I asked Rachel what kind of cake she wanted for her third birthday party. “Barbie Mommy, pleeeeeease can I have a Barbie cake?”. WTF. I have studiously avoided buying her Barbie clothes, letting her watch Barbie shows or encouraging her love of this unhealthily proportioned bimbo. But at the end of the day, it seems that I can’t escape it…the blonde skank has somehow managed to worm her way into our house (“skank” is a term originally used by parenting author Robin O’Bryant to refer to a particular doll and I think it fits quite nicely).
I mean let’s face it: If Barbie was a real live person, she probably wouldn’t be your or my friend. We’d be jealous of her for starters – who has a waist that small and boobs that big? It’s freaky. Plus she overdoes it a bit with the turquoise eyeshadow. And she’s too groomed to hang out with the likes of me, a bit matchy matchy with those shoes and handbags and that permanent smile plastered over her face. And her boyfriend Ken is lame – you wouldn’t want to sit next to him at a dinner party: you’d die of boredom.
But there is a hugely positive side to Barbie which mustn’t be overlooked. She’s a good old-fashioned toy that encourages role play and imagination. After all, wouldn’t we rather see our kids playing with Barbie, dressing her up and having countless adventures, than staring at an iPad screen for hours on end?
I was a complete tomboy myself but I still had one Barbie. I seem to remember that this was not by choice though, I would have loved piles of the things, but my mother insisted one was enough (wise woman my mother). I wore ragged shorts and t-shirts, had permanently scabbed knees and never wore shoes. My hair was cut into a pudding bowl and I used to suck stones (weirdly therapeutic, you should try it). So I suppose I want a little bit of tomboy in my daughter too. Subconsciously perhaps we all try and model our children on ourselves? But children are these unique little people, with a strength of character that belies their years.
And so it is with the love of all things pink. Over the last three years I’ve tried to avoid the stereotype and shied away from pink clothes and tutus and ribbons and tiaras. But now I’ve realised I’ve been a little cruel. Girls will be girls. When we went shopping last week Rachel picked out a pink tracksuit top, a pink dressing gown and some pink shoes. And I let her. But then I threw in a green top, to balance it out a bit.
I suppose at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: balance. So while she may be wearing her pink tutu and tiara, she is still racing around on her red bike and hitting golf balls with the back of her princess wand. But I draw the line at a Barbie cake – that skank can wait a few more years.
Barbie image from Mattel store