Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Helena and relativity

Helena received this doll for Christmas:

Certainly, the idea of him is funny — a perfect counterpoint to our Barbie culture — and he's funny-looking, but there was something a little creepy in the thought of my daughter taking this effigy of an eccentric (if brilliant) old man to bed with her.

I didn't dwell on him though, because Helena didn't. Her interest passed onto the next shiny package.

Until a couple of weeks ago. She rediscovered Einstein. She takes him everywhere. She asks for him by name. She takes his sweater off because it's too hot. She shares meals with him.

She takes him to the park. Dressed in some of her finest — clothes received as gifts, clothes too "pretty" for rambunctious toddlers engaged in daycare play activities, outfits with sailor collars, as J-F says, of another era — Helena sits in the sand with Einstein, engrossed in her physics experiments.

Other parents smile at Helena. Some ask about her doll. "Is that Einstein?" Some of them get the joke, comment on his wild hair or erratic behaviour, and start talking science, to Helena or their own kids. Some of them give me a funny look.

I wonder sometimes what other people — strangers — must think of the sort of mother I am. (Mostly I don't care, but I wonder.) Though I believe there's some worth in "educational" toys, most such toys are imbued with value by insecure parents and ever-at-the-ready marketing departments rather than quantifiable effects on a child's development.

I've never gone in for Baby Einstein or Baby Mozart products — we have books, blocks, and real Mozart (et al). I will not condescend to Helena, nor drive her down some educational fast-track. I wasn't too sure about this doll's message.

But what with all Helena's love for and joy with him, it turns out that Einstein is a pretty sensible toy. (I may have to pick up Gandhi or Jane Austen for next Christmas.)

8 comments:

melinama said...

I think he's totally cute, though at first I assumed he was Moses. It's really cool that Helena likes him.

patricia said...

I think it's wonderful. And besides, he looks very cuddly. I'd like one! (And I love the Frida Kahlo doll they have on their site. What a unibrow!)

Anyway, it sure beats a Barbie hands down. And on the subject of parents going overboard for their kids, I just found out quite recently that my mother used 'Flash Cards' on us as kids. Hmmm. That kind of freaked me out when she told me.

Anonymous said...

Surely you jest...you wouldn't let Jane Austen within ten feet of Helena...would you?

E

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

I love those dolls, and I think it's adorable that your daughter loves Einstein!

rachel said...

Why have I not heard of these until now?!? Wow! Gallileo! Nietzsche! Socrates! Darwin! Cooooool!

e_journeys said...

Van Gogh with a removable ear! Simply precious. I agree with Patricia: these are much better than Barbies.

Kimberly said...

I love these dolls. Every time I see a bunch of them in some store, I'm tempted by one character or another. So far I've managed to talk myself out of taking one home.

I don't think it's creepy that Helena snuggles up with Einstein at night. Dr. Freud would be a different matter altogether...

sidhe said...

I used to make original rag dolls and "portrait" dolls to sell at craft markets. As a gift, I made a pair of portrait dolls for my parents (Mum's had a tiny cardigan with a tiny Kleenex up the sleeve). Eventually I had kids and the dolls got passed on to them and it did seem a little wierd for them to be playing with a Grampa doll - there's an old geezer in amidst the groovygirls.