I’m one of those moms raised on “Free To be You and Me” who really hoped my sons would like baby dolls. I don’t mean to sound weird about it, but the book and song “William’s Doll” made so much sense to me as a child and it makes so much sense to me as an adult. I wanted boys who wanted dolls.
As a Waldorf mama, I presented my sons with wooden and natural fiber toys and introduced no academics for their first years, but I never splurged on those pricey faceless Waldorf baby dolls, because it just wasn’t in our budget. I have some of my beloved baby dolls from childhood, and when I was pregnant with my second son, I gave my older son the option of meeting my dolls for the first time. He was 2 at the time.
He instantly took to my baby doll Jennie, so named because my Grandma Jennie (z”l) gave her to me when I was a little older than he is now. As he learned about my growing belly, he became more and more interested in Baby Jennie, but he curiously and definitively renamed her “Baby Jonah” and insisted she was a boy even though she was in a pink dress and bonnet. (We found out two years later that he is colorblind and the dress and bonnet likely look grey to him!)
Everyone who saw him with the now-male Baby Jonah remarked that he must know the baby in my belly was a boy, and he turned out to be right. Once baby came, his interest in Baby Jonah waned, and his interest in the actual baby in our midst was nil. So that happened.
As my boys got older, they would from time to time play with my baby dolls: carrying them in a sling, “nursing” them, feeding them from bowls and spoons, and even feeding them from a bottle, since my younger son was bottle-fed my breastmilk and associated being a “daddy” with giving bottles.
Cut to years later. The boys are now almost 5 and almost 8, and my younger son from time to time wants to play with Baby Jennie/Jonah. He also is terribly fond of my childhood Baby Eric (also my naming) who, made in 1976, sports a penis and a hole from which he pees if you give him a bottle of water (do they even make anatomically correct dolls like this anymore?! With a penis!? My sons think it’s hysterical.).
My younger son likes me to diaper his babies, even though he has no conscious memory of diapers (having been in underwear since he was 18 months old since we practiced Elimination Communication). I use newborn prefolds or cotton handkerchiefs and old-fashioned diaper pins and apparently the babies need their diapers changed a LOT because he asks me to change their diapers about every three minutes. I remind him that babies also need to sleep, and he tucks them in and lets them sleep and then reminds me every three minutes that they are almost waking up and will need a diaper changing.
He pats their backs, and cuddles them close, and he sighs to me, “After I give them a bottle, they need to be burped!” (God love that child: he’s heard me explaining to the moms I do lactation counseling for that breastfed babies rarely need to be burped but bottle-fed babies do.) He rocks his babies, and he loves his babies.
I have a son who loves his babies. Not every day, not all the time, but enough so that I tear up when I remember the words from “William’s Doll:”
William wants a doll
So when he has a baby someday
He’ll know how to dress it
Put diapers on double
And gently caress it
To bring up a bubble
And care for his baby
As every good father should learn to do
William has a doll, William has a doll
‘Cause someday he is going to be a father too.
Future partner of my son: my son won’t be perfect and he may not wake up to change diapers as often as you want him to, but he knows how to do it. And he is loving. He is tender. He cares a lot about everything. I work hard to help him foster all of that. And I try to model compassion and gentleness.
And God willing, he is going to be a great father someday. God willing, he is going to be a great father someday.