Two-year-old Sophia Benner of Clover, South Carolina, loves dolls. She also loves doctors. So when she stumbled across a doll dressed as a doctor during a trip to Target to celebrate the end of her potty training, she had to have it.
“She was looking at all the dolls and telling me they were all so pretty and when she saw the doctor one she stopped and said, ‘Mommy, she’s a doctor like me! I want this one,’ ” Sophia’s mom, Brandi Benner, tells PEOPLE.
But when Sophia, who turns 3 in June, took the doll to the cashier, her choice wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm.
“Are you sure this is the doll you want, honey?” the cashier asked the little girl, according to Brandi, who shared the exchange on Facebook. “Yes, please!” Sophia responded. The cashier then replied, “But she doesn’t look like you. We have lots of other dolls that look more like you.”
Brandi says she was about to step in when her daughter quickly responded, “Yes, she does. She’s a doctor like I’m a doctor. And I’m a pretty girl and she’s a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? And see her stethoscope?”
The cashier then dropped the issue and responded, “Oh, that’s nice.”
“She thought Sophia was the cutest,” Brandi says of the cashier. “She was trying to make conversation with her. She was an elderly woman who looked like my own grandma. I don’t think she understood the implications of her words or how discouraging it could be to anyone else’s daughter.”
Brandi says she’s proud of her daughter’s response and says she wasn’t at all surprised with her daughter’s doll choice — she’s just surprised that it has received such an overwhelming response.
“A kid of one color wanting a doll of another color shouldn’t be a big deal,” Brandi says. “I just shared it for my friends and family and thought it was cool my daughter stuck up for herself without me having to do anything.
“But I’m so grateful that people have been touched by it. It was a really proud mom moment.”
Brandi credits Sophia’s mature response to her parenting style.
“My husband Nick and I, at the heart of our parenting is love, because at the heart of our marriage is love,” says Brandi, who is also mom to 7-month-old daughter Isabelle.
“We just want the focus to be love. We’re not going to do everything right, but if we can get them to have big hearts then we have done something right,” she adds.
As for Sophia’s fascination with doctors, it’s nothing new.
“She has been Dr. Sophia for about a year now,” Brandi says. “The obsession started with a checkup with her pediatrician. She let Sophia go through her doctor bag and Sophia was thrilled. She started giving everyone checkups at home.”
Sophia is also a big fan of the children’s show, Doc McStuffins, which is where she learned the word “stethoscope.”
“She’s been saying that for a long time, although she doesn’t quite say it properly!” Brandi says.