Second, even though 1996 isn't so very long ago (though slightly longer than I really wish to dwell on), there are things about this piece that strike me as hilariously outdated. Maybe that's a good thing.
Toys For Girls And Boys
As an enthusiastic junior warrior in the Battle of the Sexes, my uniform at age seven was a red-trimmed halter top that proclaimed, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better."
Decades later, the battle rages on. Gender roles are in flux and as the mother of three sons and a daughter, I am on the front lines in this war. A good general must use the weapons she has at hand, which in my case are toys.
When our first son was born, there was no question his toy box would be filled not only with traditional boy's toys--cars, trucks, and three-inch superheroes, but with a sampling of "girl's toys" as well. At holidays and birthdays, we spread the word among family and friends.
When word reached my grandmother, who was raised in a generation in which gender roles were taken for granted as divinely ordained, she took me aside. "Just between you and me," she whispered,"your daddy had a Little Lady Housekeeping set when he was four." To my grandmother's surprise, he's turned out okay, despite the hours he spent mopping, sweeping and ironing as a child.
A good general must pick her battles. My grandmother was years ahead of her time in choosing toys, so I didn't bother explaining to her how boys can benefit from playing with girl's toys and vice versa. Different types of play teach different lessons, the theory goes. Girls who play with toys aimed at boys may be learning to assert themselves in ways the Little Lady Housekeeper set can't teach. Boys who play with girl's toys learn lessons in nurturing that plastic superheroes can't teach.
With these enlightened thoughts in mind, I could not resist a self-congratulatory pat on the back the day Son-One, then four, asked if he could take his baby doll, Jason, outside to play. In the Battle of the Sexes, it was clear my side had a new recruit.
A good general never celebrates victory prematurely, however. Peeking out the window in hopes of catching Son-One in the act of sensitive nurturing, I saw instead Jason-the-doll with a jump rope around his ankle being dragged behind Son-One's bike.
Three years later, the battle rages on. The doll, nearly a casualty of war, recovered and received the Purple Heart. Son-One reminded me the other day that his doll's clothes needed washing and his dolly diaper hadn't been changed in months. That's progress I suppose. But I won't rest until Son-One puts those clothes in his Little Mister Housekeeper automatic washing machine all by himself.