Thursday, April 14, 2011 • 6:57 AM Comments (7)

What Do Feminist Toddlers Wear? The Un-Previewed Box Of Hand-Me-Down Clothes Installment

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

True confession: when the eldest was smaller—a knight-intrigued and princess-liking lad—I pulled the slivers of plastic that were swords from the brand-new Playmobil set—and threw all weapons in the trash.

Because, you see, I was against violence. For the record, I still am against violence.

That worked fine, in that he did not notice. He is a head-in-clouds-of-his-mind person in certain ways. The third guy, himself having had a much more major love of Playmobil (especially knights and pirates) knew exactly what belonged in those boxes. I could not have, um, edited a set.

That’s how we ended up with tiny plastic weaponry in our house. In my attempt to clean up the playroom of things that don’t really get played with much (cough, zillions of dollars’ worth of Playmobil) I’ve learned that the wee weapons are kind of cute if you put them all in a jam jar.

Anyhoo—the point of this story is I’m not above or below a little editing. For better or worse, take your pick, we just avoided Captain Underpants entirely (the reason: I didn’t want to read that).


When my friend, Karen, was expecting a daughter, as her friend, Amy had before her by about a year Amy eagerly mailed Karen hand-me-downs by the giant boxful. Actually, the purple shipment disappeared (USPS at your, er, service). Karen called me one afternoon and announced: “A pink bomb arrived at my house today. From Amy.”

And so it was.

The pink bomb came to our house (with a little purple and a lot of monkeys tossed in; Karen’s daughter loved monkeys very precociously and it turns out with enduring loyalty) about a year later when our daughter arrived. I edited the box of certain stiff frills and any truly objectionable onesie (a pick-up a boyfriend want ad on a three-month size onesie—really?).

Our little gal was and is quite often pretty in pink, although not only (well, always pretty).

Karen came through with a box the other day and I didn’t edit up front. Besides the red sparkly ballet shoes (“Marmar sent these because my other ones broke,” Saskia reasoned) her fave hand-me-down item? You guessed it: the Disney Princess bathing suit.

Peggy Orenstein, if you knew about this, you’d be laughing at me, right?


Andie at the awesome feminist parenting blog Blue Milk interviewed me this very week about feminist parenting. I guess feminist parenting in action in this household this week includes some metaphoric swords. Like her brother moved beyond the tiny plastic ones I’m pretty sure my little gal will find new notions of beauty. Someday.

Comments (7)
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So I've got this box in my closet called "In Case Of Girl," and it's got a few dresses in it. Nothing super intense. And it's something I feel oddly conflicted about: on the one hand, what do I care if my hypothetical little girl wears skirts? Certainly she'll wear much of what her brother currently is. On the other hand, I want to have been thoughtful--I want her years later to look back and thing "Hey, they did want a girl--look, tiny dresses!" Bleh. Maybe it will never come up, and I can just hand them off to a girl-having sister.

Posted by susiebook on 4.14.11 at 20:11

Only time will tell!

Posted by Sarah B on 4.14.11 at 23:08

I became sucha girl after I had a girl. Parenting is so hard specially when things like this happen i.e Enzo not understanding why I won't let him play with water guns. I just hate gund, I don't care if it's filled with water. arghhh what do I do?

Posted by damaris palmer on 4.15.11 at 15:31

Sarah, I adore how you come full circle. Always.

We all edit one way or another. Just be there. Be her boundaries and she will find her way with you by her side. *That* is the point, right?

And for the record: She looks darn cute all princess-ed up! XO

Posted by Galit on 4.16.11 at 0:50

With two daughters, I had Barbie issues. lots of them.

I managed to keep them out of the house for the first couple years, until the eldest was 3, and then two arrived and were unwrapped, so I couldn't dissappear them. They did what my daughter did; flew, spun, twirled, climbed trees, and played in the sandbox.

We kept the population low until the second daughter (4 years younger) was rivetted by the abandoned collection. I was worried about the naked barbies until I found the headless one.... I asked the little girl where barbie's head was? and she fished around in the bedclothes and up popped barbie on a forefinger, saying "I wanted to be a finger puppet"....

So I decided that for my kids, the dolls were a vehicle for thinking about what they wanted to do, and I was already pretty comfortable with what they wanted to do. And a year or so after that, some got donated to the art project we undertook to make your own superhero by repainting and remodelling barbies. And some were used in the Egyptian project where a couple barbies and a ken were mummified and left in a pyramid on the front porch. And the fossilation project, where we tried leaving them in various parts of the backyard - kind of like the body farm for toys, to see how they decomposed.

Posted by dancingcrow on 4.16.11 at 9:08

It's funny how over time you realize the kids' preferences outweigh your worries almost every time. I loved the notion of Barbie issues!

Posted by Sarah B on 4.17.11 at 8:07

Sarah, I love reading your blog and I feel like it plays a large part in getting me closer to the idea of having kids (well just one). It's something I've been struggling with for years on many fronts. Finally I realized that I need to build for myself a new model of family and parenting from the one I grew up with and your blog is helping me. I can't and don't want to replicate what I had but didn't know anything else- a very protected world in which child, parent and family is EVERYTHING where friends, career, etc all come second, or third even. (For my parents, my sister and I are still everything and I find myself pushing back wishing they'd find their own lives and interests.) I can only be a parent if I have career and friends too. This means childcare (with funding assistance), but also eventually trusting the choices the child makes and giving them some freedom once they're older (something my parents still have trouble with). I have been devouring articles on women who are single parents- athlete climbers, actors, etc, and how they deal with it. (yes, again, childcare + funding) I wouldn't be a single parent entirely but I know and have to accept that I would be frequently because of his work and he'd need to be able to do the same for me. (This would not even be on the map for my parents.) A lot of it comes down to knowing you can't do everything- for them or for oneself (my mom did everything for us- we didn't have 'chores'). I love reading about your struggles for balance, the choices made, the chaos and quiet moments- the things you have control over and the ones you just don't. It's inspiring because it's something I feel I might be able to achieve, unlike the clean, quiet home I grew up in at which I have no chance (but that's what I used to think it had to be). In fact I'm getting to the place where I feel it just might be better.

Posted by SarahH on 4.17.11 at 16:22



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