Salut, Bob!

Teach him to be kind.
Teach him to be a nurturer.
Teach him to have empathy.

Sullivan recently turned 3. I’m not sure how time seems to pass so slowly, especially these ‘groundhog days’ we seem to be living, but in the blink of an eye, 9 months has passed and we’re celebrating Sully’s 3rd birthday.

One of his favourite gifts this year is a beautiful doll from – this miniland doll has Down syndrome features. Yes! You read that correctly – there are features commonly associated with someone having down syndrome apparent on this doll. The eyes are slightly almond shaped, the nose a little flatter and a slight separation of toes are some examples.

This doll has become a prized possession in our home. It’s not uncommon to see the doll being lugged around under one of the boys’ arms, some days more gently than others.

Pictured is Sullivan, the author's blonde haired, grey eyed, 3 year old boy, wearing a sweater and jeans. He holds a toy miniland doll that has realistic features of a child with down syndrome. In front of him is a toy John Deere tractor.
Proof that boys can play with dolls AND trucks. After all, toys aren’t gender specific!

Teach him to cherish.
Teach him how to practice emotional-regulation.
Teach him to be caring.

One of the best parts of having this new toy in our home is hearing the boys playing with it. You can hear them practicing social skills as they interact with the doll, replaying some of the things they’ve learned or experienced recently as though they are processing the situation out-loud. And that’s apparent in the name they chose for the doll.

When Sullivan opened his gift and saw the doll, he was excited to begin playing with it. Almost immediately, he said “Salut, Bob!” to the toy.

Yes, Bob.

You might think that it’s because he understands that Robert has Down syndrome, and the doll represents a little boy with down syndrome. But you’d be wrong, the name isn’t (to him) a nickname for Robert.

In the event that your children aren’t being babysat by AmazonPrime or Netflix during Covid-Days while you are trying to work-full time from home and hopping on your umpteenth video conference call of the day – there is a show called Bob le train that airs on AmazonPrime. Bob le train rides through a city landscape and picks up the letters of the alphabet (in alphabetical order) to take them to their destination. Nearly every letter cheerfully greets the train with “Salut, Bob!”. And so, my children when playing can often be heard saying “Salut Bob!” to their toys.

As much as I would love to make up some sweet story about how Bob the doll was named, this story is so much more authentic (and representative of the times we are living).

Teach him to be gentle.
Teach him that toys are not gender-specific.
Teach him to be loving.

And while some may say that the dangers of our son having been gifted a doll for his birthday might include taunting by ignorant adults, we know that the benefits far outweigh those potential dangers. This doll is offering our boys the chance to practice compassion, kindness and empathy, which we try to model daily at home for them. And more importantly, it’s providing Robert with the chance to see himself represented in the toys we have in our home.

5 responses to “Salut, Bob!”

  1. That’s a great toy! I grew up playing with matchbox cars and action figures alongside my Barbies and stuffed cats. I think it’s ideal when parents don’t force their kids into narrow gender roles. Toys are toys!


    • I couldn’t agree more! Like you, I played with matchbox cars and action figures alongside the barbies and stuffed toys. I wonder if growing up with my brother made that more socially acceptable? My boys don’t have a sister to “smooth” over those pre-conceived biases some people might have.


      • I grew up playing alongside a brother too. I’m not sure how much that played a role. However, I do know that my dad (being a stay-at-home father who raised us) was never big in forcing gender roles! We had the freedom to be who we were, and that’s one of the best gifts a parent can give.


  2. I think that children should be allowed to play with whatever toys they like, without being told that this truck is for boys and dolls are for girls. My daughter used to play with cars and dolls, she also had dolls that were different colours, black, brown as well as pink (white). She absorbed everything from both me and her mam and is now (as far as I am aware) non-judgemental and not a racist. My son was told that he could wear anything, and not to listen to anyone who criticised him. I also brought him up to respect others, especially adults. Not to look at anyone by the colour of their skin or sexual preference or gender. His uncle tried to teach him to be racist, prejudiced and a pain in the rear end but I soon talked that out of him. Sullivan and Robert seem to get on like a house on fire so that’s a blessing. My siblings and I used to fight like cats and dogs when we were growing up and it’s only recently that we have been able to have conversations that go on for hours (well the last 25 years or so).


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