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I (Reluctantly) Took My Kid to American Girl

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I blame the cold. That and the kid-friendly New York City guidebook.

Mom and daughter at American Girl Place

Jeanne Sager: With them to bear the burden for our foray into the little girl's fantasy land that is the American Girl headquarters on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, I can still hold my head up high and proclaim I'm not just some sucker mom.

Right? Right?

If no one else, I had myself convinced that I wasn't going to spend $100 on a doll. Ever. At least not for a 4-year-old.

But walking down Fifth Avenue on our special family trip to the city for Valentine's Day, the wind was blowing the way it does in February in New York. And nestled in my purse was that guidebook -- a loaner from a friend who'd picked it up in hopes that it would clue her husband in that they really should take their daughter for an overnight of their own.

Reading the book on the drive down, I flipped straight from AMC Loews Imax Theater to American Museum of Natural History. I didn't want to be tempted.

Because somewhere in the back of mind were the hours spent pouring over the American Girl catalogs that would arrive in my mailbox. I'm older than the American Girls, but still young enough to have been doll age when the historical girls arrived on the scene with the lure of a life-like doll with her very own storybook.

In hindsight I doubt I ever told my parents of my yearning for Kirsten, the feisty Swedish girl with the long white nightgown who could balance a wreath full of burning candles on her head. Something instinctive told me my parents weren't going to cotton on to such an expensive proposition, but I can't say they denied me either. It was my childlike expectation that a desire so deep would one day magically be fulfilled, that my parents would automatically know that just as my brother wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sword, I wanted an American Girl.

Fast forward to 2010. The neon green sword was at the bottom of the landfill after many dolls suffered at its pointy plastic end. And the wind was blowing my four-year-old's hood off her face as we pushed our way up Fifth Avenue.

And there it was. Heaven for four-year-old girls and any moms reliving their eighties childhoods through their kids. I leaned over to my husband, who had one hand at the back of her head, trying to keep the hood up. "Let's go in there to get warm."

He looked at me like I'd suggested sending our 4-year-old across the street alone, and then the wind got the better of him. He shrugged and followed his wife down memory lane.

We weren't two steps inside "to warm up" when our daughter had fallen in love. Her name was Lanie ("Just like Lanie at school, Mommy!" and she was blonde ( "Just like me, Mommy!").

We followed her from floor to floor, looking for the cafe the guidebook had promised (OK, so I peeked), only to be greeted at each turn by a little blonde face with a feisty grin poking out of a box.

At four, our daughter doesn't know enough yet to beat around the bush. Maybe that's why she's a bit younger than the typical age of an American Girl owner. She hopped from one foot to the next in front of each display, her eyes glistening. "Please Mommy, Daddy?"

Yes, we bought it. Hook, line and over $100 later (and now I'm debating the hair pick I didn't know I needed to keep that curly hair intact).

I'm on the path to going broke. But I think I owe the cold an apology.

next: Olympic-Size Family Traditions
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Chrissy February 20, 2010, 1:39 PM

Better American Girl than Bratz. And the stories (books) are good for girl’s esteem.

Gigohead  February 20, 2010, 7:23 PM

I have a ten year old and thankfully she never got into the American Girl craze. I think those dolls are “elitist” and inaccessible those who don’t have 100 bucks to shell out for a doll. I got be first taste of how poor I really am because my friend had a party for her daughter there and did not invite my daughter who doesn’t have one of those dolls, while the other girls did have one and came with them to the party. Frankly, I could not afford one. Ironically, the Bratz never affected my kid either and I bought her a few of those dolls.

jessie c b February 21, 2010, 9:09 AM

Oh. Jeanne. Sigh.

siyenne February 22, 2010, 3:18 PM

Can i be a american girl some day because i want to be a american girl and make my dreams come true!

cna training February 28, 2010, 4:43 AM

nice post. thanks. May 17, 2011, 6:32 AM

I_reluctantly_took_my_daughter_to_american_girl.. Tiptop :) June 3, 2011, 3:01 AM

I_reluctantly_took_my_daughter_to_american_girl.. I like it :) June 5, 2011, 3:18 AM

I_reluctantly_took_my_daughter_to_american_girl.. Tiptop :)

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