her daddy’s girl get the connection with her father she needs — and not feel left out in the process. (@MahoganyWayMama)
- What’s Going on at School? — Deb at Science@home is in a quandary: how can she find out what really goes on at school without stepping on the teacher’s toes? (@ScienceMum)
- April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Advice — Dionna at Code Name: Mama wants to find volunteer work that includes her toddler. (@CodeNameMama)
- How do you deal? — Erin at Beatnik Momma does not want to engage in “mommy wars.” She’d like your input on how (and how much) to discuss her natural parenting choices with curious friends and family who parent differently. (@babybeatnik)
- Dear Abby — The Grumbles at Grumbles and Grunts gave her son a banana…and no solid food since. What’s the next step in baby-led weaning? (@thegrumbles)
- Excuse me, I have a poop question — Jessica at This is Worthwhile has a question for you about toddler tinkling. (@tisworthwhile)
- The Half Empty Nest Syndrome: What to do when Momma gets replaced by a cow? — Joni Rae at Kitchen Witch Momma is suffering from “half-empty nest syndrome”: what do you do when your babies start growing up? (@kitchenwitch)
- Peer Pressure — Kate at Momopoly worries what message her daughter’s new friend is sending — but how to break up such an infatuation? (@Momopoly)
- When I Fall Down — Katherine at Momioso.com needs your wisdom on how to be more gentle and at peace with herself. (@naturalparent)
- A question of sleep and sanity — KeepingMumSane needs your toddler cosleeping advice in order to, well, keep mum sane! (@keepingmumsane)
- April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice — Lauren at Hobo Mama needs a chiropractor … or help getting her 36 lb toddler to walk up the stairs. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Driver’s Ed for Mommies — Maman A Droit is a self-confessed terrible driver and is scared to drive with her baby in the car.
- Solo Parenting — Mammapie at Downside Up and Outside In needs tips for being a single working mother while her partner’s away. (@mammapie)
- Itsy Bitsy Biter — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting needs your advice about her daughter, otherwise known as the pitbull.
- How Can I Avoid Beauty Obsession? — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! is at a loss ever since her tomboys turned into wannabe princesses. (@bfmom)
- Seeking Stability in Chaos — Michelle at Seeking Mother is in a heart-wrenching position. She needs your input on how to make a toddler feel secure during a time of transition, the illness of a parent, and multiple (new) caregivers. (@Seekingmother)
- Mama, That’s Too, Too Boring! — Michelle at The Parent Vortex started out asking how to encourage her preschooler to get dressed — and four days later, she began to without prompting! (@TheParentVortex)
- Dear Lovey Hart, I am Desperate. — Mommy Soup from Cream of Mommy Soup has several questions for you, from how you play favorites when no one’s your favorite to how to tell off strangers curious about the ample size of your family. (@mommysoup)
- Diaper Duty Dilemma — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries has a simple request: talk to her about cloth! (@babydust)
- What Do You Need My Son — pchanner at A Mom’s Fresh Start wishes her calm four-month-old hadn’t turned into an inquisitive and dramatic six-month-old. How do you handle changes in baby’s personality? (@pchanner)
- Dear Natural Parenting Community — Sarah at OneStarryNight wants to know how to respond to criticism from family and friends over breastfeeding. (@starrymom)
- Natural Parenting Carnival — Help — Sarah at Consider Eden feels like either her to-do list or her parenting is suffering, because she can’t do both! (@considereden)
- To potty learn or not to potty learn – that is the question — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes wants to know whether it’s time to start potty training. (@sheryljesin)
- Seeking Patience — Starr at Earth Mama looks to the collective tribal wisdom of this community to learn how to teach patience to children.
- A Dirty Girl Comes Clean — Tashmica at Mother Flippin’ is struggling. How do parents deal with their inability to keep their children protected from danger? (@Mother_Flippin)
- Uli and the Pussy Cats — Thomasin at Propson Palingenesis has a toddler who likes to put kitties in headlocks and ride them like horsies. How best to separate the little beasties?
- Perceptions of Discipline — Zoey at Good Goog doesn’t use conventional discipline with her child — and doesn’t know how to respond around people who do. (@zoeyspeak)