Posts Tagged ‘Children’

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Friday Freewrite: Childhood Favorites

09/09/2011

Last month, just for fun, I found myself wandering the stacks in Barnes & Noble’s children’s section. I was rather confused; as a childless twenty-something I don’t usually look through that section so it took me a few minutes to figure out the filing system. There are tons of books for children at every reading level (even pre-readers) — books that teach, books that play, and the ubiquitous books you read just to read a book. A lot of the titles were unfamiliar, but I was pleased to see some of my own childhood favorites on the shelves.

Around the same time, I had a conversation with my friend Julia about Lois Lowry’s book The Giver.  What I didn’t realize when I first fell in love with The Giver is that Lowry actually wrote two more books to make it a trilogy. I read the second book, Gathering Blue, but it was long enough ago that I can’t remember if I read it because of its connection to the original story, or just because I enjoyed Lowry’s writing. Either way, I want to pick up Messenger (published in 2004) to complete the journey and tie the first two books together.

All of this musing on books I once read led to this week’s Friday Freewrite – a very short list of my favorite books while growing up, stories that still resonate with me (or live on in my memory as a great read). Add your favorites in the comments!

The Velveteen Rabbit – I loved the story of the well-loved stuffed animal who finally finds real life through real love from his boy. It still makes me sniffle a little…

The Giving Tree – Along the lines of loving and sacrificing, I never fully appreciated what the tree gave to the boy until I reread this book as an adult. To be fair, I don’t know that the boy ever appreciated what he was given either.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle is a literary genius, and I challenge anybody to say otherwise. I still have dreams of tesseracts and worlds in other dimensions. I read a few of the sequels as well, and I have no complaints about any of them.

Holes – This story of a young boy in a detention camp was made famous by the film version starring not-yet-famous Shia LeBoeuf. I enjoyed the combination of the detention camp drama woven in with stories from the past, and how Louis Sachar brilliantly connected the pieces to lead to a thoroughly satisfying resolution. Also, I sort of want some venomous nail polish.

There are many, many more books that I can think of, but if I listed them all this would begin to resemble a novel itself!

What are your favorite books from childhood?

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Barbie Girl — Barbie Boy??

16/09/2010

Elvis Duran asked an interesting question of the parents listening (and participating in) the show this morning: would you be upset/uncomfortable if your little boy played with (or wanted to play with) dolls? (To listen to the discussion in its entirety, check out their Web site or the Elvis Duran iheartradio station.)

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that question or seen it discussed, but it inevitably leads in the same direction: those who believe it’s acceptable stand opposite those who are certain that playing with dolls will turn their son into a “sissy” or worse, will turn them gay. *Cue: the score from The Exorcist* Even Froggy, one of my favorite members of the morning show cast, said that he wouldn’t like for his seven-year-old to play with dolls because of the potential effects.

To this I say: dear idiots, your villages are calling.

First of all, a child’s choice of toys isn’t some early indicator of sexual preference. Child psychologists and behavioral scientists back this up (such as in this post), but they aren’t telling you anything that common sense isn’t already screaming in your ear. I played with Power Rangers action figures and Hot Wheels right alongside my Barbie dolls and EZ-Bake Oven. I didn’t grow up to be a superhero (sadly), nor did I suddenly develop an affinity for the ladies in the locker room. What I did learn was how to harness my own creativity in both battles and fashion design, and an appreciation for cooking that fortunately has stayed with me.

But it’s not such a worry when you’re talking about girls, is it? It’s the boys who may grow up to be softies or overly emotional if they – gasp! – pick up a baby doll with any intent other than to pop off its head or subject it to similar forms of early childhood torture. Children are natural mimics; they do what they see in an attempt to learn about the world around them as well as their place in it. Exhibiting caretaker instincts and drives is just as important for boys as it is girls, particularly in a society where one of the biggest complaints about parenthood is emotionally absent fathers.

Likewise, allowing children to express empathy and sensitivity is a crucial way for them to become adults who care about the world around them and are not simply selfish automatons. Maybe if that douchebag hitting on girls at the bar and slipping roofies into drinks had played with a doll or two, or had been allowed to cry over a skinned knee, he would approach people with more respect. By negatively reinforcing the idea that dolls are for little girls and action figures are for little boys, we continue to perpetuate the gender stereotypes that create hindrances in adulthood.

The second part of this argument is the idea that parents can control or influence their child’s sexuality. This, quite frankly, disturbs and angers me because it implies by association the concept of children’s sexual development. A child should obviously be psychologically prepared for the physical changes accompanying puberty, but should we really be introducing sexuality to small children (ages 2-10) as something tangible and malleable? I think the fear and ignorance-driven attempt by some parents to “prevent” homosexuality directly contributes (though of course, is not the entire cause) to the premature sexual awareness exhibited by children today. Both homosexual and heterosexual children subjected to this type of social conditioning experience stress and trauma, and may be more likely to act out sexually before they are emotionally ready to do so.

The corollary, of course, is the emotional impact of such conditioning on children who hit adolescence and realize that they are, in fact, homosexual or bisexual. The psychological nightmare that is adolescence — hormone surges, physical changes and social uncertainty — is compounded when a teen faces a growing attraction to the “wrong” sex. If they learn at home that homosexuality is wrong, an illness or a sin, they are far less likely to confide in their parents and, even if they do, to receive the necessary emotional support to accept and embrace who they are. Psychological studies around the world and through the years all tell the same story: teens who miss out on that support for whatever reason have a difficult time adjusting to adulthood. It isn’t impossible to live a full and happy life, but I suspect that those scars never go away.

So parents, if your little boy wants to care for his very own baby doll, let him. Talk to him and understand what draws him to that toy. Don’t try to change him, or tell him that he’s wrong; just accept the beautiful gift you’ve been given and use the opportunity to show that little boy that he is precious and loved. That way, you’ll be training him — and yourselves to be more open, compassionate people.

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