Today a friend of mine came over to visit. We talked, and while we did, she noticed that we had a Disney Princesses stroller for Shlomo, and commented on it. I told her that for my part, I had never imagined owning a pink Disney Princesses stroller. It just kind of happened: We were eating with a family that we’re close to one Shabbat, and Shlomo saw their toy stroller with the doll, so he (yes, he) started playing with it – and kept it up the whole time. At the end of the meal, they offered to give us the stroller and doll, since no one there uses it anymore. I said no, but they insisted. So now we have a soft-bodied doll in a blue dress, and a pink Disney Princesses stroller.
It doesn’t matter to me that Shlomo is a boy and not a girl. I’d feel the same way – maybe more strongly – if he were a girl. And I am all for boys playing with strollers and dolls. I think it makes them gentler, more caring, calmer people. I take great pride in seeing how Shlomo holds his stuffed duck and pats its back. Or when we hug him after time-out and he does “gentle” (= makes nice) and pats our backs and gives us hugs. When he sees the doll fall, and picks her up, comforts her, and holds her. Or puts the doll in the stroller and gives her a book to read, and then helps her turn the pages. (Granted, he’s been pushing a lot of other stuff around in it, too, and doing lots of pushing, pulling, and trying to fold the stroller in the past little bit. But still.)
What bothers me is what happens if and when my kids eventually discover that the faces on the stroller aren’t just cute faces, but characters from stories. Stories that are called ‘fairy tales’ for a reason. Stories that are unrealistic, unwholesome, and end in “happily ever after”. Stories in which a princess is rescued by Prince Charming. Not Prince Caring, not Prince Honest, not Prince Helpful, Prince Lawful, Prince Understanding or Prince Mature and Committed. They are rescued by Prince Charming.
Too many women look for Prince Charming – only to find out that he either doesn’t exist, or he is also abusive. So many men think of being handsome and manly as their priority – regardless of the fact that marriages were never proven to work based on manliness or handsomeness, but rather on the commitment and maturity of both parties. It is part of the culture today. Part of a culture that has a higher divorce rate, a rising age of parenthood, and a lower marriage rate than ever before. It is a problem. One that I don’t want my kids – boys or girls – exposed to. And I will throw out (or hide, or donate) this toy stroller the minute any of my kids (Shlomo or future kids) correctly name one of those characters.
And even if I were not religious, I would do the same. Luckily, because I am, there is less peer pressure to know about television, and more peer acceptance for children who do not have a television. It is part of the reason why we live the life we do.