Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.
As a pediatrician, I may have been ahead of my time in advocating gender-neutral play for kids. Beginning nearly 25 years ago when our oldest was born and continuing with his sister and brother, we gave our boys ample opportunity to play with dolls and our daughter saw more than her share of toy trucks. Despite our advanced thinking, by the time they were 2, 4, and 6 years old, the kids seemed to have already absorbed society’s subliminal stereotyping, gravitating to the predictable playthings for their gender. Our kids really loved playing together, so most of their play was gender generic: backyard soccer, Beanie Babies, Candy Land, card games, and climbing towers. We gradually reconciled ourselves to the fact that some of their play would never cross gender lines.
As they got a little older, our daughter found girlfriends who loved Barbie dolls as much as she did (there were some non-stop Ken and Barbie days from breakfast to dinner) and the boys played ball — all the time, with each other and with other boys in the neighborhood. (Our oldest son’s first question, when we brought his baby brother home from the hospital, was: “When will he be old enough to play baseball?”). Occasionally, when Ken and Barbie were tired or when her friends had to go home, our daughter would join the boys in the backyard for ball. But the reverse never happened, for two reasons: the boys never tired of ball and Barbies were for girls.
That brings us to the fateful day when our now 4, 6, and 8 year old kids taught us an important lesson about the ability of kids’ imaginations to transcend all the TV, movie, children’s books, and playground stereotypes they were exposed to every day. It was a rainy Saturday and Emily’s closest Barbie buddies were all unavailable. This was a potential 7.0 crisis on the kid Richter scale.
Downstairs, in the basement, our boys had a 5 foot basketball hoop set up for rainy days. To compensate for age and size difference, our 8 year old played on his knees. Meanwhile upstairs, our daughter was able to sustain a Barbie soap opera (there was always drama with Ken and Barbie) on her own for about half an hour, but then she exhausted her imagination and needed a friend to contribute to the plot and dialog. But on this day, there were no friends and no outdoor options.
This was clearly a parenting moment, and my wife leaped into action. She called the boys upstairs and told them they had to be their sister’s Barbie buddies, at which point we both upgraded to DEFCON 3 and waited for the explosion. No explosion. Just a loud groan from the 8 year old and an echo groan from the 4 year old, followed by the negotiations. Will she play basketball with us after? How long do we have to do it? Do we have to talk like Barbie? When’s lunch? Each question asked by the 8 year old was echoed by the 4 year old. At that point, mom made it very clear: Your sister puts up with a lot of boy stuff in this house. Please go upstairs, now. Play Barbie and pretend to like it. Big groan, echo groan, synchronous stair stomping.
FDA Says it Will Deny Request to Ban BPA
The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday it will deny the National Resources Defense Council’s petition asking it to prohibit the use of bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, in products manufactured in the United States.
Is Sugar Toxic?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on new research showing that beyond weight gain, sugar can take a serious toll on your health, worsening conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer.
You Want Me to Sign WHAT Before Your Kid’s Party?
Sure, you expect to sign a waiver before your kid goes rock-climbing. But a backyard birthday party? More parents are requiring legal sign-off before basic activities like parties and play dates.
Mattel to Make Bald Barbie
Following an ongoing campaign on Facebook for Mattel to add a bald Barbie to its line-up, the company said it will create a bald friend of Barbie starting next year.
New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests
Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests.
A Facebook group dedicated to the creation of a “Beautiful and Bald Barbie” is campaigning for Mattel to mass produce hair-less Barbie dolls as “a great coping mechanism for young girls dealing with hair loss themselves for a loved one,” whether from cancer or other autoimmune disorders. Scarves and hats would be ideal accessories for the Bald Barbie.
In 2011, CBS New York reported that Mattel made a unique bald Barbie doll for 4-year-old Genesis Reyes, who sufferend hair loss from chemotherapy. Another Facebook group campaigning for a “Bald and Brave G.I. Joe” action figure currently has over 2,000 “likes.”
As a parent, do you think having a bald Barbie will be beneficial for young girls who have a difficult time understanding and accepting hair loss? Take our poll below.
U.S. Panel Urges ‘Energy Star’ Nutrition Ratings for Food Labels
Taking a cue from the Energy Star ratings on the front of household appliances, a panel of experts is recommending that a similarly easy-to-read system appear on every packaged food item in American grocery stores so busy consumers can glean nutritional info at a glance.
Educating New Parents Cuts Shaken Baby Syndrome
A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that when a simple education program was implemented, hospitals in New York State’s Hudson Valley were able to reduce shaken baby syndrome cases in their hospitals by 75 percent.
Barbie is a busy lady! She’s had over 120 jobs throughout the past five decades, including astronaut, tennis pro, rock star, and chef. And it looks like she’s ready for another career change. This February, Barbie will unveil her 125th career as voted on by girls and Barbie fans of all ages around the world. Click here to help decide what the famous blonde will be adding to her resume next. Environmentalist? Architect? Check back on February 12th to see the results!
Today Barbie, the doll that always bounces back, turns the big 4-8. According to Mattel’s most frequently asked questions, Barbie first made her debut at the American Toy Fair in 1959, which means her 50th birthday is coming up pretty quickly. Today I’m saluting Barbie because I still have my first Barbie doll – and so does my mom. Sure her measurements are unrealistic, but I’ll always love those memories of her and Ken cruising off into the sunset in their pink convertible…down my driveway. To stay on top after all these years is pretty impressive. So happy birthday little lady, you deserve it.