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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Barbie Is Just a Doll, Mommy.

A few days ago I was lying down on my sofa bed with my daughter.  Together, we were an idyllic picture of modern, socially-impaired family: me with my laptop reading some blog posts, my daughter with my iPad browsing through the Apps store looking for new games.

Let me redeem myself a bit by saying that no, this is not how I usually spend time with my daughter.  I'm not a parent who's too keen on her kid playing electronic games.  My 6 year-old doesn't have any of the following: Playstation, Wii, Xbox, Nintendo DS, nor any of those interactive computer games Leap Frog, Disney, and V-Tech come up with.  She is not allowed to play our iPad or iPod Touch without Mommy and Daddy's permission.  At times she was allowed to, there was a time limit of 45 minutes and mostly on weekends only.

Some moms have called me too strict or too old-fashioned.  So far, I have yet to succumb to peer pressure.  Ever since she was small, I stick to buying mostly arts and crafts supplies or activities kit for my daughter to play with.  Sure, my daughter have asked me a few times why some of her friends were allowed to have electronic games and she wasn't.  Each time, I told her what I always tell her, that she could have just as much fun using whatever she already has around her.  When she tells me she's bored, I always encourage her to draw, color, do simple origami, or write letters and decorate greeting cards for her grandparents and friends.

Umm, so obviously that bit about "my daughter with my iPad browsing through the Apps store looking for new games" wasn't really a good example of my "finer" parenting qualities, but surprise!!! I've had several "good" mommy moments :)

So what happened was, she was browsing for free games that she could download into my iPad (she's only allowed games that are free because some of those games could be dang expensive).  Let's not forget that she is a 6 years old whose writing and reading skills are limited at best.  Amazing how that didn't stop her from actually finding the games that she wanted, huh?  When she found a few that she liked, she asked me which ones she should download.  I allowed her to choose two out of the bunch, and she ended up downloading a "Despicable Me" and one other game with a name I didn't know but basically it was a giraffe who could mimic whatever it is you say to him.

As she was waiting for the games to download, she  asked me, "Mommy, you don't allow me to play any Barbie games, right?" Apparently she had seen some free Barbie games while browsing through the Apps store.

"Yes, you are absolutely correct," I told her.

"Let me get this straight, Mommy.  You don't like Barbie, right?"

"Uh huh," I answered.

"You don't like Barbie because she's too skinny and she has tiny strange-looking neck, right?"

"Yep, you got that right, sweetie.  I don't like Barbie and she IS too skinny and she DOES have tiny strange-looking neck.  THAT is SO not the look you wanna go for," I answered smugly.

My daughter then looked  at me.  Uh oh, I knew that look.  It's a look that usually preceded either a "world's worst mom" moment or "maybe-she-should-be-the mom-instead-of-me" moment.  She then said, "But it's just a doll, Mommy.  It's not a person.  It's. A. DOLL."

You see, another thing I don't allow my daughter to play with is Barbie dolls.  I never ever bought her a single Barbie.  Whenever I found some among her birthday presents (yes, I admit I'm a parent who just HAVE to monitor my daughter's birthday presents among other things.  I'm a control freak, what can I say) I would always remove them.  Starting from her first birthday, long before she could even speak, I have started  my attempts to brainwash my daughter into hating Barbie dolls.  Yes, thanks to those parents who thought that giving my one year-old Barbie dolls for birthday presents--I repeat, one year old--was a great idea.   I would sit across from my daughter, held the said Barbie doll in all its glamorous packaging in front of her, and said: "Lookie here, sweetie (pointing to Barbie).  Mommy don't like this doll (shaking my head several times to make sure she gets the point).  Look how skinny she is! (Making a disgusted face)  And it is not nice to be that skinny!  Right baby, right???"  A message that was going to be repeated for many years to come as it turned out.

My daughter is used to this.  She's been through 6 birthdays with me, so by now she knows the drill.  Bless her heart, I knew there were times when she really wanted at least one Barbie doll, but she has never asked for one.  She knows: Mommy hates Barbie.  

My daughter's response immediately reminded me of a post I recently read on a mommy blog called Mommies being Mommies.  The post was written by Mommy J and was titled, "Losing the Princess Battle."  She wrote about not wanting her 2 year-old daughter to submit to the world of Disney Princesses, because she feared that not only would she be subjecting her daughter to a particular gender role, but also that her daughter would end up with what she thought of as "Princess" behavior: selfish, spoiled, tantrum-throwing little girls who walk around wearing an invisible tiara and princess dress.

At the end of her post, Mommy J concluded that, whether or not her daughter develop a negative attitude later in life, has less to do with her attempts at keeping her daughter away from Disney Princesses, and more to do with her making sure that her daughter doesn't grow up to become a spoiled brat.  I told her I couldn't have agreed more.  I posted a comment on her post, telling her that I was also a parent who is guilty of "battling the Princess" (or in my case, Barbie).

Thanks to the Psych classes I took during my college days, I was afraid that by playing with Barbie dolls, my daughter would come to idolize them and as the result, develop unhealthy body image, suffer from eating disorders, and fall victim into believing that Barbie is the standard of beauty.  Lost somewhere among my many worries, was my role as a mother.  I've failed to recognize, how as her parent, I can actually do something.   

Mommy J's post, and what my daughter said several nights ago, made me realize that, yes, whether or not my daughter ultimately becomes an adult who is capable of loving herself--confident in who she is, how she looks, and what she can do--has in fact more to do with how I raise her now than all of my combined efforts trying to keep Barbie away from her.  Rather than merely assuming a passive role in my active battle against all the Barbies in the world, I actually have the power to actively do something!  I can raise my daughter to have a healthy body image, not suffer from eating disorders, and believe herself as beautiful even if she doesn't conform with whatever it is the magazines deemed to be the standard of beauty at the time. 

While this realization isn't going to make me run to the nearest toy store and finally buy that one Barbie for my daughter, it really made me re-think a lot of things about my role as a parent.  It makes me happy to know that as a mother, I can contribute in "creating" an individual who is not going to be just another statistics in this world.  At the same time, it has also opened a whole new Pandora's box for me.  Have I, as a mother, been the right role model to my child?  Have I, through my examples, inspired her to not become what I'm afraid she would be if she were to play with Barbie? (a topic worth a whole other post, I'm sure). 

My daughter then went on to say: "I don't really like Barbie anymore anyways.  She has blond hair, I have brown hair.  And I think I prefer brunettes, like me."
*Note: The above comment is not to be misconstrued in any way.  Let me make it clear that both me and my daughter don't have anything against blond hair.  In fact, in my younger days, I used to change hair color as often as I changed the color of my nail polish.  I've been a blond, a brunette, an auburn, a red (and I mean red in the very literal sense), a copper, a black (yes, the gothic kind), and just about any colors in between kinda girl.  I even had mixed colored hair due to over bleaching once.  

To hear my daughter said that she's happy with what she has (in this case, brown hair) instead of what Barbie or others have, means a lot more to me than any other accomplishments I've achieved so far.  It gave me hope that at least for now, she's on the right track to becoming a person who sees herself in a positive light.  That yes, provided with the right values and upbringing, what my daughter said was never more trueUltimately, "[Barbie's] just a doll, Mommy.  It's not a person.  It's. A. DOLL."


  1. Interesting. I guess I never thought about the Barbie look as being something to strive for. I too didn't care for the blond barbies, I had dark hair. We did have one barbie that had brown hair. We called her "Poopy Hair", it was the color of her hair. Poor thing should have had a better name. But we all fought over playing with her.
    I grew up to be a fat adult and am ok with who I am.
    Man, some days I'm so glad I'm not a parent. All the pitfalls and traps you guys have have to keep watch for. I think I would loose my mind. I'm not being sarcastic either. I'm capable of sarcasm, but not using it in this particular case. *lol*

  2. For us, it was toy guns. Didn't want to promote violence, yadda, yadda, yadda. Anyway, needless to say, we have enough toy guns to defeat a large-size toy army. Like you said, I think it's more about parenting. Pick your battles, I guess.

    I think your daughter will turn out fine. She has YOU as her mom.

  3. What thoughtful post! When my oldest was born (she's 10 now) I insisted that she would wear all the colors of the rainbow...except pink. And she could play with anything she wanted...except girly toys. And so on. Because I didn't want her stereotyped or for her to stereotype, but then my insightful husband pointed out that if anyone was stereotyping, it was ME, implying that pink is just for girls and that certain toys are for certain genders. Which is when I blushed and just let her wear and play with whatever. Except for if she looks like a homeless person. Then I have to draw the line ;)

  4. great honest post......enjoyed it. thanks.

  5. Damn Barbie. Even as a little girl, I knew she looked funny, with that chicken neck. And I cut her hair short. I cannot explain why I ended up with 3 Barbies though. I blame my sister.

    Your daughter sure is a smart cookie!

  6. We don't really give our kids enough credit do we? LOL Smart girl! Loved this post. Following now from "Whimsy and Whirl"s Award acceptance. :)

  7. I never thought Barbie was bad...silly own daughter had several. But I did enjoy the article.

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  8. With me, it was Bratz. I almost swallowed my tongue when my daughter told my mother-in-law, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME that 'Mommy thinks Bratz are prostitute dolls' (only 'prostitute' came out more like 'prossatoot.')

  9. I saw you had "Water for Elephants" below this post, and that you love "Twilight" on your home page. Have you read "The Hunger Games"? You should. I have fallen in love with those books, and want to read them over and over. I'm a new follower from To-the-Top Tuesday blog hop. I hope you'll come by mine, too!

  10. Ooh, I am a new follower on Facebook, too!

  11. Bernie: yeah, tell me about it! When you became parent, not only are you gonna be held responsible for your actions(LOL), but you're also responsible over what these little teenie beings do and become too (a package deal! hahaha). Talk about the fastest way to growing white hair, huh :)

    Janice: aww, thank you for your sweet words! Yes, you're right! Must learn to pick my battles, considering all the years they have ahead of them. Honestly, if I were a mom to a son, I'd be even more clueless in picking the "right" toys for them. I mean, I would say no to toy guns as well, but then that's like eliminating 85% of the toys that are available to them right? :)

    dweej: don't you just hate it when hubby can put it in so many words?!? Hahaha. And great tip too! Must not sweat over what daughter is wearing unless she starts sporting the streetbum (or "pretty woman") looks lol.

    pleemiller: thanks for dropping by!

    alison: hahaha I was also guilty of owning several + 2 Ken!!! Blame it on my mother!!! LOL

    jewel: no, no, not silly you! I guess we shouldn't blame it all on Barbie. There are some that I thought was quite cool looking too(although I didn't say it to my daughter of course). But there are also some that um, lets just say, want to make me scream where the heck are you, fashion police!??

    Michelle: Totally agree with you! I've been known to be guilty of that one too many times.

    MisfitMommy: hahahahaha. You know what, you son just said what I've always thought of 'em but too afraid to say out loud ;) Hmm.. maybe you can tell your mother-in-law he meant "prosthetics"?

    Melissa: yes, I am a total sucker when it comes to Twilight and RPattz :)) That's me in denial, I suppose. I always tell my friends I don't feel any different inside than when I was 18 years of age). Heard TONS of great reviews about the Hunger Games trilogy! It's definitely in my reading list, although I must admit I've been putting it off out of sense of loyalty to the Twilight Saga (I'm a freak, I know :)

  12. I didn't know you were a fellow anti-Barbie-ite! The difference between us is I caved - the girls kept getting Barbies for birthday presents from other kids - what could I do? So anyway they have them but I really wish they would make a "fat" barbie or a "regular sized" Barbie...she's anorexic.
    Good for you just letting your child get crafts and things she can work on - good mothering! Stick to your guns!

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