Kaya is the newest addition to my family – requiring her own daily hair brushing, a breakfast of fresh vegetables pulled directly from her garden, and a morning riding lesson in my dining room. Kaya has clothes from 1764 and from the present day. Today, she has riding gloves and fashionable shoes. Which she wears without socks.
Yes, Kaya is an American Girl Doll.
We caved, Kelly and I. Or . . . We had a change of heart.
We grew to appreciate our little girl’s consistent and – periodically but not petulantly stated – desire for an American Girl Doll. She’s wanted one for two solid years. Unwaveringly.
The truth is, she cares well for the 18-inch dolls she has, each one purchased with her own money — money saved for weeks or months each time. She enjoys their various outfits. They’ve accompanied us on multiple trips. They have their own wardrobe bag, their own chairs, sleeping bags, and tent. She cares very much about their well-being. But what she really wants has always been an American Girl Doll.
And she has begun to understand money – not so much the counting of it (which she still abhors), but the price attached to things we want, the true value of good workmanship and the sometimes-faux-value of well-marketed brands. Isn’t this what our “No” was meant to teach?
To her, an American Girl Doll is worth the price – with her beautifully crafted knees (more carefully shaped than the knees on her other, less expensive 18-inch dolls), her flexible legs and arms, which not only go up and down but also rotate at the joints like a real person’s. And her chin! Her other dolls, my daughter tells me, don’t have chins. American Girl Dolls have real chins. I hadn’t noticed, but I trust her. She knows what she’s talking about.
And those stories for all the historical dolls!? My little girl, for the first time ever, eagerly picked up a book about Native Americans. She read it from cover to cover without stopping. My little Mayan girl.
It’s capitalist marketing, I know. But it’s girl power, too.
When we stood in line at 9 a.m. the day after Christmas, the mom behind us wanted to know how many dolls my little girl had at home (none) and made a big deal over how we were waiting here today to buy her very first one. Her daughter had eleven American Girl Dolls. Four came with them. The girl stared at me coolly, hugging one of the dolls tight to her chest, holding back a smug smile. Barely. She was probably ten years old. Maybe eleven. My daughter fidgeted, and glanced ahead to see if the doors had opened yet.
This is why we said “No” for two full years – this sense of entitlement, this insatiable need for more, more, more.
And yet – after fifteen minutes in the store, so perfectly arranged, so pink, so … educational?… I began to feel the appeal. There is a lure. A feeling to bask in … all that… girl power, all that… history, all those… dolls.
Our daughter is set apart from her peers in so many unchangeable ways, but here is one club to which she can belong. She is thrilled. She is… beyond thrilled.
“You should pick the one who looks like you! She’s the most special,” my niece insisted weeks ago, when my daughter wanted to bring only her pale blonde doll on a trip. The one who looks more like me. She was going to leave the beautifully brown, black-haired doll at home.
“The blonde one looks like you. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re her mom,” my colleague said, wanting me to see her choice in a new light. Yes. But in our society, and in our family, it’s important for her to see the one who looks like her as special. Most special. We’re at a tricky age here, when decisions get made that last awhile.
In the end, it was historical Kaya who won my daughter’s heart. She looked most like her, too, thrilling me greatly. The contemporary look-like-you dolls, as it turns out, weren’t quite right.
My daughter did a cartwheel in the aisle of the store.
I’m beginning to love this doll.
And I do think avoiding the hugest deal for little girls since… well, I don’t know since when. Since Barbie maybe? … well, it’s just not a practical strategy. Not for us. Not anymore. So…
Here’s Kaya, my daughter’s very best friend. And the newest member of my family.