I had lunch with some family members yesterday afternoon, and we were discussing good gift ideas for Eli for Chanukah, since it is rapidly approaching. We have already bought a toy that I’ve been searching for (off eBay; turns out they don’t make it anymore!) and were considering buying him a play kitchen, but what I’d really been thinking about was getting him a baby doll and play stroller.
A few weeks ago, he was playing at his cousins’ house and came across their baby doll strollers. He loves pushing his own stroller, so I wasn’t surprised when he started pushing theirs. Soon he was squealing with delight as he tried to manage pushing two of them down the long hallway. An hour later, he cried and cried when he had to leave them to go eat dinner. He didn’t show a ton of interest in the dolls themselves, but really liked pushing them around in the stroller.
I’m not one of those people who have strong opinions on gender roles. I mostly figure that toys are toys, but the advice of a family member yesterday gave me pause. She mentioned that it’s fine that we let Eli play with dolls and strollers at other people’s houses, but that we shouldn’t encourage the behavior at home.
I should’ve pressed for more information from her about what was so concerning, but I didn’t because I felt dejected. I was so excited to get him this gift, and it seemed like I had been going down the wrong path. Throughout the day, I kept coming back to thoughts about it. Why is it wrong to encourage a boy to play with a doll? I mean, is it bad for boys to be parents? I hope that someday he’d like to grow up and be a father and care for a baby, or that someday he’d like to be a big brother and help us nurture a sibling, so why is it a bad idea to encourage that kind of compassion and that life skill?
Ultimately, I decided it wasn’t a bad idea, not really. In fact, my original plan had been to seek out a “boy” looking stroller, and I’ve decided that it’s just not necessary. If my son wants to push around a stroller with a baby in it, then I’m going to let him. I’m not going to censor it, hide it, or make it more acceptable for anyone else. It’s not hurting anyone and it’s not going to dictate his path in life. It’s a toy, one that he loves. I am no more concerned about him becoming gay from pushing around a pink stroller than I am concerned about him becoming a stunt driver because he likes to sit backwards in his toy car.
It may seem simple to more seasoned or even just more confident parents, but yesterday served as a good lesson to me. This is my son and my rules. And ultimately, it’s up to me to shape him into the person he’s going to become, and part of that journey is following his cues and passion without concern for what anyone else may think.