Dear Target — My Daughter Doesn’t Need ‘Girl Toys’

Dear Target cropIf parents spend 50 percent of their time trying to tell their kids what to do and how to do it, we probably spend the other 50 percent wondering if they’re really hearing us. The “uh huhs,” and “OK, Moms” would indicate they are … but sometime after the 79th repetition of “hang up your backpack, brush your teeth before bed, eat your peas,” the sense of defeat settles in.

Have heart, moms and dads. They may not listen to 99.99999 percent of the time. But every once in awhile, a moment will happen that makes it all worthwhile. Ours happened on Saturday.

We were driving to a lunch out when my 9-year-old began pontificating from the backseat about the toy aisles in the various department stores she’s visited. Toys they want to sell to girls, she told me, are separated from toys they want to sell to boys. As a girl who likes so-called boy toys just as much as bits of pink plastic coated in sparkles, she was indignant.

It was as if – after nine years of griping in and around her earshot about the 1950s messages still thrown at our kids – something had clicked. She didn’t just get that children are being told there is something wrong with them if they pick a toy that isn’t in their gender-specified aisle. She was angry that she was being forced into a box, angry that her choices were being limited, angry that she was forced to go into a “boy” aisle to find toys that she has just as much interest in as her male peers.

As she railed on about her desire to play with all LEGOs, not just those in the “girl” aisle, I knew I had to be careful. Her anger was  her own, and her next move should be too. What lesson is there, after all, in your mother taking up a cause for you? So I told her that her concerns sounded valid, but I wasn’t the one to talk to. She needed to ask the store owners why they lay out toys the way they do.

There was a danger in punting the ball here. I could frustrate her, make her feel like the questions she was asking were not being addressed by the adult she is closest to. But it was a risk I thought was worth taking. If you have a problem, you can’t always expect your mother to solve it.

Here is where I turn into a bragging mother. She informed me she would write a letter to Target and Wal-Mart both. And when we got home – some three hours later – she announced, “I’m going to write my letter” before disappearing into her room. It would be nearly an hour before I saw her again, piece of looseleaf paper and a pencil in hand. The letter was done. I hadn’t been asked a single thing, not how to spell a word, not what to say.

As a mother to a 9-year-old who is not yet allowed free reign on the Internet, this is where it’s my job to step in, to help her get her message to those who need to hear it. What they do – if anything – is on them. It may (sadly, likely will) be nothing. Nine-year-olds rarely get to change the world.

But when they do, it’s because someone listened to them. After all, we can’t always be the ones talking.

Her letter, in full:

Dear Target Letter



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