some granola. some barbie.


this morning i burned my granola while thinking about barbie.  

barbies are typically way down on my list of “things to think about,” but on monday while out running errands i listened to the diane rehm show.  the show was about the barbie doll’s 50th birthday.  there was a little bit of everything that hour – praising barbie, condemning barbie, crazy stories about barbie, the quite creepy history of barbie‘s creation.  but the thing that keeps coming back to me is how the guests and callers brought up stories about girls destroying their barbies.  someone gave a statistic that over 60% of girls destroy/mutilate their barbies.  but the strangest part was how everyone on the show just kind of giggled or laughed it off saying kids just destroy toys – it’s natural.  all of this was followed by lots of speculation about barbie’s impact on a young girl’s psyche and sense of self.  

the idea that a crazy proportioned doll can lead a girl to have low self-esteem and acquire an eating disorder is taken seriously and brought on impassioned discussion, but the knowledge that kids rip barbie apart brings laughter.  

i wish i could go back to monday and call in to the show.  i’d want to ask the panelists what their thoughts are on parents (and other adults in a child’s life) directing and teaching children how to play.  i’d probably get dead air or some talk about how we need to let kids’ minds and imaginations be free.  if i were to see my little girl destroying her barbie (whether or not i’d give her one is a whole other discussion!), i would make her stop.  but then, even more importantly i think, i’d show her how to play with it. and in the midst of showing her how to dress, care for, make-believe numerous stories with her, i would teach her how to respect a toy that was given to her.   is watching a little girl rip barbie‘s head off at all beneficial to her, her imagination, or the person who gave it to her?    

this all made me think about my boys and their toys and imaginations and how they play with toys.  and it made me think about how i teach or don’t teach them to interact with their toys.  then i realized that i love elisha’s imagination, but his imagination grows with the growth of his knowledge about everything around him.  i remember the first few times i did puzzles with elisha.  at first he just wanted to throw the pieces around.  and yes, there were smiles just doing that. but as i taught him what the pieces did his smiles got bigger and he became engaged with the game.  and then he realized he could do things with the puzzle pieces – stack them, carry them in a bucket, use his imagination and make his toy bulldozer pick up the pieces while making all the appropriate construction site sounds.  i guess i could have just let him throw the puzzle pieces and not bothered to show him what to do with them until he was older but i think i would’ve been short-changing him.  

i want to be intentional with my boys – intentional when picking their toys and intentional when showing them how to care for and even play with their new toy.

i just thought it was interesting how other than purchasing the barbie, the parents/adults were absent from the discussion when the talk came to actually playing with the barbie, especially when they mentioned several times that barbies are now purchased for those mainly in the 3-6 age range, a still very young child who could perhaps benefit from being shown/modeled/directed as to how to play with a doll.

so there.  and i could serve up some granola and yogurt to go with this discussion but who knew barbie could thwart granola baking?  to be perfectly honest, i think i was mad enough when i pulled the sheets out of the oven that if i had a barbie nearby she’d be headless right now.

13 thoughts on “some granola. some barbie.

  1. Oh, Kate. I like how you think about these things. I wish it hadn’t spoiled your granola, but the fact that you even make granola sets you apart from a lot of other parents. One of things that excites me about parenthood is being the person who will teach my children how to play, care, love, speak, etc. Being intentional is tres important.

    Also, I am picking up Great with Child from the library after work. I can’t wait to dive into it!

  2. Lovely post about intention, stewardship of what’s given to us, and about the power of parents and mentors to shape how a child sees his world. Awesome, Kate!

  3. Really interesting thoughts! I wonder if that would have peaked my curiosity as I listened. I am glad you spelled out your frustration, and it encourages me to be more intentional with Karis’ play.

    Side note: I made granola recently, and WOW, does it burn easily! What recipe did you use?

  4. Ah, Barbie. She’s so useful when trying to teach girls different things…like modesty. I’m not even being sarcastic, as we scoured stores until we found clothes my daughter liked and were also modest. The great thing about bringing dolls (whether Barbie or G.I.Joe or baby dolls or whatever) into our home, is that we make them conform to what’s allowable in our house. From dress to actions that we create from our own minds, there are wonderful opportunities for us to teach our children to even intentionally play for the glory of God.

    Thanks for the great thoughts for meditation, Kate. 🙂

  5. Very interesting indeed. We are to play well, aren’t we? Just for the record, Barbies make me queasy now, but I loved my little Barbie kitchen. Her head also stayed intact, and I even have a little brother. Oh, and your burnt granola looks yum!

  6. What great points.

    When our children were little, they quickly learned the word “destructive”…as in, “Let’s not do that; we don’t want to be destructive.” I was surprised at how quickly they absorbed that concept. We want to create a culture of respect for people and for belongings. We want to heal things and rebuild them and nurture them–not break them into pieces.

    Obviously there are exceptions….build a sandcastle & then have fun knocking it down or whatever. But there are valuable lessons to be learned as far as when that is appropriate. (tower of blocks? yes. new remote control car from grandparents? no.)

    I think you’re right that there are some who would say this perspective might inhibit creativity, but I completely disagree. I think there are so many millions of ways to encourage creativity to flourish. So many, in fact, that we can completely rule out the need for be-heading one’s playthings! 🙂

  7. Just this morning on NPR’s Marketplace morning report, they were talking about how the first Barbie megastore is being opened in China. An interesting point they made was that the Chinese seem to preserve the innocence that toys like Barbie, Hello Kitty, and Snoopy represent, whereas we in the west scoff at such things (especially for adults). It made me think of your post.

    Here’s the link:

  8. lindsay – i’m excited to hear your thoughts on the book. let me know! the panelists also discussed the opening of the megastore, though they didn’t touch on the innocence point. very interesting.

    alina – the recipe was from heidi swanson’s “super natural cooking.” and it was really good…until i burned it. oats, coconut, coconut oil, honey, walnuts, sunflower seeds. the above pic is the only bit i could salvage.

    jenni – i still have some barbies at my parents’, i think. they survived years of my brother’s g.i. joe barbie dream house attacks.

    kelli – ok, that’s just weird. and how in the world did you come across that??

  9. Kate,

    Intentionality is such an interesting question. I well, “struggle” isn’t exactly the right word but I go back and forth about how much direction to give Bella’s playing. When she got a bunch of play food and a play kitchen I wondered how much time to direct her in using the food as food, naming all the pieces etc. I have a tendency to correct her when she’s playing with objects, pretending they are something else and I am never quite sure if she’s turning to me for information: “mama, what is this called, am I naming it properly?” or to play along with her when she’s pretending. Does that make sense?

    I don’t want her to feel constrained like there is only one way to play with her kitchen. I’m always intrigued when I see her lay her stuffed animals on the cooktop, using it as a changing table or doctor’s office exam table.

    And sometime I think I work myself up way to much over questions like whether drawing pictures for her is somehow stifling her creativity. Should I just step back and let her explore with using crayons and paints? It kin of bothered me when my brother drew her a bunch of pictures of birthday cakes, balloons, etc and she spent weeks asking me to draw them over and over again instead of just scribbling on the paper herself as she used to do.

    I never know where to draw the line between giving gentle direction to her play, showing her how to use toys appropriately and interfering in her imaginative world. Is this something you think about?

  10. melanie – you brought up some good thoughts. it seems that with both intentionality and imagination there is a balance between teaching/directing and giving them freedom. i’ve been thinking about your comment for a bit and i think that i step in primarily when i see the boys doing something damaging to their toys/project/craft. or if it is something new that he has absolutely no idea what to do with it (like when he first got the blocks he thought they were just throwing-objects but now he uses them as several things, not just stacking/building toys) i’ll show him how you play with the toy. but if they are using their imaginations and not being hurtful or destructive, i let them be, even if i think what they are doing is rather wacky.

    elisha sounds similar to bella in that when we draw pictures or paint, he often just wants me to do it and watch. it can bother me but then i just figure he is learning/growing by watching how i use my creativity. and he’s only two and his crayon-holding skills can still be awkward. i find that i, too, can get “worked up” or perhaps just think way way too much about certain things like creativity and art. for example, i don’t mind some coloring books, but i don’t want the only or primary coloring to be on something that has already been created for the kids (again, i’m probably thinking way too much about this!).

  11. I’m glad I’m not the only one who tends to overthink these things.

    Bella tends to be pretty non-destructive. She’s ripped a few books very accidentally and tends to leave the caps off her markers. But that at least carries its own penalty in unusable markers.

    I guess I’ve stepped in with new toys. I’ve showed her how to stack blocks and introduced the idea of building a house. She has stepped that up and we’ve done some collaborative play where she asks me to make rooms for everyone and to put in furniture (mommy’s room and mommy’s bed, Bella’s room with Bella’s bed, etc.) I do try as much as possible to step back and let her develop her own ways of doing things. Partly out of curiosity. I wonder what she’ll come up with.

  12. kate,
    it’s called working from home and having almost dangerous levels of access to news and internet day and night!!!!! 🙂

    and having a strange brain that has almost total recall of weird facts…now if i could channel that toward academics or toward jeopardy-type stuff!

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