The Absolute Favourite

Even before I was a parent I was fascinated by the idea of the special toy.  The Chosen One. The one subjected to the kind of love and attention that other toys can only dream about. I enjoy the look of them. These well travelled, precious companions whose bodies have been wrung limp by the passionate grips of toddlers.

Teddy - loved by Rachel for 37 years.
Teddy – loved by Rachel for 37 years.

Neither myself or my siblings had any such attachment as children. In my case I put it down to sheer laziness. I didn’t have the dedication that it takes to commit to that kind of relationship. None of my toys had the fur loved off them unless you count the Barbie dolls I cut the hair off. I was faithless and careless with all of them equally. I remember being aware though, that such exclusive friendships existed. Inspired books such as ‘Dogger’ and ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’, I made a few feeble and short lived attempts at playing favourites. But as much as I might have wanted it, I could never make it stick.

Ted - loved by Josh for 28 years.
Ted – loved by Josh for 28 years.

How are these honorary members of the family chosen? And how long does it last? I’ve been introduced to favourites who have survived long enough to accompany their owners into adulthood. Others eventually get lost or tossed away, living on only in family folklore.

Hello Kitty has four back up friends. Loved by Boo for almost 2 years.
Hello Kitty has four back up friends. Loved by Boo for almost 2 years.

Any parent can tell you that the favourite toy becomes both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because that toy now has, let’s face it, magical powers. The power to soothe and induce calm and with any luck, sleep. At a time when you need every baby settling tool you can get your inexperienced little hands on, it can be a valuable addition to your armoury. That said, it can also screw you. Lost property boxes are full of favourite friends who have been left behind. Or you can forget to pack them for daycare and then you’ve screwed the daycare staff too. My sister has tried to get around this problem by purchasing five (essential) Hello Kittys. Another friend, whose child likes pieces of material, cut the silk into a number of smaller pieces, so that he never need be without.

Patchy and Pinky. The absolute favourites of Campbell (aged five).
Patchy and Pinky. The absolute favourites of Campbell (aged five).

At my baby shower I was given one of those popular French rubber giraffes called ‘Sophie’. I loved it and quickly decided that this would be his favourite. It was my plan that G and Sophie would be inseparable. This was both super wanky and naive. Sophie is a posh squeaky chew toy probably best suited to a small dog. She’s about as cuddly as a tube of toothpaste. However, I kept popping Sophie next to G in the pram, feeling sure that they would soon be besties by default. One day she was unceremoniously dumped out of the pram and never made it home. Point taken.

One little scrap of Miao Diddy - prized possession of Alex for 3.5 years.
One little scrap of Miao Diddy – prized possession of Alex for 3.5 years.

A few weeks later G had his first really bad cold. He emerged from this period of extra napping and snuggles, with a firm preference for a toy called Duckie. We don’t know how it happened. And even now that G can talk he can’t explain it. It’s just Duckie. He loves him. I didn’t get it at first but I do now. Now the floppy little duck with one lost eye replaced (by Glenn) with a black press stud, has charmed me. The nearest you can come to understanding the attachment is watching this child rub his sleepy face into grotty old Duckie and inhale the (dubious) scent as though it’s freshly baked bread. That and the way he will march right up to anyone game enough to touch his beloved pal, pluck him deftly from their hands and whisk him away to a safe place faster than you can say “Hey, that’s not sharing…”.

For five years I have waited for the relationship with Duckie to wane and it hasn’t. Duckie has outlasted the train phase and the Octonauts phase and is currently laughing in the face of Lego. Puh-lease, says Duckie, your kid can’t sleep with Lego.

Duckie no longer accompanies us on day trips though. And we stopped sending him to daycare a long time time ago after he was accidentally packed away in one of their toy boxes. By the time they rang to let us know he’d been found I was already putting the panicked finishing touches on a bunch of “Have you seen this Duck?” posters.

Basically he’s just so ridiculously special that I don’t know that we would feel if we lost him now.

And when I say “we”, I mean me.

Duckie.
Duckie.
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Think before you pink

Bubby, Little G and I were off getting an ice-cream after a morning’s play in the local park. Little G who was experienced in ice-cream selection quickly chose the flavour ‘Rainbow’ for himself and then announced that Bubby, who was not yet experienced in ice-cream selection would like the ‘Pink’ one. “Because she’s a girl”, he added. Ever looking up to her older cousin Bubby quickly parroted Little G’s choice of ice-cream for her as her own and they happily devoured their treats on the bench outside until they were covered in a lovely sticky mess.

Pink (aka strawberry) ice cream is a must.
Pink (aka strawberry) ice cream is a must.

Bubby had never expressed a preference for pink before this. She was quite happy with all colours equally, however from then on, pink was the go-to choice when given one. For her birthday I asked her what kind of cake she would like. “A pink one” she replied. She then told her Papa she was to have a pink birthday party. I needn’t tell her answer to what type of present she thought she might like… That’s right, a pink one.

And a pink cake it is!
And a pink cake it is! Photo credit Kat Barrington Photography

I’ve previously written about my position on pigeon holing girls into ‘girl’ colours and have ensured a range of boy, girl and unisex toys has been at her disposal since birth.  Bubby used to love to wear anything that been part of Little G’s wardrobe despite the ‘boy’ colours, but now she is irresistibly drawn to pink and anything that resembles a tutu (but that’s another tale to tell).  I realised that even through a simple ice-cream suggestion of ‘pink’ instead of ‘strawberry’ my daughter’s belief that girls should like pink had begun. Not just that they might like it, but that it was the colour for girls.

This desire for pink did not come from either of our houses – nor had Little G’s opinion about girls wanting pink ice-cream. So where had it come from? Maybe she does really genuinely like the colour now, or is she in autopilot thinking she’s supposed to like what all the other little girls at care were wearing? Was I concerned because I wanted my girls to explore outside the box? Or did it really only irk me because this monochrome loving mama would like her daughter to have more appreciation for the rarely-pink-but-still-ever-so-stylish clothing and play-things that I’ve carefully selected for her, rather than the garish and glittery mass-produced pink plastic stuff she is drawn to?

Pink. Pink. Pink.
Pink. Pink. Pink.

But no, it’s not just me trying to be a trendy, new-age mum (at which I fail repeatedly). There is some serious campaigning going on around this topic. One such campaign Let Toys be Toys, has recognised how the gender stereotyping for girls and boys has regressed over the years. Instead of liberating our children to be who they want to be, this relatively recent marketing for toys and clothing by colour-coding them into extreme ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ colours is hindering their choices by stereotyping the available selections.

Toys and play are essential to our kids learning development. By marketing toys with gender colours it limits the appeal to not just either sex, but the many parents and relatives whom are reluctant to by buy a gendered toy for the opporsite sex. Melissa Hine, a Professor of Psychology at Cambridge University, outlines in her article ‘There’s no good reason to push pink toys on girls’, that by limiting their choices, we’re impacting the development of social, verbal, writing and spacial skills  for both girls and boys. Hine firmly agrees that “Parents are right to be worried about the obsession with pink for girls”. So the next time I have my internal struggle about which colours to buy, I’ll know its not just about my own personal taste (ha) as I reach for the trendy, unconventional option and Bubby can just thank me later.

For the record, Little G’s favourite colour is Black.

If you're going to go plastic..
If you’re going to go plastic..

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