Letter to the editor: Let's allow our children to express themselves
I was taken quite by surprise while watching the NBC news at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 3. There was a human interest story about a boy and his doll that perked me right up and my very first thought was, “My gosh, they have finally caught up with me — 59 years later. Sure took long enough.” And my next thought as they moved into an ad before the story was, “I wonder what they will say?”
I had my four children, three boys and a girl during the 1960s raising them through the 1970s into adulthood in the 1980s. I was called, not by choice, one of those back to nature flower people. I was just being me, doing what I felt I could do best being a mom and a teacher. I actually went to college to be both of these.
From the very beginning I fought against the stereotype. I refused to put my boys in blue and my girl in pink. My choice of color was yellow. I refused to make the boys’ bedrooms obviously for boys or my girl’s obviously for a girl. My little girl ran around the countryside in just her shorts without a top, just as the boys did and they took baths together and loved running nude in the rain. People wondered how they would ever learn to not bathe together, wear a top, or whatever else I was letting them do out of the ordinary. Not to worry it would all come together and they would indeed learn to respect each others’ privacy, and the little girl would put on a shirt in due time.
Then there were the toys: A much more limited supply in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Plastic had not yet hit big time and toys weren’t a dime a dozen. Toys came now and then mainly on special occasions and I was big on toys that left tons of room for the imagination. And most were wooden or metal. I was adamant that I would not buy toy guns or any other violent toys. If they wanted a gun they had to make their own or use their thumb and pointer finger to make that “bang, bang.”
Of course there were the dolls, trucks and dress up. From the very beginning dolls, stuffed animals, trucks, cars, farm machinery, trains, etc., dress up clothes, and playing house were available to all equally to do with as they saw fit. And here is where the news story takes over. As I listened and heard the words and saw the little boy playing with his doll so lovingly I thought to myself it sounds like she read my study I did in the ‘60s about the development of a boy from birth to six years. But that wasn’t possible, so it seems like maybe some of society is finally catching up with me.
A little girl plays with her doll and it helps her become a mom. Well, little boys getting the chance to play with a doll can help them become a dad. A little girl pushing a truck may be developing skills for becoming a driver, just like a little boy. A girl dresses like mommy and so does the boy. How does it feel? A boy dresses like daddy and so does the girl. How does it feel? Dad’s shoes are so big, and Mom’s red high heels are so neat. And the petticoats on either girl or boy are such fun for a little while; both sexes learning about each other. When my first boy held his doll he tenderly pretended to nurse it just like mom. When my little girl got her very own yellow dump truck she immediately painted it blue so her brothers knew for sure it was hers.
Then the biggie, the color of the doll on the news story — brown. That is a problem obviously for adults. That’s where the teaching begins for kids. In the ‘60s I wasn’t able to find a brown doll, but I do remember finding a boy doll with a penis for my little girl. She was thrilled for she now had a boy and girl doll. The grandchildren are now playing with that doll. I remember getting a boy doll as a kid — but it was never real because it was missing you know what.
When I got grandkids I was able to finally find some brown dolls. So now we had both sexes and both colors. Which doll was the favorite depended on the individual child, but it was obvious all the dolls were loved, not one got left behind.
In the 1960’s when I started my family I had a vision, one of many, a vision of how our children could more easily accept each of us as we are, to not be ashamed of whom they were, or who they wanted to be, to feel free to be a kid and play with what ones heart desires. Over the years there were many ups and downs and it so often seemed it was all for nothing, and then on national news a little white boy showed up holding on tightly to his little brown doll. 59 years later, maybe there was still some hope.
Frances L. Stone