Parent Moments: Daddies and Dolls
"Daddy, do you know where my Cinderella socks are?'' asks Julia.
My husband Dave's reply is tentative. "Are these the ones?''
I can tell by Julia's expression that they are not.
"No, Daddy,'' she shakes her head slowly as her smile droops.
A second later, she is triumphant -- "Here they are!''
Dave looks relieved as she puts them on, but the calm is short-lived as Julia starts pitching the contents of her toy box in a mad hunt for her Skipper doll.
"I think she's over there,'' I interject, as I point to a pile of four Barbies, one with Skipper's signature hair and adolescent shape.
"How in the world did you know that?'' Dave mutters as Julia cuddles her prodigal doll.
I don't remember when, exactly, I absorbed the intricate lore of dolls and fairy-tale princesses -- and the Who's Who is massive, I can assure you -- but, like most moms, my grasp of Skipper, Snow White, Raggedy Ann, and company is pretty solid. But it wasn't until I witnessed Dave's daily struggle to find and identify Julia's various dolls that I could appreciate how useful my grasp of the doll and princess world could be when dealing with a 4-year-old girl.
Dave was as baffled by my fluency as I was by his ignorance. Could anyone who lived in the last half of the 20th century really not know what Cinderella looks like? I gave him a little tutorial, teaching him how to identify the princesses by hair color -- Snow White, black; Cinderella, blonde -- the basics for picking them out of a lineup.
His confidence took a nosedive during a game with Julia, when her acting out of several Sleeping Beauty aliases made him think that the character had some sort of multiple personality disorder. "I think we're playing two different fairy tales now,'' he said, bewildered.
I took pity and translated for him, running down Sleeping Beauty's different names as Dave's eyes glazed over.
"My husband bought the 'Encyclopedia of Princesses,''' a mom friend told me over coffee when I joked about Dave's doll deficiency. She told me about all the dads she knew of who went to great lengths to research and immerse themselves in the world of girl toys. "Of course!'' I thought. "What he needs is a book -- and maybe I could even make a set of flash cards.''
I returned home to find Dave hunched over the toy chest desperately digging for Julia's favorite Polly Pocket. "Is this her?'' he asked, pulling out a Groovy Girl instead. "Oh no, Daddy!'' But I saw that the glint in Julia's eye was not frustration or disappointment; it was empowerment. And I realized that my husband, by not being afraid of playing dumb with his daughter, was being a truly generous father.
What a doll.