Older siblings not only get to enjoy all of their toys and clothes in newly-minted, shiny condition, they also get parents’ fresh-faced idealism intact. Our first daughter was lovingly sheltered from all things we considered foul and unseemly and we felt truly superior when dining at friends’ houses full of plastic Disney garbage or a continuous TV presence.
But then preschool and the harsh reality of peer exposure kicked in, and Grace quickly discovered many well-hidden manifestations of kid pop-culture. With so much now firmly entrenched in our home, how can we possibly shelter our second baby from such perceived evils? Answer: Not gonna happen.
Things my second daughter will never know life without.
Yelling. It’s easy to always keep a calm, gentle tone of voice with a baby. It’s when they turn two and start trying to lick the sidewalk that parents start to raise their voices. Now that Grace is almost five, and a damn fine yeller in her own right, we all tend to scream back and forth across the house with sad regularity. We may still be peaceful in spirit, but less so in practice.
TV. We didn’t let Grace have the tube ‘til she was two, and even then we doled out well-supervised segments of Elmo and carefully managed her emotional reaction: “How did you feel when Elmo asked Dorothy what she likes for breakfast?” Little sister Rosemary, desperate for a peek at Little Bear or Caillou, already cranes her little neck like an owl every time we turn on the TV.
And while we are on the subject, Trademarked Characters. I have friends who still say to their four-year-olds, “Look, it’s a deer!” whenever they see a Bambi cartoon on a backpack. But that breed is becoming more and more rare with each lunchbox exposure the big kids get at school.
And to get even more specific, Disney Princesses. While I theoretically turn up my nose at the toys ‘r’ landfill marketing juggernaut that is the princess phenomenon, I have given in to small increments of princess presence in our feminist home. What may be a tiny, controlled princess infusion for Grace could no doubt turn into a full-scale plastic battalion by the time Rosemary is old enough to ask for Disney crap by name.
Things I’m still holding out on for both girls.
Barbie. My friend Leilani said it best: “Barbie is weird.” We all know it. We all know that study that says that if Barbie were a real woman she would have to walk on all fours to support her freakish body. Grace plays with Barbie at a friend’s house and she once begged for the doll on a mismanaged outing to the Big Lots! in the Mission. But for now we have kept the weird doll out of her innocent hands, removing one of the million cultural catalysts for body image issues. We’ll see how long we can hold out.
Bratz. With apologies to all the Bratz loverz out there, I’ll never give in on this one. A couple of years ago, Jeff stumbled across these slutty dolls in the aisles of Target and about had a Daddy stroke. “Are you kidding me?!” he yelled across his red cart, startling the other shoppers. “This doll looks like she’s auditioning for Coyote Ugly!” We both stared, jaws agape, at the collagen-lipped doll who wore a halter top, mini skirt, and thigh-high stripper boots. We both decided on that day that we’ll stand firm on the Bratz toy boycott, along with any other hoochie-mama preteen toys or clothes.
Those of you who have more than one child may feel the same, or maybe you try to offer your younger one the same gift of being sheltered. Maybe you threw in the towel with your eldest from day one, figuring it is impossible to fight the tide and you may as well roll with it.
Either way, at the end of the day, unless your child goes to Waldorf school or you tossed all media exposure and moved to the country, the little one is going to learn about all kinds of goodies from her older sibling. I’m just looking forward to the day when Grace discovers the birds and the bees. That will be quite an interesting hand-me-down.