The Barbie Project: My Little Girl Has Two of Everything

The other day my daughter and I were sitting under a sun-filled window in her room, setting up her Barbie camping set as her Elsa doll and Dolphin Trainer Barbie were going camping with Elsa’s pet Golden Retriever and the trained dolphins. I took this quiet moment to share with my daughter that very good friends of ours were going to become foster parents to a girl her age.

She thought over my words a bit, and then asked if the girl could come over to play with her. I said that after the girl had had some time to adjust to her new family and home, a playdate would be a great idea.

Amelia looked down at her dolls and said softly, “Good, because I have two of everything.”

I wondered what she meant by that, did she mean all of her dolls? Her outdoor toys? Her science kits? The fact that she has a bedroom upstairs she never really uses because she still sleeps in the bunk in her little brother’s room? Did she mean all of the clothes she has?But in that moment I did not want to pry because she seemed to be in a very reflective state. Was she thinking about what would happen if her parents were unable to take care of her? Was she thinking about having to move into a new home with a new family?

She focused intently in setting the scene for her Barbies to begin acting out the script it seems she had written in her head. Accessories and props were being set just so. Outfits changed and changed again until the perfect cast had been assembled for the day’s play. I can remember doing the same when I was a child, where the rules of the real world didn’t apply to the stories I created. I wondered what Amelia and her camping dolphins were about to say.

Amelia's Barbie dolls, waiting for the day's casting call.

Amelia’s Barbie dolls, waiting for the day’s casting call.

“I have two of everything, so it would be very easy for me to share everything with her. Do you know if she has brown skin?” Amelia asked.

“Oh, actually I don’t know what she looks like. I just know her name and her age. Why do you ask?” I know my child is enamored with Martin Luther King Jr (among other things, they share a birthday), but I thought it was an odd question for her to ask.

“I asked because I only have one brown skinned Barbie. We need to go get another one before she comes to play. I want her to see that my Barbies can be different people and when you sort them out I have too many that are blonde with blue eyes. I have two green eyes and four brown eyes including the dolls from Jordan but only one of them who isn’t a mermaid has brown skin. But all skin is beautiful so we should just make sure there is a nice mix,” Amelia said and I have to admit, I was really proud that she thinks about these things when she plays. My kids have been raised to noticed gender balance, body diversity, and racial diversity in the media they consume.

“Well, sure, diversity is important and we should have it in our toys, too. So we should definitely get another brown skin Barbie.”

“Right,” Amelia agreed, “because either way we’re going to need two Rosa Parks. And Rosa Parks was not a mermaid, let me tell  you.”

“Ah, sure. I had not thought of that.”

“Oh, honey. I know.” And with that Amelia turned back to playing, arranging the camping tent, pail of fish for the dolphins, and glowing campfire just so.

And I think sometimes we need to pause and recognize toys we may or may not love as parents can mean something different to our daughters. We can be aware of and decode the messages these toys send and I feel that is very important, but not at the expense of missing the messages our children are sending back to us.

A Barbie doll is a toy my child owns. It is a tool operated by her imagination. It is not what defines her, nor writes her future. What a girl owns is not necessarily who she will become. I want to give my daughter a great variety of toys to engage her imagination. I also want to give her the space to show me who she wants to be in this world. This afternoon playing with Barbie allowed her to do both. I saw her imagination at work, as well as the kindness and sharing in her heart.

The camping expedition gets under way.

The camping expedition gets under way.

Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Barbie Project

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love. 

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

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Comments

  1. What a lovely, thoughtful and gentle foray into the mind of our little ones who yearn to play, share, and create. Super well written, too.

  2. What’s interesting is that at my local department stores, there is not a single dark skinned doll on the shelf. Not one. Yet, we live in an area with a lot of immigrants from Africa and India and Muslim countries. At least half of Georgia’s class mates have dark skin, but the stores do not reflect this in their product supply. Pretty disappointing.

    • Melissa Atkins Wardy says:

      Hi Nicole –
      I agree, there is precious little diversity in the dolls offered at our local stores and I’d like to see that change. Children learn a lot from their toys and it would be wonderful for large retailers and toy manufacturers to commit to offering options that reinforce the idea that wonderful people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

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