Posts Tagged ‘ toys ’

Honest Thoughts on My Sons Playing with “Girl Toys”

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.


From the moment we’re conceived, we’re instantly identified and divided according to our gender. If the sonogram shows a penis, blue blankets are dutifully draped upon rocking chairs, the quickest route to the local Boys & Girls Club researched and mentally stored for later. If the sonogram lacks a penis, baby shower attendees will come equipped with (and ready to unleash at a moment’s notice) any shade of pink that exists as of this typing. These two paths are typically followed like GPS directions when you’re in the bad part of town: You don’t dare try to “do it your own way” for fear of serious repercussions.

And we’re all guilty of “genderizing” someone, as I like to call it. I’ve certainly done it. In fact, my wife and I just picked up a flowery dress and a doll for my soon-to-be 2-year-old niece’s birthday party. I mean, it would be rude if I showed up with a Matchbox car and a whiffle ball bat, right? That’s most definitely how I’d feel walking into the party. And I’m not saying giving a girl a doll or a boy a toy car is a bad thing. But where I do have a problem is when it goes beyond gift-giving and becomes a close-minded, limiting philosophy about what our children should be exposed to and where their interests should or shouldn’t lie.

While I see myself as far from the perfect parent, this is one area where I feel like I’m doing the right thing- giving my kids the freedom to explore their surroundings and establish their “favorite things” independent of my input and potentially misleading influence. After all, who am I to impede their happiness?

Well, regardless of the child’s contentment, I’ve known an embarrassing amount of people who force their preconceived theories on their kids quite liberally.

“Put down that doll. It’s for girls.”

“Isabella, you can’t be Batman for Halloween. Only boys can be Batman.”

It happens everywhere, and you’ve seen it happen, too.  I think we’re far too quick to label a toy as “for girls” or “for boys” when, in reality, there is very little actual difference between the two. And really, when I think of the toys I “borrowed” from my sister growing up, many of them would raise an eyebrow with the traditionalists out there (not to mention my undying affinity for The Golden Girls). Let’s go through them, one by one, so maybe we can determine what’s so “girly” about them.

Barbies:  Growing up with one sibling, a sister, getting intimately acquainted with Barbie was inevitable. And like any kid (girl or not), I thoroughly enjoyed playing make believe. And in fact, Barbie was where I first realized my fascination with taking women’s clothes off! Not much “girly” about that.

Kitchen: Some of the most famous chefs in the world are men! And I’m sure they started by making their moms fake blueberry pies in their fake oven.

Baby Stroller: For whatever reason, pushing a stroller is always seen as a feminine act. But any father will tell you that we spend just as much time behind a stroller than behind a grill.

Dolls: Perhaps the most traditionally girly toy of all. And you’ll almost never see a boy given this as a gift. But I’ve got news for all you traditionalists out there. Boys play with dolls all the time.  We might call them “action figures,” but they’re dolls. They are toys designed to appear like a living thing, allowing children to create fictional scenarios and fantasize about them being real. They’re dolls. Even if they’re wearing a helmet and carrying a gun.

The color pink or purple: I’m not necessarily suggesting that you adorn your sons in hot pink Juicy sweatpants, but my 4-year-old came home from camp the other day and grumbled that another kid told him “purple is for girls.” It should be noted that purple is Antonio’s favorite color and has been at least since he’s been able to speak. I was infinitely proud when he followed that up with, “But it doesn’t matter.” He’d heard that phrase from my wife. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking I want to instill in my sons. I firmly believe that allowing children to be themselves instead of forcing them to be like everyone else yields a happy kid who won’t resent his/her parents for stifling their creativity.

This leads me to a post I recently came across on the NFL Facebook page. It was a photo of a woman, donned in standard referee stripes, with two simple words: Coming Soon? It was about Sarah Thomas, who is in line to become the NFL’s first ever full-time female referee this season. I’m a massive NFL fan, but I knew immediately that the comment thread would include a significant dose of close-mindedness (read: barely literate ignoramuses). However, even I was surprised by what I saw.

Since I was seeing exponentially more of the top two comments than of the bottom two, I decided to chime in and have my voice be heard.

Turns out I wasn’t alone. As of this screen-grab, 465 other NFL fans agreed. But some…did not.

What I’ve highlighted above is exactly the type of ignorance I never want my sons to exhibit. And yes, my “brilliant observation” comment was strictly sarcastic. Not that its recipient was aware of that.

Clearly, not every football fan is prepared for female involvement in their male-dominated game of choice. But maybe, just maybe, they’d be a little bit more prepared if they were raised to retain the open-mindedness they were born with, encouraged and not discouraged to try new things, and instilled within them respect for the opposite sex.

If you disagree, I’m sorry to hear that. But as a parent, I feel that it’s my responsibility to enable my kids’ happiness, not restrict it.

Thoughts? Rebuttals? Enter them by adding a comment below!

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Play Pen or Compost Bin?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

No, while my kids are living, growing “things,” I’m not turning them into compost. But I was having one of those evenings where my creativity was running low and my anxiety was running high. Part of it is because we bought a house. We also moved all our stuff out from Brooklyn and it’s now sitting in boxes haunting me.  These are boxes that I haven’t seen in 2 years so how important could they be? Regardless, every time I look at them I get anxious. I need to go through them. I need to purge. And yet, items come to our door almost daily from my favorite source of sh-t — Amazon Prime. So while I begin to purge, the piles still grow higher.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a hoarder. Not even close. I’m not a slob. I’m a neat freak. That’s probably why this clutter drives me more crazy than most. I hit the reset button on myself a few weeks ago. Now I need to do it with my possessions.

One of the items that arrived from Amazon last night was a compost bin. We have a pile of compost on our rental property but the landlord wants it in a bin. Makes sense. We have raccoons, possums, squirrels, and roof rats all vying to be part of our family. More food in the yard only attracts the party. The compost bin was this huge, hard plastic mesh. It had 5 plastic clips that I believe are to hold it together. There were no directions. Not even a small sheet of paper. So I guessed.

While the kids played I figured I’d at least tackle and take this compost bin off my list. So I rolled it out, snapped it together, and set it up proudly.

“Look what Mama just did!” I shouted with glee. (BTW–just by putting something together can feel like a huge accomplishment and mood lifter.)

Emmett and Fia came running as if I just opened an ice cream stand.

“Mama, let us go in!” Fia screamed with excitement. Emmett just jumped up and down smiling with no real clue what was going on. Except that it was something exhilarating.  Such is the world of tots. It doesn’t take much….

So, I put them in. They proceeded to play in there for at least 30 minutes. They had me go count to ten and then come find them. In the same spot. In a contained compost bin. Over and over and over. When I had run out of energy to say for the 17th time, “Hmmm, I wonder where Emmett and Fia are?” we switched to another game: throwing all the toys in the bin. Then taking them out.

By then, it was time for bed. Or at least the beginning of the bedtime routine.

Any good tips on what you’ve spontaneously turned into toys?

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Fia Friday: Playing Without Tons of Toys

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

These last two weeks I’ve gotten on a roll. I’ve been ranting against the toy overload, participation awards, excessive snacking….

So in light of all that, I thought I would publish a couple of pictures of my kids playing. Mostly without toys. Or just a few. I don’t want my kids to live in a world with no toys, but I do want to shield them from the extreme consumerism of America. If I can. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate and cherish gifts from the grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. It’s a fine line to walk, but I am convinced it can be done.

Here, Fia was playing with twins Maci and Cruz. They counted all the grapefruit from our tree both in English and Spanish. Then played a bowling game. They did this for over an hour.

Yes, Emmett is at the water table, which is a toy, but notice there aren’t a million things floating in it? He likes to just have a few….even a grapefruit counts. When he gets tired of one floating toy, I replace it with another.

This trampoline was a gift from the grandparents. There isn’t a day that goes by where they don’t jump on it.

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My Latest Annoyance: Parenting In Excess

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

I had two graduations in my life. One in high school, one in college. So what is with the “preschool graduation,” “kindergarten graduation,” “second grade graduation,” “fifth grade graduation,” and “junior high graduation?” I am not there yet, since Fia is just now in preschool, but I can tell you one thing: it’s going to annoy the sh-it out of me when it’s our turn.

I think the last two decades have been an exercise in indulging our children. From our consumerism when it comes to the holidays (read my rant) to the idea that when playing sports, no one loses anymore. “Oh hooray for us!! We are all winners!!!” In my Participation Awards blog post, I brought this up because sometimes it’s hard to resist all the indulgence. But really, when trophies and medals are given out to both teams so that no kid “feels bad,” I say suck it up and toughen up. You think teaching your kids never  to lose is smart and useful preparation for life? I don’t know what candy-coated life you live in, but it ain’t mine, nor most of ours.

Speaking of candy…I read another mom’s blog called Rage Against the Minivan. Kristen Howerton’s hilarious rant about all the “new” holidays that set your kids’ expectations for more gifts–like candy–got me thinking about all these “graduation” issues, sports issues, and of course my own annoyance at the holiday toy overload.  They all stem from the same line of thinking: spoil and shield your kid from what’s real. Since I’m already having a crappy week, I figured I’d just continue to rant about it all.

Her take on St. Patrick’s Day is spot on. Her kids came home from school with the expectation of receiving chocolate coins from an elf. Seriously?  I mean, will it ever end?

This year at Fia’s preschool I didn’t even know it was Valentine’s Day. And luckily we were out of town so I didn’t have to deal with anything. But when we came back, there was a huge basket of cards for her from her “friends.” Written of course, from the parents of the kids she plays with. Okay, that’s sweet. But just like in Kirsten’s piece, I found some parents had put together gift bags of candy. I’m sorry, but that’s just not cool. It raises the bar for anyone who cares (I don’t, so knock yourself out. You’ll get a handmade doily from Fia every year that I don’t whisk her off to Hawaii during holiday weeks. That’s it.), but it also sets a precedent. One that is embedded in an already monstrous problem facing our society: obesity. Okay, okay, I get it. You think I’ve gone too far to equate a Valentine candy bag with obesity. But the snack epidemic is already out of control in this country and gift bags of candy don’t help.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in Parents Magazine by Sally Kuzemchak:

Obesity experts now believe that the frequency of eating, not just bigger portion sizes, is also to blame for the uptick in calorie intake for kids and grown-ups alike. “Our children are being offered food at every turn,” says Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. And adding just one extra snack each day can make a big impact. In fact, it’s possible that obesity is driven by as little as 165 extra calories a day for kids ages 2 to 7, say researchers at both Harvard and Columbia universities. That’s roughly the amount in a handful of potato chips.

…Or a bag of Valentine’s Day candy. Or chocolate coins left by leprechauns.

I don’t know what the solution is because it would truly take a village–where everyone is in agreement–to stop this madness; to stop creating indulgent children who have no perspective when they grow up and face the real world. I’ve seen the results in my extended family. It’s not pretty. But the village mentality won’t work. The addiction to consumerism and more, more, more is just too great.  I guess the only way is to try and shield my kids from all the excess. Ironic, since so many parents are doing the opposite: they are shielding their kids from real life. I wonder, who will grow up with the better coping skills?

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Toy Overload — How Much Is Too Much?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

I am sitting here holding back tears. My intention this morning was to write a blog asking you guys for the best toy recommendations. I found myself bored while playing with Emmett yesterday. I got to thinking, maybe like me, he’s sick of all his toys too.

But no, that’s not why my heart aches…

I’m tired of the hippo that has the pieces you put in to match colors and shapes. I’m sick of the music table that cranks out tunes in Spanish and English. I’m sick of the 500 building blocks–and in particular the whining that ensues–when Fia builds and Emmett knocks down.

Poor me. Poor us…

“Emmett, stop!” she screams, then shoves him. He starts crying. I threaten a time out for her. I hold him. This scenario is repeated throughout my day.

Oh, how very sad right? But fear not. My heart isn’t aching because of my difficult life… 

I’m even sick of the 103 books we have. Because as great as books are for kids, come on. Let’s face it. Every few months they get into a few favorites. But at the rate we are getting books (me included–I love to buy them), they will never get through even a fraction of them.

And don’t even get me started on all the stuffed animals. Especially because you can’t donate them due to sanitary reasons. We probably have at least 150.

So back to my boredom yesterday. My thought was, hmmm…maybe I’ll ask my readers what their favorite toys are/were for their babies at 14 months old. Particularly boys. Then I can go get more crap. Yes crap. To help entertain me and my kid.

Nope, this still isn’t why my heart aches…even though I can understand all of your sympathy…

How quickly I forgot about my utter annoyance at Christmas by all the toys people sent us. On Christmas Eve, I counted 27 presents under our tree. Only 4 of those were for Phil and me. Instead of feeling blessed, I felt gross. Family members love to send our babies gifts. I get it. But honestly, we don’t need them. They clutter up our space and instead of our kids learning to enjoy a few precious toys, they get bored and inundated with too many. It’s the classic consumerism of America. It begins at birth. And seems to never end…I ended up giving a bunch of stuff to a toy drive.

As a side note: I also found myself resentful. Since they bought so much, we had very little to get for Fia or Emmett ourselves. We got them each one thing. As parents, we know how much fun it is to watch them open gifts. But it would be more fun if the majority of gifts were from us. Plus, then there would probably be six toys. In total. I felt a bit robbed by everyone else who took the liberty of buying them so many toys.

But back to my heart ache…

So there I sat yesterday, the indulgent, gross American, bored, as I pulled out toys from one of our 8 brimming baskets. And by the way, the toys at the bottom of those baskets never see the light of day. Again, I use the word gross.

I sat down at my computer to crank out this blog when I got an email from my brother. It was a link to a site. It was crushing. I can’t pull the pictures from the site because of copyright. So I just ask all of you to take a moment and click on this link. It hurt my soul. It slapped me in the face. Hard. Pull it up now, then come back to finish reading my blog. I will wait………

(more…)

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