Kill ’em all

So I’m at a toy store, hunting for a set of sharks (this is the Brat’s latest tentative request – Mamma, do you think, can I please have some sharks and whales?)

Grateful to have him voice anything at all, I walk my legs down to a stub, until I find them. I’m at the store and am driven to distraction by all the other lovely toys we didn’t have available as kids. And then I hear a little voice say, ‘Mamma, dekho Spiderman.”

I shudder thankfully that the Brat is over his fleeting superhero phase and ignore the little voice.

The little voice pipes up again – “Mamma, dekho na, Spiderman.”

And then an angry mother voice snaps – “Spiderman? Girls spiderman khelti hain kya? Barbie le lo (What kind of girls play with spiderman? Why don’t we get you a Barbie?).”

It was a little girl wanting the big remote controlled Spiderman on a bike.

I stood there wondering if I should pull my underpants on over my jeans and rescue the little girl and buy her the Spiderman toy or whether I should just mind my own business and move on. Maybe I could have been less dramatic and simply walked up to the mother and told her not to tell her daughter what girls CAN’T or shouldn’t do when it comes to toys and their lives.

I’m ashamed to say I minded my own business and moved on. It would have been so much nicer to end a post saying that I righted a wrong, but sadly I didn’t. It seemed like a trivial thing to poke my nose in, unless viewed differently. I don’t know if anyone else would.

I walked out and told the OA who for once instead of saying “Babe, don’t be a jhandewali-jholewali,” said – Why didn’t you buy it for the little girl? You should have.

I believe this is what happens when a man has a daughter. He becomes a feminist.

Anyhow, I can’t help but admit that our generation(maybe I should say families like us) has moved beyond the fighting for the right to work/retain surname etc and now we’re insanely ticked off by such small incidents.

Only a few days ago friends were discussing their daughters and their dolls on Facebook. Most of our daughters have disfigured and dismembered their dolls (especially their Barbies). Either we’re terrible mothers and it’s showing in their treatment of the dolls, or well, the big bearded men were right – its mostly social conditioning. These girls don’t care for dolls although I know a lot of the children, both boys and girls are gently tucking their stuffed animals into bed (maybe we’re not doing it entirely wrong then). In all this I must make the disclaimer that the little girls do have elder brothers and I think that makes a lot of difference. The Bean can tell you the difference between an Apatosaurus and a Brachiosaurus only because of the Brat. It’s not really her own interest – so we’re never really free of influence.

In defence of the mothers, I believe they are living vicariously through their daughters. Not all of us grew up with Barbies and some of us might have wanted them. I did. I have to admit I did nothing once I got them. It was just the thrill of owning something from abroad. Something that was in fashion.

Oh well. All I can carry back as hope is that the little girl clearly knew her own mind. Someday Mamma won’t be there to mind her and I hope she kickstarts a bike and takes off, Superman style.


55 thoughts on “Kill ’em all

    • But to get back to the main point of the post. My mom a toy boy back in the 60’s, played gulli danda, cricket etc had the world’s most girly girl who was into dolls, and house house…and she let me be. Over time i grew up to be a little less girl and hold a cricket bat decently.

      But it must have taken my mom a lot of restraint not to drag that barbie away from me ๐Ÿ˜€

  1. arre, without even elder brothers this girl of mine has destroyed all the dolls. her other toys are okay but the dolls somehow get completely disfigured (and disrobed as well). Sharks! Have a bunch of them, she loves them. I bought them in Phuket one time, came with a little plastic mat depicting ocean floor. Feminism or otherwise, that Bike driving spiderman sounds awful. Ugh. I am glad to be spared of the superhero thing entirely!!! Ugh.

  2. Ouch… The mom actually said- No spider man’s for girls..> i would be thankingm y stars and be happy that my girl is away from gender specific stero typing!!!
    Here is what I had written no that long ago about Gender Stero Typing:

    Now… on second thouhgt, I am glad you did not buy it for the kid… ๐Ÿ˜€ The mom would have been aghast.. and it might have turned out ugly!!!

  3. MM, I’ve done that (too many times for my more-than-embarrassed company)lived the jhandwali-jholewali life—it doesn’t always pay…people do consider you meddlesome. I’ve received some strange looks, back then I had a thicker skin (or zeal?). But lately I find myself freezing and not following through… I don’t know if it’s right or wrong.

    But like you, I can’t stop thinking over the incident, wondering what if?

    LOL the part about dismembered dolls–I remember sawing off the poor thing’s arm and stitching it back with cello-tape (surgery)….I turned out okay, na?


  4. Amen to that ๐Ÿ™‚ I have a little nephew who insists on reading Roald Dahls, owning stuffed toys and hates all dhishoom-dhishoom. Clearly, kids know their minds and find their way.

  5. and here i asked my 4 year old if she was sure, absolutely certain she knew what she was asking for when, on her last birthday she said she wanted a barbie!
    she did get a barbie but now it is under the couch, gathering dust! alas!

  6. “I stood there wondering if I should pull my underpants on over my jeans and rescue the little girl…”
    You don’t *have* to do that, you know?

  7. I don’t really think that parents appreciate advice on how to treat their children; unless from self-help-books/blogs.

    I grew up thinking that my dad didn’t let me learn carate because I’m a girl! He just thought it was just too dangerous for children. Communication!

    I hope, that little girl doesn’t get discouraged…that she voices her thoughts and needs…that she fights for them too.

  8. I think I agree with what you did. I have a close friend whose friend is more or less like our daughter. But still, there are times where I think I cannot interfere a lot in what they want for their kid. for example, me and my husband do not believe in taking the kid to the doctor at the slightest sign of a cold. Whereas our friends are walking pharmacy shops.

    Though we have told them it would be better to let the kid’s immunity grow a bit and not let her body get used to fighting germs with the help of medicines, they do not seem to agree. Now we do not tell them.

    I think even with very close friends there is a thin line on till what you can interfere in their parenting.

  9. LOL at underwear over jeans ๐Ÿ˜€

    I wouldn’t have bought it for my daughter either, but that’s because I won’t buy it for my CHILD, not the gender thing. Can’t stand superheroes and Barbies…I hide those gifts, and watch in glee as those that escape my censoring fall to pieces in a matter of days.

    And yes we have the dismembered Barbies (that some idiot neighbours presented to her at age TWO), now that she’s 9, I think we will lay them to rest (in the trash where they belonged in the first place). The only dolls I approve of are two dark-skinned baby dolls, each has one, thoughtfully presented by a friend from the US. I want more like those.

    I’d posted a pic of Div in her birthday gown, and my cousin commented ‘Barbie Doll’. Aaaaargh, aaaargh, aaaargh.

    And so true abt the sibling influence, here everyday after they’re off to school, I find stuffed toys neatly tucked into ‘beds’ and baskets on both beds. And Dhruv arranges dolls in his sister’s friends dollhouse, while Div got interested in her Meccano set only AFTER Dhruv started playing with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • exactly why i shuddered at the spiderman. i hate them too. but this is just us again imposing our views on a child – which is what she did with the barbie, right? how are we any different, then? i wouldnt actively introduce a superhero, but if they want it, i’d not put up a fight because i believe kids get more drawn to anything forbidden.

      • Heh. Not to worry. The entire world makes up for my meanness. ๐Ÿ™„ My mom gave Dhruv 2 power rangers, a friend passed on her son’s Spidey pajamas, he got a Beyblade from a friend, my cousin gave him a soldier with a rifle,…just as long as I’m sticking to my principles of not buying the damn stuff…funnily enough, after the initial excitement, he hardly plays with the unapproved stuff…somewhere depp in his subconcious, my methods must be working ๐Ÿ˜ˆ So, in the light of all this…I don’t think I’m imposing any views, just…ahem….guiding ๐Ÿ˜€

        and tomorrow we have Div’s birthday party….PLEASE MM tell me how to convince some of these moms to stop buying her PINK Princess books and blue-eyed blonde busty Disney fairy tales and Hannah Montana….I can’t even pass these on as gifts to other people, I’d never be caught dead giving this stuff even to a child I detest! I can’t give it away, because no kid should be reading this trash. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

        • actually other than friends, everyone gives gender specific gifts because they dont know the child. so its a safe bet. me, i give books. that spares me the trouble of figuring out what some random kid in their class likes.

          • At the same time MM, you know, in comparison to Div’s friend’s moms, I was highly surprised at the lovely gifts Dhruv got from his classmates, stuff that required him to actually think and make an effort. His best friend gave him a Ben 10 Memory game…approved by both mom and son…so a happy compromise. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • I canโ€™t stand the stuff Starry and so I hide the trash – same issue – how do you gift it on if you are so vehemently allergic to it?
          Of course my girls know I am hiding it. They pretend they didnโ€™t see me and I pretend they didnโ€™t see me hiding it. Then sometimes I forget I hid it and then chance upon it and even say to each other – ‘oh mamma had hidden this remember’ and carry on with whatever they were doing. Well the whole point of the exercise is lost since all parties are in the know but we still pretend and even smile at each other.
          Nuts we are, I know.

  10. the true test would be when roles are reversed. It is quite acceptable for girls to want to be like boys and get boy toys to play with but can boys ask for princesses and get away with it?

    my son went for a bday party and was fascinated by the princess on the cake which he thought was very cool. later he told me that princesses were only for girls. I think his peers intervened before I could even say anything!

      • Sigh. Ok – now I feel foolish about the choppu set. But in my defence, they were earthy and age appropriate choices, rather than gender specific. My girls have and love both.

        And mine went through the superhero phase at 2, barbie/princess at 4 and at 7 begs for a gender neutral party. I agree about kids wanting what you deny them the most.

  11. Do you turn blue in the face when you walk into toy shops to buy gifts and they ask, for a girl or a boy?
    Even craft kits are gender specific!

    Sanah came back from school last year and said that her friend- a boy- asked the teacher to make a minnie mouse tattoo on his arm and the teacher said, are you a girl? you should get mickey mouse.

    Sanah is in a different school this year, but I cant shift from my house- our neighbour’s ten year old is trying to convince Sanah that mummies cannot be older than papas, mummies cannot have different second names from papa, and mummies and papas cannot have different religions, and worse that the child HAS TO follow her father’s religion.

    And just to break my heart and go against the mother’s wishes, my child is gentle, loving and nurturing with her dolls, she does NOT kick their asses in a way that would make her mum beam with pride. sigh!

  12. Oh so girls play with barbie and boys play with spiderman is it? thanks for the tip, ‘little girl’s mother’, will keep that in mind with my daughter as well! now my daughter plays only with lego sets and broken crayons and bat and ball..I dont even have a doll for her!

  13. 1. LOL @ jahndewali-jholewali

    2. Daughters convert dads into feminists – you said it. 100%.

    3. Re the knowing dinosaurs only if you have a big brother – know many little girls (incl my own when they were 3 years old) who could rattle off all details of an assortment of the creatures, and nah, they donโ€™t have any brother.

    4. Agree – you canโ€™t generally walk up to a stranger and set them right. Will backfire most likely ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    • arre its a disclaimer. in no way do i mean to say that little girls would never know strange creatures. I loved dinosaurs as a kid! but i just wanted to make the disclaimer in the interest of full disclosure etc. i still believe though, that little girls will be ‘girly’. Read Surabhi’s post and Wordjunkie’s comment – all the girls want nail polish, even though their mothers are not into it.

  14. As Krishna said, most of the parents(including myself) dont like to receive advice from other parents as we think we know whats best for our child. I felt bad not just bcos the girl didnt get the toy she wanted but she might have to face these gender stereotypes many times in her life if her mom’s mindset continues to be as it is now. I too would have felt the twitch to go and correct but its easier said than done.

    I went completely ‘Awww…’ to OA’s reaction.

    My 2 yr old son simply LOVES playing with cars. We didnt buy a single car for him until now as he gets lots of gifts from my friends. But we never stop him from playing with dolls and I sure would buy him a Barbie if thats what he wants.

  15. I so agree with with the last para… we are all reliving our childhood deprivations as hubby puts it, he plays with the remote control cars more and buys them for the son even if he doesnt want it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Oh that IS annoying. Strong temptation to smack the mother. If she HAD to gender stereotype couldn’t she have said “No Spiderman. Only Lara Croft Tomb Raider/Wonder Woman for you.” Sigh.

    I too give books as birthday gifts. Or puzzles. Or Lego. My criteria for giving kid gifts are (a) child has to do it independently so parents can get time to drink wine and read books because otherwise what’s the point of toys at all? (b) if the toy requires some parental participation it has to be something that they DON’T DO IN REAL LIFE. That is why tea sets and fake children (aka dolls) are OUT – its bad enough to make one’s own tea five times a day without having to pretend to be excited about making fake tea with a two year old.

    Then again should I complain? My daughter proudly hands me “tea” every day as she sees dada doing for Mummy.


  17. have to share this anecdote with you — read it ages ago in a Time or Newsweek, and it stayed with me. One American family, determined to get rid of the girls-play-with-dolls social conditioning, ensured their toddler daughter had only trucks and He-man and such action figures to play with. Till one day, when her mum spotted her tucking her trucks and He-man into bed and singing them a lullaby…

    • hee! this one takes me back to when my brother and I were lil scamps and we shared our all our games were about my barbie being a giant robotic destruction machine controlled by an evil mastermind (mine) and send to annihilate all mankind and the only ones who could stop bad barbie were the valiant pint-sized gi joes who rode atop the even punier hot wheels cars. At the end of each game we tucked barbie, the gi joes and all the hot wheels cars into bed and wished them all goodnight one at a time ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Wonderful observation, but I understand the logic that sometimes mums does not outgrow their own childhood fascination, like I keep buying books of my childhood to share reading them with my daughter in contrast to glossy, pinky, princess type books which my daughter would love to buy. But now after she has attained her 7th year, sometime I do give her chance, and we read those together but I keep telling that this is not true, the prince normally never comes to rescue you, it is us who need to clear up the mess laid in front of us. May be I subconsciously try to influence her with my own experiences for life. But then as you said, she will grow up one day and will choose whatever she will like to.

  19. I don’t know about my daughter but I would like to have a big remote controlled spiderman on a bike…..uhmm on second thoughts I might also get a heart attack if I stumble over it at night ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Ahh the gender stereo-typing. I know its wrong but yet sometime or the other unconsciously we all end up doing it. I wrote on my blog about how my sis was so darned particular about dressing her 1st born in blue or pink based on whether it was a boy or girl. My ma and I were given zillion instructions the days leading up to her delivery. Her 2nd, she got damned particular about not dressing them in blue/pink. She now feels its such a wrong thing to do. For her daughterโ€™s 1st Bโ€™day so many ppl wore pink and of course givted the girl pink that her son wanted to wear the color so badly. Of course the awesome mamma that she is..she saw it coming and had got this nice pink shirt for him..ready to fulfill his want when he demanded.

    I myself am guilty of giving gender-specific gifts when i go for kiddy parties hereโ€ฆbut then again how does one know what a child wants, right? I too have gifted books a few times, but some parents teased us asking if we buy books in wholesale and gift them off to childrenโ€ฆI kinda took offense to the joke. So ya..i buy educative toys n the like , but have also bought kitchen-sets for girls and the nerf guns for boys.

  21. He he I can so relate to the childhood toy deprivation part. I myself didn’t have many toys to play with in childhood, and as a result, I spend hours in the toys section of stores, admiring stuff. I doubt that when I have kids, I would be the one largely playing with the toys. ๐Ÿ™‚

    On a serious note, it’s sad the way we stereotype things. But you can’t always set everything right, no? That’s the sadder part.

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