Can mom throw a Barbie-free b-day party?

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: My daughter is turning 5 next month, and she has asked for a big party with her friends. We're concerned about gifts. Specifically, we're worried about people giving Barbies or worse, those Bratz or Monster High dolls. We don't have Barbies in the house for all the usual reasons, and the Bratz/Monster High dolls are simply disturbing. At a recent party for one of her friends (also turning 5), almost every gift was a Barbie, Bratz or some other "fashion" doll. What? Girls don't like books, nature, space, coloring, crafts, puzzles? Is there any way to let people know that we don't want "fashion" dolls in the house? We could say no gifts at all, but around here, people bring gifts anyway. If we do nothing, most of her gifts will be Barbies or worse. We won't allow her to keep them. So, our choices seem to be either 1) cancel the party or 2) be "inappropriate" and include a small note on the invitation saying "No fashion dolls, please." What do you think we should do?Concerned Parents

DEAR CONCERNED: You could try to control the gifts coming into your house by having a "theme" party, asking parents to help their youngsters give an "outer space"- related book or toy, or to bring something related to bugs, horses or NASCAR.

However, ultimately you cannot control other parents (or kids). So you must do the challenging work of educating your daughter about the messages conveyed through these fashion dolls and about your own values regarding them.

When my daughter was your girl's age, I said (regarding Barbie), "I think this doll is too grown-up looking for you to have." Later on, I relaxed my boundaries but continued to talk about it. For instance, "How on earth does Barbie balance on those itty-bitty pointed feet with her giant head (and other body parts)?" I'd ask -- and she'd laugh.

I don't believe these dolls are dangerous, but vulgar and silly.