This morning while I was getting ready for work, I was listening to my favorite morning show on the radio. A lady had written in, telling about her 5-year-old son who wanted an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. Her husband had scoffed at the idea, saying "Over my dead body!"
On the way to school, I asked my son what he would do if he was a dad and his young son asked for this gift. I didn't preface the question with this father's response as I wanted to get another male's unbiased perspective.
"How old should kids be for something like that?" my son asked me.
"Oh, it depends on the child," I responded. "Maybe as young as 4 or 5, and on up to 9 or so."
"Then I'd say OK." He paused. "Why? I suppose there was a dad who didn't want him to have one because it's a 'girl' toy."
I told him about the conversation on the radio and how the father was adamant that his son not have such a gift. "Well, I wouldn't have a problem with it," my son said.
When my son, now almost 16, was 2-years-old, my mom gave him a boy doll donned in basketball attire. "Buddy" accompanied us to the grocery store, the sandbox, down slipper slides and on walks. He never seemed out of place, simply because he belonged to a little boy. The day came soon enough where he was put away; traded in for a real basketball and a new set of interests.
Do we panic when a little girl wants a toy car or a baseball instead of a ruffly dress and Barbies? Why is it when it comes to boys, that society is so frightened to step out of certain lines of the gender box? Perhaps this little boy, who wants an oven of his own, has helped his mother in the kitchen and wants to learn on his own level. Maybe his father is so busy keeping things within those lines that he doesn't have time to get to know his own son. If he did, chances are he would find a loving and interesting little fellow who at five, isn't afraid to follow his own path.
Being a parent isn't about pushing our children down the same road as we have traveled. It's finding delight in who they are and accompanying them down their own, then gradually letting go with encouragement and love.
I hope that that little boy finds an Easy-Bake Oven beneath his tree this Christmas...and that his father finds the soft spot that lives in every man in time to really appreciate his son and all that he has to teach him.