Friday, May 18, 2012

A Doll for Clifton

Jared and I are not big on gender roles. We're not blind to the fact that men and women are different creatures. It's especially obvious right now. I have hormones coursing through my body and affecting my every moment that Jared will never fully understand and certainly never experience. Natural gender differences are a fact of life and although they don't always hold true across the board, there are generalities that exist. That is fine and we find these differences to be intriguing and wonderful.

What we do balk against are the gender roles that have been placed on each of us by society. And although we have yet to parent a boy, I find it hard to believe that this 'boys are wild' mentality is completely nature and not in large part nurture, whether conscious or not. Okay, once kids hit puberty, sure. I completely believe that there are huge differences between boys and girls. But until then? I tend to think that many of these differences that are seen are simply because of the choices and expectations that we have for small children. Boys choose blue because we give then a choice of blue or green. Girls cry easily because we rush to them when they scrape a knee.

This mentality of boys being so much more physical than girls especially drives me crazy because Ryann was such an active, physical little being herself. When people tell me 'oh just wait, now you're having a boy', all that translates to me is that they think Ryann was active . . . for a girl. That I am an inexperienced mother with a biased opinion of the capabilities of my child.

There are plenty of girls who play rough and dig in the mud just as there are numerous boys who prefer to sit inside and bake or play house. Jared and I like to think that we will encourage our children to be active and to use their imaginations, whatever form that might take. We want to encourage our kids to explore the interests that they naturally have. Discover their own talents and passions and interests.

I would like to think that it's an unintentional side effect of this gender-modeling, but I'm afraid that for some families it's not. In this world, and especially in this country, we have generations of men who cannot cry and whose sense of empathy is stunted and weak. Women who don't believe in their own capabilities, who can't envision what might be outside the box that society has set them in. Not all aspects of these gender roles are negative, but they have the tendency to create huge defecits in the personalities and abilities of the adults we all become. This is what I reject for my children.

I've recently found myself looking for a doll for Clifton. Early on, Ryann chose her preferred lovie and was never far from it. Dolly was her constant companion and soothed her like nothing else could. I like to think that Clifton will have something similar and I naturally imagine it being his own dolly.

And for all of my forceful talk of gender neutrality when children are young, I still worry about possible teasing or stares that unexpected choices might make. And most dollies are made specifically with little girls in mind. Therefore I was happy to discover Charlie. Although Charlie is already sold, I may attempt to recreate him myself. It's almost as though Clifton would have a pint-sized Daddy to tote around with him. And he's a bit more boy-ish than Ryann's choice.

The above pictures show : Dolly playing in the Capitol, riding in the car, and napping after moving boxes.
All pictures clearly show Ryann's handhold of choice, delicately fingering Dolly's ponytail.

The model for Clifton's Charlie, complements of Charlie & Nell.


  1. Wonderful post! :) I too would be annoyed to have people imply that having a boy means you will be having a more active child than Ryann. Children before puberty have only superficial gender differences and it's not even scientific to assume that boys will be more active than girls based on genes.

    I plan on mitigating harmful gender roles as well if/when I have a child. We are all human, and we should never be limited based on gender. Yet subliminal messages in media and everyday living tell us otherwise. It's quite the culture we live in here in the US. I think it's wonderful that you plan on having a dolly for Clifton. :)

  2. Great post and I totally agree and love how you expressed your issue with gender roles. I don't think I could articulate it better!

    And Clifton's Charlie would make a great lovie. :)

  3. Hahaha I love how much Charlie looks like Jared

  4. I remember Ryann and the fear she would strike in my heart as she tried walking on my hard floor or tried to stand up on her own. That girl scared me! And then hearing stories/seeing her on the back of the couch? Crazy girl! I hadn't felt that fear in awhile. Chloe is very laid back and easy going and still to this day has yet to scare me. Then Josiah came, and my heart is once again in fear! For the most part, he's a lot like Ryann in his adventure for life and wanting to be involved and do things. Explore things. There's a lot he does that reminds me of Ryann. I agree, gender doesn't mean anything. Clifton could be wild and full of life like Ryann and Josiah or he could be more laid back and watching life like Chloe or very smart and sharp like Kayla. His personality will be awesome regardless of what it is and most likely wont be because he is a boy or isn't a girl! Can't wait to see pics of him and hear stories of his personality!

  5. hey girl, my name is jess, i am the "charlie and nell" girl. a reader of yours sent me an email and directed me to your blog and I am weeping reading your posts and your story. please email me, i have plenty of materials to make your little boy his own charlie doll! my son is almost 2 and carries his almost everywhere, plus sleeps with him. you can email me at or so much love to you and your beautiful family.