Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Lessons Of An American Girl Doll

Once there was a little girl who, for a long time, had wanted an American Girl Doll.  Yes, this is my little girl, Diva, and she's pretty typical, right?  At a certain age, lots of girls crave these mass-marketed dolls who not only have their own stores, but tony clothing, accessories, a hair salon, and even wheelchairs and hearing aids.
We, her parents, questioned her motivation.  Did she want one just because all of her friends did? Probably.  Or did she want one because of the series of American Girl Doll movies and books that had enthralled her over the last few years? Maybe.   Whatever the reason, our little one's longing had remained strong over the last three years.  Unfortunately, we and Santa (whom she did repeatedly ask) had been on budgets and American Girl Dolls retail for about $110 dollars; that's damn pricey for a toy!  Still, an American Girl doll remained at the top of Diva's Wish List.

This year, for her 8th birthday, we told her she could have one IF (and it was a big IF), she could stick to a budget as we planned her birthday party.  She and I had a long talk.  Our house is too small for more than a few kids, so we looked at the usual kids' party venues.   The big places (gymnastics locations, Build-A-Bear, various crafting studios) were way out of her price range; they average $500 and up.  We thought about some of the stuff we'd done over the summer; we'd been bowling quite a bit and Diva loved it.  Turns out, having a bowling party fit our budget nicely.  She did the math to see how many people she could invite while staying within our number and whittled down the attendee list on her own.  She explained to friends who were not included that as much as she wanted them there, Mom was limiting the number of guests (I'll take the hit - I don't care). 

Having met her goal of staying within budget, it finally came time to pick a doll.  She initially looked at the blond-haired, blue-eyed models she usually gravitates to, but after much consideration picked out one that surprised us.  The Chosen One has  black hair and dark chocolate-colored eyes.  And she is "Chinese" - just like my daughter!  This is significant for, you see, my Diva is adopted from China.  And while she is extremely proud of her heritage and we had gotten her Asian-looking dolls in the past, this was the first time that SHE chose one that looked like her.  Plus, this doll is a gymnast, just like our graceful Diva.  We heartily approved. 

Sunday morning, my radiant daughter and her Daddy boarded a train into the City to get the doll named Ivy.  The train left at 8:30am; my daughter was up at 5.  She was beaming all day, like a proud momma.  She introduced me to Ivy and showed me her silky black hair and almond-shaped eyes.  She made sure her new friend was securely buckled into the car for a short trip to the grocery store.  Diva is already planning to expand Ivy's wardrobe but knows she will have to save up for the extra clothes; we're exploring some of the discount doll clothes websites.

What, perhaps, started out as the desire for something that her peers have has morphed into so much more.  It's been a lesson in delaying gratification, earning what she wants through budgeting, and embracing her own appearance.  As we read the book that came with Ivy in which she "battles lonliness" and finds "solace in gymnastics," I'm looking forward to discussing some of these issues with my precious little girl.  This American Girl Doll could be the begining of a closer relationship with my daughter.  Or Ivy could wind up just another discarded toy on the shelf.  I have my hopes up, but only Time will tell. 

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