Growing up and into adulthood the gender divide apparent in toys, and dolls, in particular, always struck me as odd. When I was a kid, boys were not to play with dolls and if they did, mom and dad quickly set them straight and steered them on the path of more “manly” toys—matchbox cars, fire trucks, tractors, construction equipment and action figures (and aren’t those dolls anyway?).

Girls, on the other hand, were encouraged to foster their mothering instincts by being “baby mamas” (excuse the pun). If a girl didn’t like dolls, she was (gasp) a tomboy.

There are a few main reasons I’ve always taken issue with the cultural message. One, why would parents want to tell their children how to play and imagine? Secondly, why don’t we want our boys learning how to empathize, role-play and be future fathers through doll play?

So, now as a mother when my son showed interest in baby dolls, I bought him the ones he wanted. And just the other day, he found a mint-in-box “Barbie” a friend had given me and was playing with the doll with intense fascination. I took a picture to capture the moment and let him continue playing.