Monday, July 6, 2009

Mezmur's New Doll

Once again, let me preface this post by saying...I hope what I'm about to say doesn't offend anyone. This is just something that is on my mind today. This was the second post in 2 weeks that I almost didn't post...I guess I just don't want to offend anyone. I don't judge others either...just so you know. This is about Mezmur. Ok, enough of that.

So, this has been something that has come up a lot with me. It has been on my mind from the beginning. It has to do with dolls and decorations for Mezmur depicting a white girl with yellow hair and blue eyes. My gut feeling is, "No, Mezmur will have only dolls that depict her color and heritage." Is this a healthy way to think? Well, yesterday in the mail from an elderly friend of my grandparents Mezmur received the most Anglo doll I've ever seen. My first reaction was to shove it back in the box and not to let Mezmur see it. Then I thought I would see how she looked on the shelf with the other dolls. Wow, she stuck out like a sore thumb. By not giving Mezmur white dolls am I telling her difference is not good? Growing up we all had a Cabbage Patch or doll from a different culture. I had a Cabbage Patch from China. There is nothing wrong with that, so what is the difference? Well, I think the difference comes from the fact that Mezmur is Ethiopian being raised in a predominantly white population. What it all comes down to is...we just want to do right by Mezmur. Not just "right", but 100% right. We want her to have a high self esteem and grow up a strong woman who loves her heritage and the home she grew up in. I feel like this is my first challenge. It may be a little silly to some of you that it is over dolls, but it is sort of a big deal to me.

I would like to know if any of you have any thoughts on this subject. Please leave a comment with thoughts on either side of the doll issue. I must say...the more I ponder this issue and the more I delay pushing the publish button the more I think that the key is...balance.

17 comments:

Heather said...

My personal take on it is that my daughter is in the minority every time she steps out the door. She'll be in the minority in every classroom she sits in. She is in the minority in her own home. What some might consider me "going overboard" in making sure the toys/books/artwork/etc. in our home reflect her face back to her is actually me attempting to restore the balance in some small way.

Jill said...

I don't remember where I read it, but somewhere along the way, I read that children in multicultural families often prefer to play with dolls that resemble not themselves, but those they love. If given a choice, they will pick the doll that looks the most like their mother or best friend. I haven't tried out this theory with Mari yet as she still hasn't really got into playing with dolls. My niece, however, if a doll-freak and she LOVES Mari's black baby dolls...maybe because they resemble her best friend! I plan on having a good mix.

Christi said...

I wonder if her class in school will be predominantly white by the time she gets there. In my current neighborhood the majority is Hispanic...just a thought. And I don't think this post is offensive at all - I love how you are so thoughtful about all the little details that will make up her childhood. You are such a great mom!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jill. I heard about that same sort of study that was done, and besides that, I always think a good mix of dolls is important. Like you said- you had a Cabbage Patch doll from China when you were growing up. I had a variety of the American Girl dolls growing up in the 80s as well as Cabbage Patch dolls and I loved that they all weren't white like me. It's just like movies- kids need movies showing someone like them as a hero, role model, etc. just like they need to see children of other races in those roles. It proves everyone is capable and worthy of admiration, no matter what their race. My husband makes sure our boys are exposed to many great sports figures (that's his thing- he loves sports!) of all races so our boys (3 and 6- adopted out of foster care) can have good role models to look up to- both men that look like them and others that don't. Because when we're swimming at the YMCA or at a Little League game, they might be in the minority but they will have been exposed to people of all races and I feel it makes them more comfortable having that exposure. It was something our social worker suggested as well. She said our sons will always have white parents who they love- why can't they have a white GI Joe or favorite white athlete that they look up to? Just like there is no problem with any biological child we ever have looking up to a black athlete or playing with a black doll.

I hope this rambling post makes sense! I know things don't come across right sometimes on the internet. I have enjoyed your blog- I found it when I was looking at another adoption blog one day and your family is beautiful! :) Good luck and remember, you are obviously an amazing parent- we moms tend to overthink things way too much (I know at least I do!) and our kids, when we really get down to it, just don't care as much as us. To them, it's just a doll and there is such innocence in the fact that they see people as people, not colors when they are younger. The more we can do to foster this sense of equality, the better it is for everyone. So, go find your Chinese Cabbage Patch doll and add it to her collection- I am sure she will have friends of all races one day!

K.R., North Carolina

Julie said...

Because Mezmur's family is biracial, I would tend to think she would enjoy a collection of dolls that reflect this as well. In fact, her new doll, in some ways, would probably remind her of her brother.

kathy said...

I think you're right on when you say that they key is balance, Autumn. I think that it's totally o.k. for Mezmur to have all kinds of dolls to play with. Having a doll that is blonde/blue eyes, is kind of like, well, you! And you are, after all, her primary attachment and the person who loves her like no other, and whom she loves just as much in return.
I have no doubt that you will do an amazing job at exposing her to her culture, and be an incredibly sensitive mama as these issues arise throughout her life.

Ted and Lori said...

Way-interesting topic. Fyi: I miss you.

Ashleigh, Ben, Noah and Tait said...

Autumn,
I think you are so right about balance. It is the key. Have you read "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla"? The author brings up the relevant and interesting point that up until about 3 yrs, children asses us all and look at us as individual beings. We're not white, black, asian, etc. We are who we are.
That said, honouring and integrating race, culture, and heritage is so important when our children are of the minority and in our multi-racial families.
Thank you for bringing it up...I posted a similar topic the other day on our blog - you are welcome to head over if you wish...www.thekeizerfamily.blogspot.com
I think little Mezmer is simply beautiful and you seem to be doing an incredible job raising her. She is very blessed.
Ashleigh

Annie said...

I think the important thing is that you're being so thoughtful about this, and taking it seriously. There's no such thing as being "colorblind" so you can't ignore the presence of race and how it will function in Mezmur's life. But I really do think you sum it up best in the word "balance". You have plenty of time to sort through these decisions, and you'll probably keep coming to new conclusions. If this particular doll just doesn't feel right to you, I'd trust your instincts. But in general, I think a thoughtful balance is the way to go. Of course, I'm not a mom. But I admire the fact that you are giving this such thought. That's the first step.

More Dorrs said...

To me, the fact that you are even processing these hard topics is proof that you are doing right by Mezmur.

I've had this same struggle with books. I have been picking up books --anywhere and everywhere that I can find them-- that have pictures and stories of people with skin the same color as our child will have. Am I over compensating by excluding so many books that have only white people? It's tough. I think you are right on with 'balance'....but how do we know when we have that balance?!?!?

It's great to have other families to talk about these things with. Thanks for posting this!

-Beka

Anonymous said...

I agree with balance as well. But why stop and black/white? I plan for my girls, should I have girls :), have all races of dolls. There are a lot of companies that have Asian, Hispanic, etc... dolls that would make a great collection of friends for her current dolls. :)

Xander and Alana said...

I'm new(ish) here, but I agree that variety is a good thing. We would like our kids to have mostly dolls with brown skin tones, but we don't want those to be the only dolls they have. We figure if they have options, they can choose what they like and let their imaginations do the rest. We'll watch and listen and see how it goes. We also have dolls and toys from our own childhoods that are mostly light-skinned, and we don't want to keep those from them just because of their skin color. But yeah, we've worried about it. You want to get everything just right, and no matter what you do there's a constant fear that you're doing it all wrong.

dad-gramps said...

So great to have this forum. For me when I read through all the comments there were points at first I didn't consider. The one that jumped out the most was it's not just a black and white issue. If you indeed run with this thought it opens up the opportunity for a melting pot of dolls for Mezmur to play with. This seeems to make sense to me to help diffuse the focus on this issue and at the same time offers a broader view in focus. . . "It's A Small World" after all. Also the study of a child's choice as they are growing up interest me because in connecting this thought with having more choices I feel this will help her out in the world. You are absolutely right that balance is part of the key. . . the question also posed in the comments was "What is the right balance". . . ? This is a hard parental decision to make for your child. I believe the other part of the key to finding this balance, is to be open because with an open heart there is acceptance of everything. . . This is what a "child's heart" is from the start and to see the world as a child is what it's about. Sorry again about the on and on, but you started it. . . Love you and the mother you are. . . Love to all.

Luv Debbie/Grammy said...

I agree with anonymous form NC. If we truly want our children to grow up with open minds then all choices need to be available to them. Ceratain choices we ponder so intently do not even enter our children's minds. It will be interesting to see Mezmur develop and start making choices of her own when given an aray of colors to choose from. How lucky your children are!

Alida and Geno said...

Autumn, this post is not offensive at all. It shows you do give a lot of thought to Mezmur's upbringing ... u're a great mama. I believe balance in the sense of a great variety or mix of all kinds of dolls with different shapes and colors is great. Let her choose and if it fits in your budget, why not give her a variety to choose from .... but still I wouldn't go overboard and overindulge with dolls ... us said it best .... balance is the key :).

angie said...

eveything i want to say has pretty much been said...so ditto!!

i love this post. i consider all these things constantly and love to read others thoughts as well!

Rachel Clear said...

Autumn! As I said before, (and others have said here today), I think the fact that you are thinking about this is awesome. I know people in your same situation who don't think about this at all, as though color doesn't exsist, and that's plain silly.

My thinking would be a variety of dolls so that she doesn't feel even more "different" and so that she has choices to make for herself. If she is playing with a group of white girls who have white dolls, and she is brown with a brown doll, that doesn't seem to teach inclusion very well, does it?

Mezmur is so lucky to be in a community where there are many other loving awesome families who look like hers, and it's okay if her dolls reflect this too!

(p.s. I love the dolls you make... Zoralee's is sooooo cute!)