Behold the Blindfold

I always loved the piñata as a child, except for the whole blindfold and spin part which I truly hated. I hated not seeing what I was trying to hit. I hated the idea that I would most likely swing and miss. I hated not being able to see what was in front of me. It made me angry. It made me cheat. So I could see.

I had it down to a science. I would close both eyes until it came time to clobber the piñata with my baseball bat and I would do it. I'd wack the shit out of that thing, with one eye wide open, peeking through the space in the bandana.

I'm using this analogy because I'm pretty sure that I wasn't the only one cheating at piñata as a child, that as I type this there are children secretly peeking out of their blindfolds so they can get a better swing at the candy-bellied beast. So they can see what they're doing and do it well.

And although the piñata has little to do with parenting, the blindfold does. We must protect our children by turning their faces the other way. I disagree and here is why:

Recently I spent some time with a mother who wouldn't allow her daughter to play with a babydoll because she thought it too advanced for her three-year-old. She didn't want her to get the idea that a three-year-old mommy was natural.

"She's only three," she said. "It's not healthy for her to be pushing around a stroller and changing dolly's diapers. I mean, what are these toy manufacturers thinking?"

I kept my mouth shut but the voices in my head were screaming. CHILL OUT, WOMAN! She wants to play with her baby doll because she wants to be like you!

And seriously, am I missing something? What's the big deal? Why are some mothers so concerned with the fact their daughters want to play with dolls? And respectively concerned with their boys playing with trucks and other "masculine" toys. Have we become so politically correct we're forgetting about instinct? One might argue that it isn't instinct, but ideals prescribed to us by western-culture. Partly perhaps, but are we bending over backwards to see that our children live in their bubble-world of ambiguity and androgyny? Quick close the gate to the community or the children might see that on the other side of the wall their are real life homeless people. Real-life migrant workers who live in the fields in tents made of Cheerios boxes.

Are the suburbs creating delusions? Do they sell blindfolds at Wal-mart?

It seems quite en vogue for parents to call grocery stores to ask that magazines be placed away from their children's eyes. The same women who confiscate porn from their sixteen-year old boys because it's "unnatural." The same parents who don't allow their daughters to play with dolls because they're sexist, because Barbie is terribly dangerous.

Barbie is not the problem. Barbie is not a peer or a person. Barbie is a doll. I worshiped my Strawberry Shortcake but was never envious of her enormous head and strawberry-scented cheeks. I thought Barbie was fun to dress up and strip down and stick out the sunroof of her pink Corvette. Her underwear were built in which was always a dissapointment. Ken's too.

Tell me, did you ever feel bad about your waist because Barbie's was so small? Was Barbie ever your ideal?

Shouldn't we be educating the children we seem to be hiding the truth from?

I know their are eight sides to this story and many of you will disagree with me here, but how come so many parents have forgotten that telling a child (or human being) to look away only makes them want to look? Why is a woman's breast inappropriate? Why must we put fig leaves over the genitals of life and think this is what's best for our children?

How can women call themselves liberal and then be so quick to hide the real world from their children? To protect them? Preserve their innocense? Isn't it obvious that that's impossible in today's age? That it is perhaps, hypocritical and confusing?

Right. Tell your child to close her eyes in the Barbie isle. Dolls are scary. Dolls are bad. Everything is bad and scary. Let's all close our eyes and our children's eyes and walk around blind. The blind leading the blindfolded so one day the "bad kid" in school will tell the truth you have so tried to hide. Santa Claus doesn't exist and there's such thing as sex and no it isn't dirty, as long as you're safe.

We live in a society overcome with fear and paranoia. From our government to our communities, everyone is so afraid. Afraid to live. Afraid to have sex. Afraid of themselves. Scare our children straight. Scare them into their shells. Scare them so they'll only come out to shop at Wal-Mart for dolls with real-woman curves and magazines with women dressed in collared shirts with no makeup on. Makeup is bad. Beauty is bad. Wanting to be beautiful and feminine is bad-bad-bad. We live during a time where Janet Jackson's nipple is censored and women cannot breastfeed in public. Where the news boasts of school shootings and never school success stories...

...So we can be more afraid. So we can hold our children's faces toward the bleached walls, away from the window as not to feel the chill, or GOD FORBID, the neighbor naked.

There is no peace. Taking Barbie away will not discourage a future eating disorder. It's not Maxim Magazine's fault that children grow into sexual creatures who want to wear tube tops at twelve. It's the day and age. One cannot Blindfold their child to what has saturated society. I'm sorry, but it's too late.

If we choose to breed, today, then we must also choose to chill the fuck out.

But why not just lock them up and throw away the key? I could home-school my kids and then, no problem!

...Or better yet, why not take the blindfold off?

I do not want Archer to be afraid. I do not want my children to think that sex is gross and wrong and dolls are "stereotypical" or "sexist" or "inappropriate" for children, even if Barbie wants to wear a Bikini and a mini-skirt to the mall, instead of a business suit. I do not want Archer to hang out with the children of parents who are so paranoid they don't let their kids leave the house without their pepper spray, or play in the sandbox because there was something on the news last week about sexual predators lurking in the shadows of Jacaranda trees. I want him to be aware. I want him to see for himself. I want to help him understand.

How can you tell a child to look both ways when you insist he wear a bandana over his eyes?
How can you educate a child when he can't even leave the house? With books? With educational programming and your own knowledge?

I truly believe that it isn't the job of the parent to blindfold, it is the job of the parent to point in the right direction. It is the job of the parent to protect the child from himself for that will always be his worst enemy. Not the woman in the bikini on the cover of Maxim or Barbie or the homeless bum who runs around with his dick out, like a lunatic. This is life. Life is dirty and messy and sexy and half-naked sometimes, even within the great wall we have built up to the sky. Even with bibles and seatbelts and precausions.

The way I see it we have two options:

We can blindfold our children and send them, dizzy and confused toward the piñata, or we can pull the blindfold(s) from their eyes and hold their hands through the darkness.




Anonymous | 12:44 PM

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you ... I couldn't agree more. I wish my kid could hand out with your kid! Other moms just don't get it

Anonymous | 1:23 PM

See, that's the thing. I don't agree that playing with trucks/gravitating towards dolls and barbies are "inherent." It is learned behaviour, and you're right when you say that the little girl wants to play with dolls because she wants to be like her mother. At the same time, I think there is a certain caution that is being exercised among parents these days. Whether you call it political correctness or a general awareness of the ways in which gender is constructed is not really the issue. I don't think that being aware of gender constructions and wanted to raise kids "outside of the box" is bad. In fact, I think it's a fabulous idea.

I guess my issue with your post is that I think you're too easy on the effects certain toys, videos, games, culture whathaveyou have on young people. I'm mean, I'm totally with you on the whole I didn't grow up wanting to look like Barbie. But I did grow up not wanting to be fat, olive-skinned, and poor. I wanted to be thin like my other popular friends, I wanted to be desired and deemed sexy like they were. Did I get this message at home--that I was supposed to be 110 lbs and a cheerleader? Of course not. It came from somewhere and I'm too weary to suggest it simply came from my head. I was very much informed by the culture within which I grew up. My parents didn't necessarily shelter me from it (how could they, really?) and so I did get thrown to the wolves like you and others. It happens.

I think where we differ is that I really and truly believe that we do have a social responsibility to own up to the messages we send out to young people. I'm not suggesting that Suzy Homemaker should appear on the cover of Maxim, or that coverage of the latest celebutante who is starving be censored. I just think it is important that we recognize that pop culture has everything to do with how we view ourselves and the world around us. To think it doesn't is negligent. (I'm not suggesting you're negligent or that you think that).

And yes, life is dirty and messy. But I've yet to meet anybody who has built this great wall around the kids. I've yet to meet anybody who has sequestered their children somehow into some sort of safe-haven from being affected by popular culture. Because it's impossible. Not to say that wanting to make small waves of change is not possible. It is. I guess what I am trying to say is that pop culture permeates every faucet of our lives. There is little we can do to protect our kids. My guess is, you tell your baby girl not to play with dolls and she'll pick it up at school/daycare. We programme our children to suit their gender roles--and if we as parents aren't doing it, then we can be sure those values are being reinstated by the church, schools, etc.

I'm unhappy with the way things are. I don't like that boys should play with trucks, girls play with dolls. I'm sick of how homophobic our culture is. There's no way to insulate ourselves (our kids) from it.

So what to do, right? Not blame television or Cosmo. You're right. It's up to us to teach our kids to love themselves, respect themselves, stay true to themselves even in the face of everything that tells them they will never be good enough, smart enough, popular enough etc.

Anonymous | 1:25 PM

I agree that Barbies, in and of themselves, are not dangerous, and no, I don't recall comparing my waist size with hers, but its a different world today then it was 15 or 20 years ago. I never had a shirt when I was a pre-teen or even a teen ager that showed my navel. I never wore a shirt that said "Boy Candy" or the like.

I'm not against navel baring and I'm not an old prude but I do think Barbies are a piece of the overall message we send to our kids, our daughters about what the female body looks like.

It's not just Barbie, it's Aeriel from the Little Mermaid giving up her voice for the man she wants, it's the pussycat dolls, it's the magazine covers with Nicole Richie. It's all intertwined with the consciousness of our daughters and I think that's a serious responsibility as a parent to point out and talk about.

I don't think children should be blindfolded but they absolutely need more educating than they did when I was young.

Keri | 1:26 PM

Wow, great post! I agreed with ALMOST everything you said. =)

That woman was NUTS not to let her daughter play with dolls. I mean, role-playing is what children do at that age! By stifling that part of her daughter's natural development, she is only going to cause more problems.

My son has a wide variety of toys. My family and friends know that I prefer wooden toys and absolutely NO electronic toys. The reason for this is because plastic toys have chemicals in them (I don't want him mouthing them!) and they break easily. Electronic toys do not allow children to understand 'cause' and 'effect.' The toys make the noises (which are loud and horrid anyway) whenever it is programed to. Blah, blah, blah, point is: I do carefully select my son's toys because I want him to play in an environment that allows him to be creative and encourages him to play continually. He does have cars and dolls and many things. The other day I saw him take a bottle and 'feed' the baby! I was amazed he knew how to do that at only 14 months old!

The one thing I disagreed with is Barbie. I personally don't like the dolls so I won't buy them for my kids. If my kids play with them at other people's houses, that's fine. I don't have a problem with that. It's not only the unrealistic image that Barbie carries, it's also plastic and cheaply made. I try to buy fair-trade toys because it bothers me so much that people in China are being paid 10 cents an hour for making all these junky toys that America has. I want my children to grow up aware of how American exploits people and why we do not do certain things as a way of not supporting the exploitation. Believe me, my kids won't be blindfolded. ;)

Jill | 1:33 PM

I agree with you . . . mostly. But I also think that kids should be introduced to the world in age-appropriate stages. Therefore, when my teen boys download porn onto our family computer right next to my 4-yr-old's Dora the Explorer program, I delete it and I lecture them about what's appropriate on a family computer and use the opportunity to talk to them about healthy sexuality.

It isn't blindfolding a kid just because you don't rush to expose them to everything the world has to offer. I think there is also a responsibility to help them fill in their world view at a pace that makes developmental sense.

Jill | 1:37 PM

And thanks for the discussion forum. I bet you'll get a lot of interesting and diverse comments on this.

Anonymous | 1:38 PM

When we sent our two-year-old off to school on Sept. 11, I wrote about this very thing (though not as eloquently). And gah, I've come to the conclusion that this is the problem with the whole WORLD. We are afraid of everything, trying to stop bad things from happening to everyone, and we can't without stopping ANYTHING from happening to anyone. It's no way to live.

I am really pissed at the media, though. They hammer this shit at us when it happens (like school shootings) and then spend DAYS discussing it as if something went wrong with the system and that it could have been prevented.
Then they have hit lists for keeping our kids safe as if the two are related.

We are seriously F'd up if this kinda crap passes for logic. We need more voices of reason like yours.

Anonymous | 1:49 PM

We have an 8 month old daughter, and I'm in the (on-going, and I suspect, never-ending!) process of filtering and trying to figure out how to approach these issues.

So far, the Bean has toys from across the gender range, including tractor books and dolls, but it's difficult to balance... how do we know when we're 'nurturing' her creativity or her instincts and when we're 'directing' her to follow a certain path?

Thanks for a different perspective!

Blog Antagonist | 2:11 PM

Great post!

Living in the South, I face this every day. There is always some hysteria over something. Not long ago, some twit decided Harry Potter should be removed from school libraries because it promoted "evil". Recently, some Mom had a fit because her child viewed a nude sculpture on a field trip. Jeez. Get a grip, people.

Of course, around here, most of this has to do with hyper religious idealism, but the principle is the same.

I agreed with much of what you said, but I do try to shield my kids from media that is gratuitously violent, overtly misogynistic, or excessively frightening. Though I don't want to shield them from reality, nor do I want to mar the carefree of childhood unnecessarily.

Very thought provoking post. I love those. :?)

the stefanie formerly known as stefanierj | 2:25 PM

Before yesterday, I'm sure my response to this post would be very. different. But after yesterday, all I want to do is take my boy, my hubs and lock ourselves in our basement and never come out. It's just too f*&^&%king scary out here sometimes.

Anonymous | 2:44 PM

I'm a bit on the fence with the whole debate.
On the one hand, I understand where GGC is coming from. I too, see so many parents do strange, strange things... If my son wants to play with a doll, so be it. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, when I was pregnant with my second, I bought my son a doll. I felt it would be nice for him to play along. I wanted to get him used to fact that another human was entering this family. Here’s the thing… occasionally he would put the doll up his shirt and walk around pregnant, other times he would give it a little snuggle, but most of the time he was stepping on it to get to his trucks.

But… and it’s a big but (I’ll get to that in a minute). I feel like pop culture is a bit more pervasive now. I don’t remember being bombarded with consumerism in my youth. I don’t remember feeling inadequate because I didn’t have the latest and greatest… Somehow, now that doesn’t’ seem to be the case. I walk around my town and I see kids with Louis Vuitton bags and Gucci shoes. Obviously, the parents are feeling the need for something when they’re buying their children these kind of items.

However, here’s the “but”… my 7-year old niece has developed an eating disorder… SEVEN! She’s rail-thin and always has been but now she’s decided she’s not.
I’m not saying anorexia wasn’t around when I was younger but I don’t recall being seven, and feeling the need to starve myself…. And I know she’s not alone in this. There has been a marked increase in with eating disorders, hitting kids younger and younger. Where does this come from?
I think pop-culture and the ‘rags’ are to blame or at the very least, partly to blame… I certainly understand a parent wanting to protect their child from this sort of thing.

Anonymous | 3:16 PM

I agree with nearly everything you said. Nearly, only because I think some of the messiness of life could be better left for a later age. It's not to say that I'll blindfold Gabe from life's mess entirely. No way. But there are things that I want him to learn, just maybe not at 2 1/2, or 5 or 9. I'm far more inclined to let Gabe experience life and make his own choices about where his appropriateness line lies. I wrote about an aspect of this myself last week when we had a friend over to watch movies and our friend picked somewhat inappropriate movies for a toddler to view. I will not shield Gabe from life, but I think there's a time and an age for it. I'm just hoping I'll know it when the time comes, and that's the hard part.

However, shielding him from playing with dolls (one of his favorite toys is a stroller) is too much. I think that mother is confusing protecting her child from harm and teaching her child about character. Dolls aren't scary. Clowns are scary. But that's a whole 'nother idea.


Totally agree that there is a time and place. I obviously don't think Archer is ready for much of anything and therefor will not be doing the banana on a condom thing for another decade and I also agree with limiting exposure to TV/MEDIA/POP-CULTURE, as in NOT IN MY HOUSE, but... my point is that it's out there. We cannot control what happens in school and when our children leave the nest and that's where I think education comes in as opposed to simply covering the child's eyes or putting our heads in the sand.

Mom101 | 4:18 PM

Wow, provocative!

I think that woman is a nutbar. Dolls are good for both genders because they teach children nurturing and empathy. I see it in my own 15 month old in how she learns to pet her "animals" or put a baby doll in a crib. Good lord, she's hardly preparing for a life of patriarchal servitude.

(And disagree with Laura that playing with dolls/trucks is learned behavior. There are an inordinate number of studies that indicate there are indeed gender differences inherent in children and that girls tend to nurture and build relationships, while boys are more mechanical and destructive. Anyhoo...)

I don't think this is a suburban issue though and am curious why you called out the suburbs here. I think there are indeed appropriate and inappropriate things for kids by age. I know what you're saying about Barbies, but I think things are more extreme now when we were kids. Like Bratz dolls or Pussycat dolls which are very provocative. Forget curves--those dolls come with their own penicillin.

I don't plan on shielding my daughter from them, but I can also explain why I don't like them. Same as why I can explain why I don't want toy guns in the house or republican party literature.

But I suppose I can spend a lot of time saying what I will and wont' do when I've just got a kid learning to talk. I reserve the right to change my mind when she's 8 and tells me she wants to go on a diet.

Her Bad Mother | 4:22 PM

Why let them feel the full onslaught of all the shit out there too early? There's something about letting them grow up to assume that Bratz dolls and porn and Pussycat Dollz and Grand Theft Auto is what *is*, is the perfectly acceptable norm, that gives me pause.

But... they do need to understand that so much of popular culture is defined by those things. I think that they need some exposure to it if they're going to be able to critique it. But that exposure needs to be *mediated* and in some cases, maybe, for some time, censored a little a bit, until they're ready for it... So I agree with you on the whole guidance thing, although perhaps am bit more inclined to control that guidance, be a bit more strict? But I don't know...

Gonna have to give this more thought...

Anonymous | 4:34 PM

Like mother like daughter...this has been one of my pet peeves since you, Rebecca, were small. I big time filtered pop culture, but I didn't cram fear down my children's throats. I think there is a big difference between the two. If we constantly emphasize to our children all of the bad things that can happen, how are they ever going to learn to trust, to love? Anna Quindlen wrote a wonderful article in the September 18th edition of Newsweek on this very topic. I highly recommend it. To quote her, "We live at a time when we can't afford to let [our children] accept the Samaritan's ride. But we also can't afford to think that Samaritans don't exist." Educating our children about safe behavior is important but filling a house with love and trust, and not fear, is the strongest way to fight against the negative aspects of our culture. This is what Buddha AND Jesus preached. And about the Barbie, Barbies don't make anorexic girls. In my opinion instead of throwing the Barbies out, throw out the bathroom scale. Children watch their mothers obsess over their weight and that has more influence on their future behavior than playing with a plastic doll.

Anonymous | 4:54 PM

Pop culture is not turning our kids in to anything. Pop culture doesn't create. Pop culture reflects.

I can control what my baby girl sees. I just have problems with others who want to control my child sees. And for those people who spend all their time trying to control what my child sees... I really worry about the nutjob children they're turning out.

Lena | 5:45 PM

It's amazing that you wrote about this topic because I was just thinking about this in the car today. I was listening to a report abotu a child rape and I felt physically ill that this is the world that I must raise my daughter in. My precious innocent daughter.

And I wondered "How long can I keep her protected? Can I keep the world from her? How long SHOULD I?".

Excellent points you make, most def.

Unknown | 6:21 PM

I agree with your mother. I filter the media my 9 month old is exposed to and plan on doing the same as she gets older. I makes points to expose her to different economic classes, and as she gets older, she will travel internationally. I want her to know that everyone is basically the same.

The best I can do is love my child, be honest with her, respect her, and hop, that in the end she can love, be honest and respect herself.

apricoco | 7:08 PM

De-Lurking here to say I mostly agree with your post. Mostly because, I do agree that Barbie was not the source of my weight issues and I think Barbie is a fine toy. But, there are problems out there. I have several nieces and I shop for them regularly, many of the toys available for girls are downright scary. Have you ever seen a Bratz doll? Big heads, enormous boobs, small waists and hips, and VERY slutty clothing. That sums it up right there. I can't in good conscious send that message to my nieces. That big boobs, slutty clothing and tons of makeup are the way you "should" look. I can't protect them from it, but I can make sure that message doesn't come from me and that I reinforce good messages. I can teach them how to analyze messages and about advertising, but they have to decide for themselves at some point. And I agree with L.A. Dad that the media is a reflection of who we are. But my biggest issue is this; at what point do we try to use the power of our dollars to make sure that the "media" knows that we are looking for something other than big boobs, small waists, and tons of makeup for our girls?

PunditMom | 7:24 PM

Rachel has just discovered Strawberry Shortcake and is in love with her. Maybe she's a bit too old for it (at close to 7), but I'm behind it right now. She's missed the doll thing and I think she needs to find the part of her that can be nurturing in a mommy sort of way.

From a PC point of few, I was always anti-Barbie, but she' been finding her way with them, too. at 4, she LOVED the blonde ones. But now, she had gravitated towards the ones that look like her -- brunette and Asian -- and seems quite proud.

There are downsides, but we didn't turn out too bad with our doll issues. I think our daughters will be OK.

Keri | 7:47 PM

Commenting again. GCC, I agree with you that once our children go out in the world, they will be exposed some of the things that we do not have at home. Thus, communication with our children is essential. When Lochlan gets older, I know he will ask me why we don't have cable TV and why we eat organic food, etc. I will explain our family's beliefs and attempt to engage him into a conversation about the world as we know it.

I loved what your mom wrote about Anna Quindlen's quote. That quote rings so true in our world today. I also agreed with what she said about the bathroom scale-THROW IT OUT. For my graduate studies, I researched on body image. It was shocking to read that something like 60 percent of those girls had negative body image because of their mothers' own negative body image. The rest were influenced by pop culture. Something needs to be done to change this.


Keri- Totally. I'm backing my mom as well. I grew up without a scale in my house and only weigh myself at doctor's apointments. Otherwise I know I would obsess. I STILL obsess but with a scale I'd be toast.

Apricoco- You make a good point and I don't know how we convey our disinterest in Bratz dolls. Maybe by not buying them? The point is is that we cannot ignore what it out there. We can laugh at Bratz dolls, roll our eyes and move on to something more appropriate... and when our kids ask "why not!?" we explain to them honestly.

Mom-101- A la the suburbs, I guess because I grew up there and although I had a wonderful childhood, I find myself scared shitless of the new generation of kids when I'm down there. The 'burbs freak me out BIG TIME. The upper-middle class everyone looks just the same... But you're right. It's in our cities too, as per my example of local mothers. I'm just a hater. (Heh.)

To all of you, your points are enlightening. I appreciate your perspectives. (High five.)

Ronica | 8:52 PM

YOU GO GIRL! I agree, and as a teacher (in a Catholic school, nonetheless) I see people who are reacting in a healthy way to these issues every day, and whose kids are benefitting from it and growing up to be really nice, cool, interesting, well-balanced people.

Then I see others who, um, aren't.

I've also taught in a Conservative Christian school (yes, captialized for a reason), and there ARE people who Laura doesn't seem to think exist ("But I've yet to meet anybody who has built this great wall around the kids"). They are out there, they vote, and they get policy made. And unfortunately, they swing things one way, and we all know how pendulums work.

Is it good? Not necessarily, but we can control how we react to it. After living in Europe for a while, coming back shows what control freaks Americans can be about things--and how it backfires. I agree with you, and when I have a child (God willing) I will breastfeed in public, not hide real life from them, and teach them to be decent human beings.

I hope it works.

Molly | 9:47 PM

Oi. This is why I was happy when I found out I was having a boy.. because it seemed more simple. No princess sh-t and everything PINK?!. If I had a girl, I would want to teach her to be feminine without being a victim, want to teach her how to have fun with fashion and beauty without becoming anorexic, want to teach her how to be strong, but nurturing... yikes. With girls it seems like such a crazy balancing act. But with little boys it's the same, because they are JUST AS COMPLICATED. There is MORE of a stigma against boys playing with dolls than about girls playing with trucks... What's a mommy to do? Thankfully mine is too young to even be able to do anything with a Barbie, but suck on her head! Is that so wrong? But he was looking at trucks longingly the other day... ?

mo-wo | 11:27 PM

So much of this depends on our dependence on the philosophy that our children are vessels. Empty containers to be filled with good or bad things.

Children are people. Not mini adults, mind you.

Thank god

the mad momma | 12:40 AM

we are way behind you in india. a few of us give thought to the toys, most of us dont. but either way, i dont take it too seriously. i dont obsess about guns being given to my son, nor do i freak out over the idea of porn magazines in dept stores.... but no, i wouldnt be the one introducing him to them. this is the world we live in and we can only shelter our children so much. so if he wants to chew some cheap plastic toy, i let him without worrying abt the toxin, because God alone knows what goes into the food we buy everyday... we have no specifications in india and neither do the cartons carry a list of the ingredients.. in fact, most food is sold loose and in the open... its only a few things that come in a carton!

Anonymous | 4:05 AM

I think a lot of the hullaballoo about toys-yes and toys-no is parents trying to look smart, causing their own stir, their own cause, their own parade to lead. Unless it's a dangerous toy with some rough ragged sharp edges, I say it's more about the parent than the child. Don't buy your child whatever you don't want him or her to play with, but leave the rest of us alone and keep your small, Barbie-size-minded opinion to your self. That, of course, is my very large doll headed opinion. :-)

Anonymous | 5:35 AM

I don't worry so much about barbie anymore. Shit. I worry about the ridiculous objectification of women on music videos... more than barbies.

And that doesn't mean I'll shield my daughter's eyes from it - however, education and parental guidance can only go so far.

At some point, we're dealing with hormones and brain chemistry and can easily take over anything you've tried to instill in your kid.

And peer relationships. They're huge. And can have a greater influence than anything you've tried to show them.

I don't believe in total withholding - I was a product of that and all I wanted to do was see more of it.

And I don't think the love scene in Top Gun would have done me wrong (god I love that scene) - however, some sex scenes that are on mainstream tv ain't appropo for a kid.

We do what we can to help our child. I was homeschooled and totally shielded from the world - I had some amazing revelations in college - innocent I was...

But look, those were different times (and I still had the shit beaten out of me in elementary school).

I think a kid (perhaps like mine) can be homeschooled and get a better more well-rounded education than anything you might get at a public or private school.

Granted my parenting was crap - however, I still couldn't fight back or unlock myself out of the bathroom.

And you know, things can be worse now.

Plus, you have to look at personality and your OWN self as an example. I try now to tell my daughter to tell kids NOT to hit her in the face at the playground and if you fall to get up that I'm there and I'll help her.

But her personality is one to not just flip off the bratty kid at the playground.

No matter how much I tell her, will she get mistreated in school? Perhaps. And that worries me.

And so when you have a kid like that, what do you do then? Just send them out to the wolves and say - this is the world kid, I've done what I can to tell you?

Eh. I think it's our job as parents to pick and choose and educate. Some things just aren't appropriate for kids - to see, wear, etc. based on their age.

That's not being over protective. I think that's just smart parenting.

Unknown | 6:12 AM

As far as dolls - Lydia got a doll last christmas from my mother. She fed it a bottle and my mom said "aw, Lyddie, you are such a good mommy!" I gasped inside - "mommy? she's still my baby!" Overreaction - but then she started throwing the baby doll down the stairs and asking if she was ok... anyway. It's nice to see her practice caring and concern.

For everything else... I agree with many of the commenters, and GCC - we can't censor our children from the world (though sometimes I really want to) but we can say, "not in my house, and this is why". The "why" is what is important - and what we are most responsible for as parents. And... the hardest.

Anonymous | 6:20 AM

I'm in vogue? Oooooh, pinch me!

While I'm here, I'm compelled to set the record straight. I never demanded that anyone remove a magazine from a grocery store shelf. I simply exercised my right to voice my discontent at having to deal with soft porn-caliber material at my FIVE year old child's eye level.

I did ask the manager on duty who was more important to that store in terms of revenue generated — the people who stand around and read magazines or the people who shop with their children and actually buy groceries. They made the decision to remove the magazines and I made the decision to keep shopping there. Money talks. It's the American way and I see nothing wrong with people using it to shape culture rather than just accepting what is served to them like a bunch of sheep.

It's obvious that you and I differ very much on what we feel constitutes responsible parenting but at the risk of losing my membership to the Flaming Liberals Club, I must concur with many of your very diplomatic commenters on the importance of age-appropriateness when choosing to remove that blindfold you speak of.

The bottom line is that there is a right time and age for everything and children DO deserve to have a childhood that is childish and carefree and unhampered by adult concerns.

I mean otherwise, why not just put some porn on in the morning while your kindergartener eats breakfast and smoke a joint with your toddler before lunch and how about watching a little Ultimate Fighting before you put Junior to bed? You know, in the interest of not hiding anything or blindfolding them...

Anonymous | 9:36 AM

Love the post and the comments. Great discussion!

As others have said, my goal is to control the dissemination of information for as long as I can, and to ensure that my girls know that Kyle and I are always there to answer questions and help them navigate new situations.

The influence of other kids (more specifically, what their parents have taught them) has already started to trickle in, as both of my girls are in child care. When Tacy hits kindergarten, that trickle will turn into a stream, and then in elementary school, it'll be a flood.

We don't want to homeschool her for a variety of reasons, so it will be up to us to give her the tools she needs (most importantly, self-esteem and trust in us) to handle all of that information.


I think there's a huge difference with bringing "the shit" aka pop-mags/porn/drugs/etcetcetc home for our children and educating them. I want my child(ren) to be aware that there is shit going on. That doesn't mean I want to bring it home for them to play with because "fuck it, right, what's the use."

That wasn't what I was saying at all. Call me CRAZY but parenting with honesty is not parenting recklessly.

When I was in Greece a few years ago, there were women running around naked on the beaches and boys/teenagers/men didn't even look twice. It wasn't a big deal because they do not make it a big deal. The body is the body. Sex is sex. We have made it so "sacred" and "off limits" that it has become the forbidden fruit and therefor a "must have." This is one of the reasons America has issues (in my opinion) and one of the reason our children have issues too.

I think it's great for children to be children. I WANT Archer to have a childhood, but I also want him to hear the truth from me and not Bobby Shmo from the playground because one cannot control the peer group. One cannot control hormones and one cannot control sexuality, therefor why not let the child live? Not RARRR PARTY, DRUGS, SEX, LIVE! but simply, live with self-esteem like mothergoosemouse said, but self-esteem that comes from US setting an example, instead of hiding the truth and trying to control their little lives with our paranoia.

Canadian Mommy | 10:41 AM

AMEN! I love this post! Well said for sure!
In fact, the other day, hubby and I were watching a show that bleeped out the word 'penis'. seriously. I was in shock. Isn't that what it is? I must have lost the memo.
Oh, and my daughter plays with her dolls, and barbies too. I think my son will too, maybe against his will, but what do you do with an older sister? lol!

PetiteMommy | 3:00 PM

I totally and completely agree with everything you have said and that is the approach we are taking with our kids. I don't want to shield them or hide the truth and realities from them. I want to educate them and like you I want it to come from us and not some random kid. I will be open and honest with our boys when the time comes to be.

However, we are still thinking of homeschooling not necessarily to protect but to give a better childhood and better education because of the area we are in.

Anonymous | 3:27 PM

When I read this post I identified with what you were saying. The strange thing is that our opinions and beliefs are very similar (I can relate with most of your posts) and it didn't occur to me that this post would generate such a debate with such "strange views". I call it "strange views" because, as an european, sometimes I find your american views and your american beliefs so strange it's almost surreal. I do not want to offend anyone, but the image americans project is the bush image. There's good and there's evil. And you, brave americans (brave parents) have to fight evil. But evil is not magazines nor dolls, I would say it's human behaviour....but I take it back because human behaviour is not evil, is not is grey. Americans try to paint a world of black and white but you always forget the greys. Please tell your children about greys, let them play with barbies, let the magazines be in the shelves, make them aware of what surrounds them...that's the only you of kicking away the bush that lies beneath.

Anonymous | 5:01 PM

I love this entry. I'm new to your blog but I'll be a regular. I've added you to my sidebar :)

Binky | 5:28 PM

I especially agree with your points regarding repressed sexuality. I feel that we, as women, would do better to embrace sex first, and then work to address the iniquities in a sex culture dominated by men. Women do not need to refer to their own sisters as "sluts." Whose cause does that kind of language further? Also, I don't buy the argument that porn is an evil that one must equate with guns and drugs. I think a lot of the excesses and addictions that exist today around sex are a result of a culture that denigrates the act. But, as I said today in my own post about lofty issues that I can barely get my head around, I have no idea what to do about it. How can we change women's ideas about sex? Because that's what needs to happen first.

Anonymous | 5:51 PM


My son plays with dolls and gives them kisses and tucks them in. And plays with his trucks. And tries to stick the babies in the trucks. It’s all good.

Barbie didn’t make me feel bad about my body. People did. I was super-skinny, just like my dad, and had these loooong legs that hit widest at the knees. “Well-meaning” adults would say, “Oh honey, you are toooo skinny. Eat something.” And “You’re not anorexic, are you?” No lie. I avoided wearing shorts for two summers because of those idiots (and there were MANY). As for Barbie? I loved her and she loved me back, knocking knees and all. If those same people thought about THEIR words and actions, rather than what a doll may do to level my self-esteem, I dare to say we’d be in a better place?

As parents, it’s our job to filter some of what we consider negative messages/TV/images from our kids, but at the same time, not create a bubble around them. But I guess I do it to myself. Once the little man was born, I stopped watching the local news (car jacking? suffocated baby? school shootings?) because I feared I may never leave the house again. I’m ashamed that’s how I chose to deal, but it gets me through the day.

[And what’s with that first photo? You think that woman is actually going to let he kid whack the shit out of that piñata in the foyer? ]

Anonymous | 6:00 PM

Right on, Helena!! I couldn't agree with you more!! The Puritan ethic that started this country has deep roots and many of us feel we don't belong here. But believe me, the Bush mentality is a minority even though it seems like a majority (he didn't really win, remember?) And those of us who don't buy into the fear mentality must stand up and voice our opinions loudly so that you all can hear us in Europe. It saddens me that you all only see the bushes instead of all of the lovely trees!


You guys are awesome. I think this debate is soooo important. (is it a debate?) I guess I'm kind of with Helena, as in I don't understand why the American way must so often be "NO!"

ECR- THANK YOU. I think maybe this should be the next blog topic. Puritan ethics regarding sex. I always found the idea that it isn't feminine to be sexy as strange. And while I am VERY against violence (I can't even handle it when people kill spiders around me) I am pro-sexuality and I enjoy sex and talking about sex and being sexual. I think the only thing we can do about sex is EDUCATE, and CELEBRATE it as the most HUMAN OF ACTS.

Equating sex to sin is in my opinion the LOWEST POINT of the church and the LOWEST POINT of American culture.

MRS. Q- Don't do news here either but last night during a commercial break the Michelle Tuzee or whatever or news bitch is says "BREAKING NEWS. ARE YOUR DOG BIQSUITS DEADLY? TUNE IT AT 11. IT COULD SAVE YOUR PET...."

Um, if that isn't "fear for fears sake" then call me crazy... Yikes.

Mom- Gotta love you for being involved in this.

Petite Mom- I think homeschool is fine and great even. I know awesome people who have been homeschooled. I also know nutjobs but that's the way everything is... I do think many people homeschool for the wrong reasons, present complany excluded ;)


*company. woops!

Anonymous | 6:29 PM

Great post. Very thought-provoking.

I have small children and I will totally admit that I lie to them. Sometimes I am literally at a loss as to how to answer. Sometimes I think that they don't need to have an answer.

I don't wish to have an extended discussion with my four year-old about my grandfather's morphine addiction or my ex-sister-in-law's questionable parenting habits. And yes, she asks questions about everything, and I believe, at the age of four, she doesn't need to know everything. Hell, at thirty-four, I don't need to know everything.

I admire the notion that you seem to have about being open with your children. But sometimes a little blindfolding can be good. It's a tough world out there. Our kids are going to learn lots of things that maybe we wish they didn't. I don't mind if it takes them awhile to learn it.

You can protect your children without smothering them. There's a difference between letting a young child watch Nick Jr. and Cinemax. Making choices to protect your children from "too much, too soon" is not a bad thing.

I do agree that Americans tend to promote certain behaviours by trying to hard to prevent them - not only sex, but drinking, too (I posted about that on my blog a few weeks ago). That doesn't mean you have to do shots with your ten year old, though.

I think there's a balance out there between not saying anything and saying too much. As parents, I think our job is to find it.

Julie Pippert | 6:38 PM

It's mistaking the desire. It's misunderstanding the urge.

It's thinking it is something taught---something bad taught, something badly taught.

Instead, it is really just our humanity.

But see, there is a huge trend of people misunderstanding what it means to be "good." It's a whole mistaken movement about How to be Good. In fact, the rather fabulous Nick Hornby wrote a (of course) fantastic novel, called this very thing, about this very topic.

It's the parent demanding a teacher be fired for taking her child to an art museum where they saw Nekkid Statues. And it's the prinicpal who caves and does it.

People get told unconstructive directions like, "be good," with no explanation of what that means, or how to achieve it.

On the good end, it means an open-ended opportunity for self- and societal-exploration.

On the bad end, it means---since we are all learning people---mistakes. Due to misunderstanding.

Like, not understanding there is Okay Nudity and Not Okay Nudity (use of Body is what I really mean).

Like not understanding that playing with dolls isn't a desire to be a mommy, but a need to play out what she sees and interacts with all day to *understand it.*

It's throwing the baby out with the bathwater because the person can't---or won't---distinguish, and operate in the theoretical shades of gray on the topic.

To badly mix. ;)

Yeah this strikes me too.

My rant about a sidebar to this topic

Julie Pippert | 6:46 PM

Laura you make a lot of really good points. Yes, it is easy to get sucked into just being carried along with the images we are bombarded with as "right" and "good" and "best" whether it is how we parent, how we look (or ought to look), how we play, etc. It's out there. Strongly.

However, I think that it is my necessity to think critically, and to teach my children to think critically.

I didn't read GCC to be saying there is no effect, but that it is not assumed and expected that it could and should have this effect. KWIM?

Julie Pippert | 6:52 PM

Kelly, you are hitting the fallacy of the excluded middle...the gray area Helena above (and me too) were talking about.

When GCC wrote this, "We can blindfold our children and send them, dizzy and confused toward the piñata, or we can pull the blindfold(s) from their eyes and hold their hands through the darkness."

I took it to mean, not to share EVERYTHING to the utmost degree of honesty, but to allow that there is a real world out there, and to lead them, with a caring, guiding had, in an age-appropriate way, in that real world. Hiding, lying and disguising only means that they'll have to learn about it somewhere else. I'd so much rather my kids learn about it from me, in the right way, at the right time.

I don't let my kids watch Nick or Disney. I admit it: it's the commercials. I feel uncomfortable with rampant YOU NEED THIS amterialism, but it's also selfish: I hate hate hate the constant badgering for wants.

So I provide shelter, and comes up. Like today, my daughter wanted a toy her friend had. And we had to talk about it.

Keri | 7:26 PM

I wasn't planning to comment again but this comment from Kelly caught me off guard:

"I have small children and I will totally admit that I lie to them. Sometimes I am literally at a loss as to how to answer. Sometimes I think that they don't need to have an answer."

Umm, thank you for admitting that you lie to your children but do you realize that you are digging yourself a hole that is only going to get bigger and bigger? Please, PLEASE be honest with your children. If you don't want them to know too much about something, there are ways to filter that information without lying outright. And please, PLEASE be honest with your children by saying that you don't know how to answer their questions. Do your homework and then get back to them with the best possible answer you can figure out. And for those questions that you don't think they need to know the answer to, you can be honest and tell them that now is not the time to talk about it (I'm not crazy about this tactic but this is better than lying).

Before ya'all scream at me or whatever, please, PLEASE read my post on my blog ( about the effects of my parents lying to me. It was traumatizing for me. Because of my experiences with my parents lying to me, I will do my very best to not ever lie to my children and I hope you all will too.

Anonymous | 8:52 PM

I. love. this. post.

Kristen | 6:43 AM

This is a great post and I wish I'd had time to read through all of the comments, because I'm probably just repeating what many others have said (I know I'm repeating aspects of the few posts I did manage to read.) I agree about not dilemma comes in when it's time to decide how to expose them to the realities, when to expose them, and how to effectively teach them how to handle that reality. It's very complicated even though we'd like to make it as simple as having a house full of love and trust. We aren't ALL they're exposed to, as you pointed out, and so they will be influenced by peers, media, etc... finding the most effective way of communicating that love and trust so that it overshadows the other influences is tougher for some people than for others, I think.

Style Police | 6:45 AM

Keri, you make an interesting point but I think there is a limit to the truth you can tell a child. Would I lie to my children if a famiyl pet had to go? No. Woudl I lie to my children & agree that there is a Father Christmas? You bet!
Honesty is not always necessary with little ones, it just isn't. It's striking the right balance that matters.

Anonymous | 7:32 AM

In all this talk about full-disclosure telling the truth to our kids, Eleanor touched on a thought I’ve been struggling with: Santa. My sister-in-law announced years ago that she would not LIE to her children (now 7 and 9) about Santa/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny/Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, etc. Her thought is, that if her children can’t depend on her for the truth about these things, what is to say they will trust her on anything else? (She had a very bad experience with Santa and her parents, by the way).

Now that our man is 17 mo., and there are now many other young kids in our extended family, we’re all not quite sure how to deal with our niece and nephew who think that we are in fact LYING to our own kids and don't really care if they debunk the myth. Whoa, Nelly. And they are atheist, so it’s not a question of Jesus vs. Santa.

GGC: Would you be willing to host a discussion on this? I’m at my wits end arguing my point, which is ultimately, as parents, we do whatever we choose and think is right, but at the same time, respect what others teach their own children. It’s called tolerance. To us, Santa is magic, and like all magic, kids eventually figure out that there’s a secret behind it.

I value your opinion and that of your astute readers… Bet you didn’t think you’d be hosting a Dear GGC session, did ya? Help?


Mrs. Q- I would be happy to post something about Santa Claus and I think you bring up a great point. I have ideas of my own but I imagine readers have BETTER ideas than I do a la the Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy issue.

Regardless, Thanks, Mrs. Q!!

Julie- I LOVE what you wrote and think that what you say is SO true about people thinking they are doing "good" by censoring their children, their communities, etc.

And YES, that is exactly what I meant! (Not to take away all regulations but not to hide either.)

Really wonderful comments and thanks for sharing.

Anonymous | 12:11 PM

Okay kids, here is how I see it. Yes, Barbie is prjecting a bad image to our daughters. Yes, video games are unnecessarily violent. Yes to a million other problems with western society that affects our children and how they grow up. Does this mean we should go out of our way to shield them from it? No. What it means is that you give the kids Barbies, and let them play with them, all the while showing them how disproportionate she is. Laugh at it, say "Isn't that silly! A waist that size means she couldn't possibly have a liver! Now put on her high heels so she can get in her convertable." *Conversation* is the key to protecting your children from the evils of modern society! Let them be IN the world, but not OF the world. Let your example be stronger and more powerful than Barbie's. Then you can be confident that they will understand all the unsavory bits within a context. They will be worldly. They will be strong. And they will know how to make decisions even when you are not policing them. Nudity is good, but talk with them about why some people (some extremely uptight people, that is) think it isn't. And when I say "talk with" I mean conversation, not lecturing. And don't plan it. Let it flow spontaneously. ALWAYS REMEMBER: Dr. Spock said that all children are constantly and in every moment striving to be exactly like their parents! To make your children become the people you hope they'll be, become that person yourself. Then there is no world ugly enough to contaminate your children.

Nice post. Love the discussions!


Great comment Jana. Great advice, thanks.

Unknown | 1:00 PM

We watch the simpsons as a family and there was an episode where Homer and Marge were desperate for some time off from the kids to have a bit of a 'dirty weelend'. We didnt stop the kids watching it, how could we? We had laways let them in the past. My 6 yr old daughter has suddenly become much more sexually aware. She knows she has a gay uncle that shares his bed with his boyfriend and they are 'sexy' sometimes. 'Sexy' to her means kissing and cuddling with no clothes on. She only knows this as she once caught my husband and myself being sexy. I didnt shout or scream at her to get out of the room. I got a fit of the giggles as my husband hid under the duvet! I shooed her away eventually with the promise of an explanation. I have had 2 more children in the last 2 years which caused many questions from my older kids.

I never got the talk about periods or sex. Ever. My 6 yr old girl knows about periods and is not frightened about the prospect. I only told her becasue she wanted to know what a tampon was after seeing them at home.

BUT, I will NEVER admit that santa isnt real. Santa visited me until I left home and there was never any admission by my mum or myself that we were playing a game.

Sex, I can talk honestly to my kids about. Santa/tooth fairy...LIE!!!!

cinnamon gurl | 2:25 PM

Another thought provoking post. I am new to your blog and enjoying it. I always wanted a pinata as a kid but never got one. I do remember once, though, when I was watching Down and Out in Beverly Hills with my parents, a sex scene came on (with the woman on top no less) and my parents told me to cover my eyes. So I duly pulled up the afghan to cover my eyes. But I looked through the holes. I just didn't want my parents to know I was watching.

Strawberry Shortcake rocked. I loved her because she had red hair and didn't get teased for it like I did.

But. I don't believe that gender is instinctual at all. Culture loads gender into our babies almost before they're born with all the pink, blue and gender neutral colours for clothes and the do you know what you're having and the I'll wait to buy a baby gift so I know what she has...

That said, I agree with pulling the blindfolds off. I think it's way more important to teach our kids to be critical and media savvy and to talk to us about the things they see.

I have already posted some of my thoughts on body image on my own blog.

Anonymous | 10:32 PM

I think LA Dad and Janamom have great points! I believe strongly in lots of communication with kids and no blindfolds (or minized ones, at least). They need to be able to deal with the world and make informed choices.

I'm also not sure that I agree that pop culture is dramatically worse now. I was a kid in the 70s and a teen in the 80s... eras when the sexual revolution had established itself and TV censorship was being challenged. That means there was a lot of movies/TV with sex, drugs, violence... not to mention a number of movies featuring hookers as the main characters. When I go back and rewatch some of the stuff that aired when I was kid it's pretty bad, and some of those disco stars dressed as trampy as Bratz dolls.

I don't want to be a lax parent (as some of us who grew up in the 70s well remember) but I also don't to be so overprotective my kids are in for a shock later in life. Frankly, I met kids at college later in life who just didn't deal very well when they were finally let out of the house.

Debbie | 10:10 PM

my kid's a boy, so I have refrained from participating in all the conversations about sexy dolls and other overt representations of sex as tool or manipulative scheme or victimization, etc., in our society.

but you're saying exactly what I've been thinking all along, and you have a boy, too, and I think we're kind of in the same place with this.

I have to finally come out and suggest that I have a responsbility, too, within this sexual issue, b/c I have to guide my boy child toward a healthy respect for females as he grows up, especially being bombarded by all the confusing images of sex in all its varying hues that are such an integral part of our extremely demanding, hungry-for-it-now culture. my responsiblity is to give him a clear understanding of how best to interpret all of that information, and it's Terrifying because it's such a gigantic task, but we're gonna do fine as long as we *all* keep our eyes open, together.

we can do this.

Anonymous | 5:03 PM

I know I'm late to the party... But unfortunately I agree with you completely. And it makes me feel sad. And I feel that the children will grow up to be fearful, shy, and timid. And if not, they'll be truly bewildered and unawares when life bites them in the ass. So sad.


Me too, Michele.

Anonymous | 2:11 PM

I wonder if anyone reads this anymore? I agree with you to a point. Yes we should not be blindfolding our kids. Yes we should be teaching them what is right and wrong no matter how each of us believes. But NO we should not stand back and let society teach us, or our kids. We should call the business', the magezines, the networks and tell them our opinions. It is ok to do this so that the company can improve. Why do you think companies are constantly changing? Because WE the consumer tell them what we do and don't like. SO its ok to tell Wal-Mart that you don;t like barbie. There might be more than one mom who doesn't . They might not take the barbie aisle out, but I guarentee they will come out with a better Barbie that sells more. :)