TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY PARENTS
I’m celebrating all fierce moms and dads this weekend. They might be helping their child hide the afikoman at a Passover Seder or hunt for Easter eggs on Sunday. Or maybe they’ll be at the park pushing their offspring on the swings. But whatever their plans, they’re the parents who let their little kids tap inner joy and express creativity without gender stereotyping that expression.
This two-line story prompted me to cheer them on: A two-year-old boy likes to open his mom’s “jewry” box and put necklaces on as headpieces. His mom is happy to let him play, unless, of course, it’s her good “jewry.”
So here’s the reason I’m cheering that kind of 21st century attitude. Aside from obvious biological differences based on a child’s assigned-at-birth sex, imagination doesn’t belong to one gender or the other. And if we as parents stifle a child’s creative drive because it doesn’t conform to what society has imposed as “gender-appropriate,” then we risk blocking an important aspect of that child’s development. Makes sense, right?
Then there are these two conversations, overheard on separate occasions, that reminded how amazing (aka evolved) parents can be when others assume a toddler’s (!) sexuality or sexual orientation.
Stranger: Your daughter is so pretty! Someday she’ll have all the boys chasing her.
Mom #1: Or girls.
Friend: I can’t get over how cute your little boy is. I bet he’s going to break the heart of many a girl when he gets older.
Mom #2: Or boy.
Ahh, the beauty of a simple “or.”
I don’t usually read about Barbie dolls on The New York Times business page, but an article about a new talking Barbie doll due out in fall was the subject of Nathasha Singer’s “Technophoria” column Sunday.
This isn’t your average pull-string talker like my Pee-wee Herman doll or talking Executive Teddy Bear. According to Mattel, this Wi-Fi ready Barbie will be manufactured with a technology that can analyze a child’s speech and produce relevant responses.
The system’s developer is a company called ToyTalk, the people who produce the popular animated apps like the Winston Show and SpeakaZoo. And according to the co-founders, the new Hello Barbie doll “will have thousands and thousands of things to say and you can speak to her for hours and hours.”
Critics are already standing by, because last fall a children’s book called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer had the tall plastic blond asking her male friends for help with coding.
Regardless of what Hello Barbie learns to say based on its individual owners, I think the new doll should come with some basic self-esteem boosters all kids need. For example, my Executive Teddy used to remind on tough client-meeting days, “There’s nothing you can’t do!”
I asked my 25-year-old Harry, who still has more than one Barbie of their* own, what the new Hello Barbie needs to say to kids. “You’re beautiful. Be yourself,” they said.
So please tell me, what do you think the new Barbie should say to kids after Hello?
*My offspring Harry’s preferred gender pronoun is they. I know it takes some getting used to, as I occasionally still mess up.
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