“I’m sorry, what was that, sweetie?” I asked. She took me completely off guard.
“I don’t want my friends to know I still play with Barbies,” she clarified, “I think they’ll make fun of me.”
In that moment I was transported back to my own childhood. It was Christmas 1985 and at the top of my wish list was a baby doll. When I returned to school after the break I couldn’t dare tell my fourth grade friends I got a baby for Christmas and it was my favorite gift.
I shared that story with my daughter and then corrected my adolescent behavior by adding, “But I was silly, Hope. It shouldn’t have mattered what my friends thought of my toys. I love that you still play with Barbies. It means you are creative and love fashion. It doesn’t matter what other people think.”
My girl was learning lessons from her Barbie long before the company unveiled their own correction this month. Last week Mattel announced three new body types for the notoriously picture perfect doll we’ve loved and hated for decades.
#TheDollEvolves was emblazoned across Barbie’s web site as Mattel announced the most significant Barbie update ever, in response to declining sales and customer pressure. Barbie will now come in petite, tall and curvy shapes and in a variety of skin colors and hair types. This bold move for Barbie comes after years of scrutiny by women and moms who felt the doll was unrealistic and could lead to an unhealthy self-image for girls.
While I have always respected the moms in my sphere that didn’t allow their daughters to play with the dolls for this reason, I personally didn’t mind my daughter playing with Barbies. We’ve focused on shaping her self-image in other ways. Still, the changes in variety for Barbie are refreshing and will be an opportunity for parents to engage their girls in conversations about diversity and beauty.
Are your children playing with dolls like Barbie? What types of conversations can those toys provoke in your family about God’s design for each one of us, and for the limitless potential of our imagination? Here are some specific ideas:
What Barbie’s Bold Move Can Teach Our Girls
1. Girls (and boys!) come in all shapes and sizes, perfectly unique and equally beautiful.
2. It’s fun to have toys (and friends) that are different than we are.
3. When it comes to our toys (and ourselves) it doesn’t matter what others think. What matters is that we understand God’s great love and appreciate the beautiful uniqueness with which he made us.
As I scrolled through the gallery of new dolls with her, my daughter pointed out her favorites. I’ll admit she gravitated towards the ones that looked similar to the original. I was disappointed at first but why should I be surprised? She’s used to a certain Barbie and it will take some time for her to appreciate the new dolls in town. I consider this my opportunity to talk with her about diversity, identity and true beauty.
We haven’t talked about my daughter’s Barbie issues since that day in the car. But I think she heard me because I found her Barbie bin spilled out on the playroom floor this morning. I guess peer pressure isn’t getting to her just yet. That’s my girl!
Jessica Wolstenholm is co-founder of Grace for Moms. After 15 years in the music and publishing industries, Jessica came home to be with her two small children. Although the transition from the corporate world to the playground has been an adjustment, she is learning every day to access the grace available to us through Christ as she navigates the full time job of motherhood. She is the co-author of The Pregnancy Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey to Motherhood and The Baby Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey Through Baby’s First Year. Jessica lives in Nolensville, TN with her husband, Dave and two miracle babies, Hope (5) and Joshua (2).