Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

My Son Wants A New Doll…

playing with dolls new

My son wants a new doll, he has given his other one’s to his younger siblings. Now, he would like a more “grown up” one. One that is a bit more like him.

I find an Internet store selling nice dolls and they even have a “eco-friendly” box you can tick to select one you like from that range. However, I am not quite clear what they mean by “eco-friendly” and decide to ring them. The conversation goes as follows:

Me: Oh hello, I would like to find out what the criteria for your “eco -friendly” dolls are? I assume they are all phthalate-free?

Shop-owner: Oh yes, they are all phthalate-free. The dolls in the eco-friendly section have all been made in Europe, but they are all made of the same materials, more or less.

Me: Ah, great. Good to know. Then we could choose one from that range…

Shop-owner (interrupts me… wanting to help me choose): How old is the girl you would like to buy a doll for?

Me: Ah, ehm, my son is seven.

Shop-owner: Oh. (Pause) That’s good you are buying a doll for your son.

Me: Eh… yes. He has outgrown his other one’s and would like a new one and I thought I try and buy one that’s as eco-friendly as possible.

Shop-owner: Yes, we have very nice boy dolls. Have you seen our pirate boy doll on the website?

Me: Yes, he doesn’t like that one. He doesn’t really like pirates and dolls with short hair.

Shop-owner: Oh, but that brand has other boy dolls, I could order some in for you.

Me: Hm… he would like the doll to sort of look similar to him and he has long hair and all the boy dolls have short hair.

Shop-owner: Oh. Well, you could also buy boy clothes…

Me: But, he likes their beautiful dresses. And seeing that he likes wearing dresses too…. and anyhow, I guess the dolls you are selling, well most of them, could really be boy or girl as they don’t have body parts anyway, have they?

Shop-owner: No, that’s true. Hm… you have quite a character there *laughs*

Me: Eh!? Yeah…

Then she proceeded to explain more about the different brands and that some of their dolls are made in China and how some are shipped from China to America, then to Europe and which one’s she liked best. Bla, bla, bla.

In the end it left me feeling a bit odd. My son had also listened to the conversation (being so excited about finally getting his doll…) and I felt sad he had to listen to his dad AGAIN having to explain to others that really boys can like dresses and long hair and dolls, too. Does he feel he is not normal, that his dad has to explain his choices to others? How different would the conversation have been had I said the doll is for my daughter?

IMG_3223Why don’t toy shops sell dolls? Just dolls. Rather than boy or girl dolls? Why have some dolls “make up” on, i.e. red painted lips and dark eyelashes, very rosy cheeks etc.? Yes, can you hear me Mattel? It’s not good enough to have a boy in your ads, the actual problem lies in the doll itself. Barbie doesn’t look very natural to me.

Apparently, children at the age of my son, want dolls as an identification figure. But the only dolls I can find that, sort of, look like him (meaning having long hair) are “girls”. Well, I try and pretend they aren’t but they all have a female name and many very gendered clothing.

However, maybe the more we speak to toy shop owners directly, the more they will think: it’s not just the odd one out. The one weird child… there must be others, like my son! Well, I don’t care if not, he is definitely wonderfully unique, and just right the way he is!

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Creative Stuff, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

Grey Autumn Weekends To Come? Get Creative!

At DadsTalkCommunity I always have one common theme: creativity. Today’s post gives you an idea, how my wife’s and my creative brains get going to come up with some good ideas. This helps us a lot to keep balance and avoid arguments before they can start.

I don’t know how it is in your place, but we’re expecting another rainy, cold weekend. So, before we’ll get too depressive about it (which normally is ending in having too much chocolate), I would like to share three AWESOME rainy-days-things-to do with your kids. So, let’s get going:

1. Do Something New – Have You Heard Of Finger Knitting?

IMG_1776Well, me neither, before my 6-year-old explored it. He basically made a doll’s scarf in one afternoon. But the project isn’t finished yet. Now he wants to sew it into a hat for his doll.

The great thing: It’s soooo easy to learn (did I tell you that I hate doing crafts? Well, I could change my mind, slowly).

Wanna find out how to do it? Watch the easy version here (YouTube) but it will be in German (hey, you could just learn German while you knit, seriously you’ll be fine, even without a hint of German), or just type “Finger Knitting” into the search engine of your choice and get your scarf ready by Christmas; only two months to go.

2. Bake Bread

Do you know how much money you spend on buying bread? Yep, far too much. IMG_1804Turn it into a fun activity and let your kids burn off their energy by kneading the dough.

Here is our simple, yummy recipe:

600g Spelt Flour
400ml Water
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Quick Yeast
Some Salt
Splashes of Olive Oil

Mix the flour with the yeast and salt. In a separate bowl dissolve the honey in a mix of 400ml lukewarm water. Mix it all together, adding splashes of olive oil and then have the kneading party! 10 min minimum. Let the dough rise for about half an hour and then bake it at 180C
for about 45 minutes. Now the best bit: After the loaf has cooled down a bit, EAT IT!

3. Wood, Hammer & Nails

2014-02-23 13.27.22How simple and awesome is that? Let your kids collect some sticks, bark and wood and introduce the simple concept of creating.

My eldest spent a whole rainy afternoon in our shed banging nails into a piece of wood. After hours of hard work (and still all fingers in the same place), he showed us his results. To us it looked like a beautiful piece of art (some stinking rich would probably pay Thousands for it) – it was and still is unique and we have found a good place for it in the house.

So, hope you feel inspired and motivated. Get going and enjoy your weekend and if you like, tell me what you did or made!

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The Monthly Declutter Virus

Usually once a month I get it: the declutter-my-life-and-environment-virus. Don’t worry, normally it’s not contagious. It’s like a good fever: high and short. In the way my body tells me to get rid of things in order to feel better. And often the kids’ bedroom is my target. My wife and children don’t mind, as long as they don’t have to help me in my mission.

The cleaning out or let’s say – the healing process – involves: picking up all sorts of things and elements (blu tack, bits of sellotape, string, pens, books, food) from the floor; sorting the books (I think my boys own more books than me and the local library put together); dividing broken, half-broken and playable toys (yes, that’s where my eldest starts to argue: That toy is not broken, it just had an accident!); and to make the room generally more accessible (at least for the coming hour).

I find this cleaning out helps my inner peace and balance. Yes, it has something zen  (please tell me if you’re Buddhist and I’m wrong). And it reminds me of the simplicity of life. When I go through all this stuff, I often think: hey, we need so little, but have so much.

Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits Blog, brings it to the point when he says: “And when I’ve gotten rid of clutter, I’m freed. I can forget about those things, and live instead in this moment. … Decluttering can be a beautiful process of helping ourselves let go of the things we don’t realize we’re holding on to.”

I don’t think my children are overloaded with toys. We really try to keep it balanced and spend a great deal outdoors in the woods or by the sea. Every time we run over fields or collect millions of stones at the beach (to make the stones and pebbles collection we already have at home just a tiny bit richer), I pause and think: yes, that’s also what parenting is about: to see and to appreciate those little things; to enjoy that very moment and to take it home.

2013-07-06 17.10.44

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a post saying how bad toys are. No, not at all. It’s fine for me, after spending so much time outdoors, to come back and get the train set out and play. It’s good fun and I love playing with many toys my children own (did I really say that?). At the same time I want to keep that thought of a free, running-through-the-woods, awesome childhood. Because that’s what I did when I was little. So, my children deserve the same, at least!
Did you get infected now? Sorry. Should have warned you earlier.