Our ten year old Baby Bear, who is autistic and non-verbal, had a doctor's appointment today. The nurse led us to a consulting room with small toys piled in one corner, mostly stuffed animals and dolls.
Usually Bear is more interested in making sure the light switch works; unfurling the roll of paper covering the exam table and seeing if he can make it stretch all the way down the hall to the elevator; and dumping the jar of tongue depressors to test each one for quality. Today, however, he was mysteriously drawn to the toys--and not just any toy in particular.
To my surprise, he picked up a doll, about six inches long and resembling a miniature newborn. He brought it to me, tapping his finger against its face. That was his way of asking me to name the object he was tapping.
"Baby," I kept saying, as he continued tapping it. "That's a baby. Baby!"
Tap, tap, tap. He pressed the baby's face to his cheek, then to the other cheek. He rubbed noses with it. And then he gave it a "bump"--touching his forehead to the baby's. These are things I do with him every night when tucking him into bed.
He likes all the usual boy things--fire trucks, motorcycles, police cars, anything that makes noise or causes mass destruction--but he has no dolls of his own. I'm wondering if we should get him one. Just a plain, soft, huggable baby doll, the kind I always liked when I was a girl. Those are my favorite dolls.
I was half Bear's age when I visited Disneyland for the first time, and went on the Small World attraction. The adults thought I'd like it because of the dolls. I did not like it one bit. My biggest complaint? The dolls were too loud.
I honestly didn't mind the song they sang (back then). I liked the different costumes--the Dutch girls were my favorite; there's just something about tulips and those winged lace caps that make my eyes go googly--but the dolls sang TOO LOUD. Those high-pitched little voices hurt my ears. This vexed the grownups, especially a decade later when they ranted about my loud stereo. Why, they wondered, couldn't Elton John hurt my ears?
Maybe if he were a doll, he would. I don't like dolls that sing. In fact, I've never liked dolls that do anything. Talking? No. They're usually limited to no more than eight phrases. Nor have I ever been wowed by the ones who walk, crawl, pirouette, do gymnastics, blow bubbles (I can blow my own bubbles, thank you very much), or grow a long hank of hair down to their butt when you push your thumb into their belly button
I've never cared for dolls that cry "real tears" or "wet." Did you ever actually feed water to your drink and wet doll? And how many days did she pee? Did you and your siblings take turns leaving the D & W doll on each other's pillows? We did where I grew up.
And who can forget the "growing up" Skipper doll who shot up an inch and sprouted boobs with a simple lift of her arm? (If only!) Some people fret over the so-called wrong message Barbie sends to young girls with her totally unrealistic bod, and I couldn't agree more--who among you has your manufacturer's trademark and the name of the place where you were made embossed on your butt cheek? But did anyone ever stop to think about "Growing Up" Skipper's signals? Or did they consider it a good thing if more young girls were raising their hands in class?
My favorite doll is the doll who does nothing. Who requires no batteries. Who runs on nothing but imagination . . . and needs nothing but love. That's the kind of doll our Bear picked up today--and he knew just what she needed.
That's something to be thankful for this week.