I suppose it would be more proper to say I am historical.
Or maybe, I am old enough to be considered an historical figure.
Though not a member of The Greatest Generation, I am apparently a member of generation that is old enough to be historically fictionalized.
I have, for quite some time, been meaning to write, purely for your edification, a post on American Girl Dolls. Now that they have deemed me historical, I guess I will finally tackle the subject.
Since most of my readers seem to be adoptive or prospective adoptive parents, and since, statistically speaking, most people adopt or want to adopt girls, this is a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, very important topic. Frankly, I’m surprised we all haven’t had a big debate about it over at Pho for Four already: The American Girl: Trite & Trendy or Enlightened & Educational?
Anyway, I can only attribute this lack of blog chatter to obliviousness of the subject matter, so I will enlighten you. You are very welcome.
As a mother of daughters, I, too, was oblivious to the machine that is the American Girl for many years. Then cousins started getting them, and friends started getting them, and my daughters just HAD to have them. I looked into the matter and, after recovering from some sort of cardiac incident, told my girls:
Well, people in Hell want ice water, and they’re not getting that either.
Folks, these dolls cost $100.00 (and that is with very minimal rounding on my part).
No, they are not made of gold, nor are they encrusted in jewels. They don’t even help with the housework or walk the dog. They are not robotic, beer-fetching butlers, these dolls.
So, what is the allure? Why would anyone spend so much money on a doll?
Well, if you play your cards right, these dolls will help educate your kids! Pure marketing genius, that: play to every parents fear that their kid will be a dolt. Right, right, not every parent is concerned about whether or not his or her kid will be a dolt; but, generally, those who can afford a hundred dollar doll are concerned.
Anyway, each doll is historical and is the main character, or best friend of the main character, in an entire series of historical fiction novels. Well, novels for kids, anyway.
Granted, lots of kids don’t give a rip about the books, and just want the dolls because everyone else has them; but the books . . . ahh, the books . . . they draw the parents in. The parents justify the ludicrous toy expenditure in the interest of encouraging their wee ones to read. And they aren’t just any books, after all. They are historical books! Fictional, yes, but historical nonetheless. Reading! History! Imaginary play based on the reading and the history! It’s like parental nirvana or something.
A few years back A~ became completely enamored with Samantha, a wealthy Victorian orphan who befriended Nellie, a poor, immigrant, soon-to-be orphan. Lots of orphans in Victorian period literature, weren’t there? We got A~ a book or two and she checked the rest of them out of the library. She read every American Girl book that was available at the time, but she loved Samantha best.
L~, on the other hand, decided Kit was the doll for her. L~ wasn’t reading that much back then, but I read a book or two to her and A~ read some of the books to her, and she pored over the catalogs that kept coming in the mail, and she decided this depression era character was the one for her. She liked the idea that Kit grew up roughly the same time as my grandparents, two of whom she knew and loved.
But the freaking dolls cost almost $100! Read about them all you want, just don’t expect one for Christmas, know what I’m saying?
Christmas came. A~ was 7 and L~ was 5. They opened all of their presents and they weren’t even sad that they didn’t get the dolls. They knew they weren’t going to get the dolls. I told them they weren’t going to get the dolls. McH and I wouldn’t pay that much money for a doll, I said. There was no twinkle in my eye when I said it.
Then, as they were surveying the mess of paper and toys, I pulled two hidden boxes wrapped in gold from behind the tree.
Their eyes got big.
“Do you trust me?” I asked.
They pledged their complete faith and undying devotion.
“Then go get your money boxes and bring them down here.”
They looked bewildered, but ran up the stairs and came back with a couple years worth of birthday and Christmas money they had each been saving for, you guessed it, an American Girl doll.
“Now, give me $50.00. Each.”
McH and I could barely contain ourselves as they both looked at us like, “And who do I need to call to have these parents committed and a new set sent in?”
Then the expressions changed. A~ looked conflicted between her desire to be obedient and her desire to keep her money. L~, on the other hand, looked simultaneously horrified and crestfallen. I could read her thoughts:
My parents . . . my OWN parents! Extorting me on Christmas morning! I am THE. MOST. abused child EV.ER!”
And she hugged her money box tight to her little, nightgowned body as she began to sob silently.
Then a light bulb went on over A~’s head. We could almost literally see it. And she knew — she KNEW — what was going on. Her frenzied counting out of $50, and the act of pretty much throwing it at us as she grabbed for her box, clued L~ in to what was going on. She gave her entire money box to her dad so that he could count out the requisite fifty while she tore into her gold wrapping paper.
Ahhhh. The Christmas bliss. It was worth it.
Now, has possessing those dolls helped educated my children? Nope. A~ had already read all of the books and would have kept reading them, even without the doll. L~ , who is not as into reading as her sister, hasn’t had any increased interest in actually reading the books. But they do play with the dolls. They love the dolls. If told they could only keep one toy, I’m sure it would be those dolls.
Blue Barb would really like to do something about that.
Now that I’ve been classified as historic, I think I’m with BB on this one.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.