I have been on the lookout even before Larsen was born for books and toys that feature mom and dad. I am overjoyed to find children’s books that mention fathers as sweet, loving, and involved caretakers as much as mothers and a few toys that have an image of fathers on the packaging.
As much as we laud motherhood, which we should be doing- damn, it’s an intense job, we also need to be noticing the effort that many men are producing in the household as well. We’ve complained fathers need to be doing more for their kids, but now we need to applaud them and recognize them as an essential part of a child’s life. And this means having their presence in quality media in which our children are exposed.
The high repetition of bedtime stories should concern us- what messages are we sending when we read these books over and over and over again? That only moms are in the stories with the children? Where’s dada?
Children need to see an involved father from birth. While a child may be getting this message simply because his dad is around, the stories that are helping build his imagination need this message as well.
I dare you to pick up any book or toy for a young baby. Look at the packaging/marketing and/or wording. For the most part, it’s the mother sharing the toy or sitting right next to him while the child holds it or either the book says something along the lines, “Goodnight baby, Mommy loves you.” No mention of daddy verbally or physically.
Am I overcomplicating a small issue? No. Do I think every toy or book should have both mom and dad? No. That’s a bit extreme. I understand most are marketing for mothers who may still be doing all the buying. However, I do expect to see more of a balance in marketing to parents.
I truly believe we build the standards in our world by being consciously or unconsciously involved in the cycle of media. Mother’s may buy based on seeing our image confirmed on the package. We may be delighted to act out those little vignettes from the package at home – matter of fact, it’s what we may unconsciously feel is the right way to be a mother because of the ubiquitous imagery with which we are bombarded. We get REASSURANCE through our purchase.
Yet, fathers may NOT buy because they ONLY see mothers, thinking it’s a no-men zone, thus reinforcing parenting is ultimately a feminine pursuit. If men don’t see it, they can’t be it. And why would anyone want to be something not held up as important? Low visibility equals not valued.
Father’s would start buying more children’s items if they saw items marketed with fatherhood in mind. Children would see from the start images of an involved father and thus the standard that fatherhood is important takes root in our child.
Some businesses are catching on, which I love to see! They will have a mom on front and the dad on back. He’s there, so I’m hopeful we will keep moving in the right direction.
Here are some of my favorite books:
One can click through the book and see the images of dad helping – putting away toys and laundry! The page of him saying “Lullaby and Goodnight, Papa’s kisses are near” isn’t shown, but so great to see in a children’s book!
I love this one too because little Larsen is learning that affection from a man is normal (unless he’s a Catholic priest or lives in a van down by the river).
Here’s one toy I’ve seen advertised with a father directly one the front:
Check out Diaperdude.com – A line of diaper bags just for dad!
While there are several books/toys about fathers being “active” (i.e. playing sports) with their sons, there isn’t many I’ve seen that relay these vital messages to both girl and boy children: fatherhood is important, father’s are expected to be a part of children’s lives from the get-go, father’s can have intimate and loving relationships with their children, father’s are caretakers of both the home and family as well.
Yes, it’s sad that one way our expectations get formed is through our consumerism; yet, it’s a reality- one in which awareness helps guide better decisions for our children, allowing them many opportunities to see and hear the varied roles they will come to value.