If your son asked for a doll, what would you do? If your daughter asked for a G.I. Joe instead of a Barbie, would you worry?
Gina Demillo Wagner didn’t worry. She handled it perfectly. Wagner’s six-year-old son started asking for an American Boy doll last year after his older sister got an American Girl doll.
The company currently only sells a set of boys, the Bitty Twins, but does not sell the custom, “Truly Me” dolls, who are made to look just like the customer. Wagner assumed her son would lose interest after she told him they didn’t have American Boy dolls, but he continued to ask.
Unwilling to disappoint her son, Wagner decided to make an American Boy doll: “I decided to take matters into my own hands,” Wagner wrote in her blog. “I’d give a girl doll a makeover to resemble a boy (but not just any boy…. my boy).”
The strong-willed mom tracked down an 18-inch Madame Alexandra doll on Ebay who had her son’s blue eyes and blonde hair. She looked past the the pink lipstick, and blush, “I saw the spitting image of my son.” She removed the make-up with acetone and gave the little boy doll a new do.
Once Wagner was finished with her project, she filmed her son’s overjoyed reaction and placed it on her blog. She told PEOPLE that folks have been mostly positive in response. “I’ve actually been really pleasantly surprised,” Wagner says. “I know the internet can be a very critical place, but the vast majority of people are just really supportive, they feel inspired.”
Wagner doesn’t believe in overthinking gender barriers, and, because of it, her kids are able to play with whatever they want. “My son loves superheroes and Pokémon and LEGOs, but he also really loves My Little Pony, and so it’s just kind of been common practice in our house that we don’t differentiate – toys are toys and you can play with all of them,” she said. “I’m not against traditional toys – like princesses or action figures – rather, I would love to see companies market toys in a more neutral way and not assume one is only for girls and the other for boys. Let kids play with what they love.”
I believe Wagner’s decision to disregard gender stereotypes will benefit her kids in the long run because they will be exposed to an array of toys instead of being restricted based on gender. As a girl, playing with LEGOS was something I did with my dad. I grew up knowing I could play with whatever toys I wanted. And, like Wagner perfectly put, “they’re just toys.”
Parents, let your kids play.