Last weekend my 15-month-old daughter spied something glistening, something previously unseen and untouched, tucked away in the bottom corner of her bookcase. It had been there since she was five months old, but she'd never shown any interest in it. Suddenly, her little hands stretched out to remove it from its resting place, and excited, she thrust the box towards to me to open. This was the moment where my baby would finally meet Barbie.
I'm not ashamed to admit a frisson of joy filled me in that instant. I even joked to my Mum, "Well, my job here is done". Not because I envisioned a picture-perfect life of immaculate hair and skinny jeans for my daughter; because, contrary to the controversy surrounding the Winx Dolls debate, I’m all for fostering a love within my baby girl of what had been my most treasured childhood toy.
To me, Barbie is a representation of some of the happiest times in my childhood. Harkening back to the simple and carefree days of unstructured play, there were no rigourous routines revolving learning flash cards by rote, no technological distractions such as iPads or PS3s, and no demands to be involved in a plethora of pre-kindergarten activities to ensure I was ahead of the class before I even began school. And while I could write my name and recite the alphabet, there was no pressure to do so. Instead, the only burden I faced was whether I'd let Barbie don her sparkly blue evening gown or hot pink Barbie and Rockers ensemble, or which Michael Jackson inspired outfit I'd dress my Ken Doll in during playtime.
There were many benefits for my future in that innocent act of playing with Barbie. It was the basis of the closest bond I have in my life (with my beloved big sister), and the very reason my imagination began to flourish. It gave me a love of make-believe and fiction, something I sincerely hope is nurtured within my daughter as she begins her own lifelong relationship with Barbie.
I look back on that stretch of my life so fondly that I can only hope the simple pleasure I derived from playing Barbies could be replicated by my own baby girl. I wouldn’t want to deny her that because of modern society’s belief that I'm doing her irreparable psychological harm by allowing this.
Not once did I harbour any unrealistic expectations that I would be 5’ 11’’ (especially considering my own mum was a foot shorter than that!), super slim with a wardrobe to make SJP envious … just like I don't fear for the future of my Star Wars obsessed five-year-old when he realises his aspirations of being a Jedi Master are futile.
So just as my Mum and Dad were fine with my preferred choice of toy being a plastic female figurine, I am fine with my own child’s choice. If parents remain reliable role models, there is no need for children to latch on to plastic substitutions. This is purely about my daughter indulging her imagination and enjoying innocent fun, and if this means playing with Barbie, I am more than okay with that.