For all that my son is becoming quite the boy, he’s not going so far to the dark side that I worry. Any time I start to wonder if my house is going to become nothing more than a collision course for toy trucks, I think of Shelley.
When Silas was a baby, he really didn’t have a lovey. To all you attachment-parenting-types who say obnoxious things like, “I want my baby to attach to me, not to an object”…shut up. The point of an attachment object is not that the baby loves the object more than he loves, say, a human parent, but that it comforts him when the parent finds it difficult to detach her boob and leave it with him. For example, on a first night with a new sitter. Or even, a night alone with Daddy. Silas’ lack of a comfort object was a problem for us. It was hard for me to go out on my own. If Silas woke up in the middle of the night and I wasn’t right there, he screamed and screamed. It wasn’t healthy, for either of us.
He was a little over a year old when I spotted Shelley at a thrift store. I can’t describe why, but this little pink dolly kept calling to me. I knew it was stupid; I had a little boy at home, and this was definitely a girly toy. Still, I couldn’t help it. She was only seventy-five cents. I could take her home. “Maybe her name is Shelley,” I mused. I don’t know why. That’s just what popped into my head.
When I pulled her out of the bag, Silas reached his hands out and squealed, “Shelley!” He clutched her like a long-lost friend and glared at me as if to say, “Where have you been hiding her?” JC and I were both surprised at his reaction. We’d seen him get this excited over my new cell phone and the micro-plane grater, but never over a toy.
Shelley is, with out a doubt, a perfect first doll. She’s soft and squishy. Her clothing is has lots of different textures–a waffle weave fabric for her romper and hat, satin on the bottoms of her feet, and faux fur around the band of her hat. She rattles. Her expression is very neutral, not the overbearing cheerfulness of most dolls. Despite her very pink-ness, she seems androgynous enough. Most importantly, Silas loves her.
He’s not overly attached. We go places without Shelley all the time. When we’re at home, Shelley can be right at his side or at the other end of the house. Even at bedtime, she is preferred, but not required. Only when he wakes up alone in the middle of the dark night is Shelley’s reassuring rattle absolutely necessary.
At first, I will admit, I was a bit embarrassed about Shelley. “Please don’t ask why Silas has a pink dolly,” I told new sitters. “It’s…complicated.” I didn’t want people thinking I got my son a pink, girly little doll as a feminist statement of some kind. Really, I didn’t.
She’s grown on me, now. I rather like her little tuft of brown hair. I enjoy watching Silas develop imaginative play with Shelley–putting her to bed in my old doll cradle, “reading” to her, even insisting that she have her own doll (“Little Liza Jane”).
A recent adventure in feeding Shelley some of his peanut butter & jelly sandwich led to me showing him how to give her a bath. It’s now a favorite activity. I love how he is so careful with her, how he says, “Mama don’t water in Shelley eyes.”
When my brother was little, probably around this age, he used to take my baby dolls (all, mysteriously, named “Baby Nora”). We have some sweet pictures in the family albums of him cradling them, wrapping them in blankets, even nursing them. I think that’s something he became embarrassed by when he grew a little older and learned that there are boy activities and girl activities. I know it’s only a matter of time before someone–someone he will listen to far more than he listens to me–tells Silas, “Girls play with dolls. Boys play with trucks.” I just hope that he’ll be sure enough of himself to respond that he is a boy, and he plays with dolls and trucks, thankyouverymuch.