The problem with toys for boys

The problem with toys for boys

I was searching online for a Christmas present for a boy who is developing a passion for things scientific. I was horrified to see on one website for science toys a listing of toys for boys… but no corresponding listing of toys for girls. My old friend Scholastic did a little better – on the toys for girls site they had toys for budding engineers. But the boys site had no toys for boys who might like kitchens or dolls.

Maybe only a very few boys will be like my friend who, as a boy, was ecstatic to get a much wanted Barbie doll. But when we designate engineering toys as the norm for boys and dolls as toys for girls, well then, they become the norm.

So what? you might ask. The problem is that if you are a girl wanting a toy from the “boy section” or heaven forbid, vice versa, you are then by definition abnormal.

football BAs you can see by my picture, I have some experience in being abnormal. While my mom wanted a girly girl who’d take ballet, I  wanted to be playing ball with my brothers. While my mother faithfully came to my basketball and softball games in high school, we both knew it was her second choice. (She also used to tell me that I shouldn’t yell so loudly at college games because it wasn’t “ladylike,” but that’s another story.”)

One web site whom I’d contacted about the issue said that they had the listing because people typed the phrase “toys for boys” into search engines. What a wonderful world it would be if typing “toys for boys” and “toys for girls” brought up the same page.

Then no one would have to be abnormal. We could just be ourselves.

 

 


 

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A Small Defense of Stuff

Christmas presentsIt’s that time of year again. My Facebook feed is filling up with friends who are gleefully and gladly announcing their liberation from the cunning clutches of Christmas commercialism and consumerism. (Today is obviously alliteration day in the old writing studio.) They congratulate each other on having left the misguided mob who is blindly following the siren song of buying useless stuff for people who are buying useless stuff for them. They enjoy the company of other enlightened souls who have vowed to buy no presents that don’t involve baby goats in a third world country.

Or maybe I’m a tad sensitive.

To be clear, I love it when people give socially conscious gifts. Its a wonderful system to do real good. But I have a confession to make.

I like Christmas shopping.

There, I’ve said it.

To be clear, I don’t go into debt. I don’t buy a gift until I have the money for it and I have a budget that’s respectful of my own budget. I don’t blindly buy stuff that’s just going to collect dust until the statute of limitations expires and it can be donated to Goodwill (at least, I hope not.) But I love Christmas shopping. It brings me joy.

I haven’t taken the love languages inventory but I suspect that gift giving may be one of mine. It’s a way of acknowledging my connection with each family member. I enjoy thinking about their unique selves, what they like and how they live. It gives me pleasure to think of their pleasure in opening it.

So when you’re writing your sermons on stuff, I hope you’ll take the time to consider that, like most things, it’s not all good or all bad. It may be a mindless waste of resources and an affront to the message of Christmas.

But sometimes, for some of us, it’s the way our hearts take tangible shape in the lives of the people whom we love.

12 Days of Christmas: Surviving and Thriving (Day 3: Present-Day Decisions)

First, let me begin with a disclaimer. I love Christmas shopping. I’ve had years where I found presents throughout the year so that when the first week of December rolled around,  I was done. And I’ve had years in which I was out there at the last minute, taking advantage of all of the desperation bargains. Either way, I really love looking for the right thing and finding that present that I’m reasonably sure they will enjoy.

I realize this passion is not universally shared.

Dealing with presents is usually at the top of lists of Christmas stress. Here are some tips to make life a little easier.

1. Before you begin, decide what you can do. Each year I decide how much money I have to spend on Christmas. I then divide that among by the number of presents I have to buy. And that’s my budget for each present. It doesn’t matter if I find just the perfect thing for someone. If it’s twice as much as my budget allows, I’ll keep looking. By sticking to the budget and paying in cash, I’m not hit with the month after remorse. Some years that budget has been pretty small, but it’s amazing what you can find on a good sale.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask. If you have no idea of what your niece would like, ask her. It doesn’t mean you love her less. People get into trouble applying the mythical wedding ring ESP to other family members. (The mythical wedding ring ESP refers to the belief that if your partner loves you, they should be able to read your mind.) If your niece asks for a new car and that is beyond your means, ask her for a longer list.

3. Presents don’t have to be perfect. It’s easy to fall into the trap of passing on a really good present in the quest for that absolutely perfect present. When you’re tempted to fall into that trap, remember that your good mental health is the best present of all that you can give your family.

4. Along these lines, presents aren’t magical. They probably will not mend fractured relationships, heal family dysfunctions and make up for everything you didn’t get as a kid. It probably won’t finally make your mom love you best when she’s always favored your brother. It’s a Christmas present. It can be pretty special but it probably won’t radically change your life. And that’s okay.

5. Figure out what works for you. Your family may decide to draw names. Or to put your present money together and spend it on a family trip. Or adopt a goat in a third world country. The most important thing is that everyone is able to have a voice in the decision.

6. Gift cards are not tacky. You know all of those people whom you’d like to remember at this time of the year – teachers, choir leaders, hairdressers, etc.? The vast majority of them are not offended by a gift card. If you give a card to a local restaurant, just be sure it’s a place where they’d like to go.