Every generation of girls has its “doll.”
For my mother’s generation, those baby boomers born in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the first-generation Barbie dolls. My mom still has hers, with its black and white striped swimsuit, along with a 1950s-era Skipper, Barbie’s younger sister. Both were in mint condition, at least until my younger sister decided to play beauty shop and chop off Skipper’s hair about 25 years ago.
For my generation, the kids born in the early 1980s, it was the Cabbage Patch Kid. I still remember when I got my first, in 1985 as a gift when my sister was born. The Cabbage Patch Kid was a boy — I really wanted a brother — and when we found out my sibling, Andrea, was a sister, I promptly named that doll “Andrew” in protest. I’m pretty sure my mom still has the doll stuffed in the closet of my old childhood bedroom somewhere, along with a few Care Bears and a well-loved Strawberry Shortcake.
But by the time my sister, who is 4 years younger, came of age to play with dolls, the Cabbage Patch scene had waned. Sure, there were still Barbies, but another doll had become the rage: American Girl.
There were originally only three dolls: Samantha, Molly and Kirsten. In late elementary school, I read all of the chapter books about each girl’s story. I liked Kirsten the best, because she was a Scandinavian immigrant who settled in Minnesota, the same way as my own Norwegian ancestors did. I’d often get the Pleasant Co. catalog and pore through it with its pages featuring the new dolls, doll clothes and accessories and their kid-size clothing so the girls who owned the dolls could match. I asked my parents for a Kirsten doll, but they were expensive, and I was really a little old for them. By 11 or 12, my interest waned.
I never did have an American Girl doll, although my sister did eventually get a “Molly.”
Twenty-five years later, I guess I want my daughter to have what I never did. Santa brought her first American Girl doll, Rebecca, with brown curly hair and green eyes, much like my oldest daughter’s. A few months later, we celebrated my daughter’s seventh birthday with a trip to the American Girl Store in Atlanta, which included shopping, lunch with the doll and a trip to the doll hair salon. Five hours and way too much money later, my daughter and her cousin walked out of the store with several fuschia, American Girl-emblazoned shopping bags and huge smiles on their faces. My wallet was a lot lighter, but it was a “mother/daughter” experience I wanted her to have.
Another year later, American Girl is seemingly now taking over my daughter’s room. There’s an oversized dollhouse, a pair of doll-sized bunk beds, a cafe table and chairs set with a bowl of fake fruit on top, just in case, you know, the dolls get hungry. Santa brought another American Girl doll last year, so now there are two, although my daughter is reportedly asking for a third doll for Christmas. There’s miniature dog beds with toy dogs that sit in each, so that each American Girl has her own pet. There’s a box full of American Girl doll clothes, which my daughter uses to promptly change each doll into their pajamas each night before bed. There are the accessories, the books, even a miniature wheelchair in case one of the dolls accidentally “breaks” her foot.
Looking back, I wonder if we’ve overdone it, if the world would end if, say, Santa decided to bring a science kit or something “Star Wars” instead of another American Girl doll. But then, there are the moments when I often find my 8-year-old in her room, quietly playing on the floor with her dolls.
I’m reminded that that this phase will also pass. One day — in a matter of a handful of years — my daughter will probably be focused on clothes and makeup, on social media and boys. And those American Girl dolls may end up stuffed in the back of her closet. But for now, I’m going to let my oldest daughter enjoy it while she can — after all, we are only young once.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at email@example.com.
The Mom Stop: Our house gets all dolled up
Every generation of girls has its “doll.”