The American Girl Doll and a Lesson in Envy

Have you seen your child experience new emotions for the first time? When they’re little and meet Santa for the first time. Maybe you’ve seen it when they start school and they bravely go off to kindergarten. It probably happens when they first get twitterpated but I don’t want to even think about that. The American Girl Doll and a Lesson in Envy

I remember the first time my daughter was consumed by envy.

Her school had a fall carnival and one of the fundraising activities was a raffle for the American Girl doll of the year, Kanani. There were many other items you could choose from but all of my daughter’s friends were mesmerized by the brand new doll. So, my darling girl, who has never played with dolls and returns or donates all Barbie dolls she receives as birthday gifts, had her heart set on that big, blonde doll.

She and her best friend sat with a gaggle of girls about 100 strong waiting to see who the lucky one would be. The head of the PTA called out the winner’s name – her best friend’s name. It was so sweet, they looked at each other screaming and holding hands. They were both so happy! And then my daughter’s screaming changed to sobs as the realization hit that she wasn’t the one who won.

If she had been acting she would’ve won an award for the drama in that transition. Needless to say, we left the carnival very soon after this.

Fast forward nine months.

We Gave In

We were in Chicago for a few days (love that city!) and we passed the American Girl store on our way to the Field Museum. That was all it took for her to jump on the doll bandwagon.American Girl Julie

Now, we’re lucky in that she really doesn’t ask for too many frivolous things. She does have a weak spot for infomercials and saves all those 1-800 phone numbers just in case we ever need a ShamWow or a super-special roto-rooter thingy. But she’s not toy obsessed and she’s really a pretty awesome kid. So, we decided as part of our vacation we’d indulge her with a trip to the center of the American Girl universe and let her pick one out.

Meet Julie. I must say it hurt my feelings a little that doll from the 1970’s is now considered historical. I think I had the exact same outfit when I was in grade school. Yep, I just dated myself.

My girl was beside herself happy. The savvy salesgirl even commented on how much the doll looked like my daughter – which she does. Purchase made we started on a long drive home. Julie made the ride in her box comfortably wedged in the trunk.

Fast forward 24 hours.

Reality Sets In

It was time for bed when my sweet girl asked if she could talk with me in private. Her chin was quivering so I knew it was serious.

“Mom, have you ever wanted something and then when you got it you realized it wasn’t what you really wanted?” And there it was.

Turns out my little girl who can lose herself in books, science experiments, and to be fair, SpongeBob, had no idea of what to do with this doll. She felt terrible about how much it had cost and now she didn’t really want it.

My heart broke a little because I never want my little one to be upset; those heartfelt tears always hurt me to my core. Of course I don’t want her to worry too much about the cost of things (right now) but I do believe in teaching value and it seems that message is getting heard.

But most importantly she learned that following the crowd doesn’t always lead to happiness. Priceless.

Being gifted doesn’t matter when learning tough life lessons.

We asked that she give playing with Julie a shot. So the next day she spent about 30 minutes alone in her room with Julie. When she came out she said she “played” the book with Julie (she came with a story book) and she was done. Julie has remained in her sarcophagus (her box) for the past five months.

Julie’s next appearance will be on eBay in time for Christmas delivery.

Do your kids play with traditional toys?

3 Responses

  1. “Mom, have you ever wanted something and then when you got it you realized it wasn’t what you really wanted? Such precious wisdom. 😀 I actually bought a Karito Kid (Italian version) for my daughter before she was born since it was half off and it was pretty fascinating. She was less then thrilled and preferred the free Mother in Law given dollar animals. *Thanks for defining sarcophagus for me. That may come in handy.

  2. Julie Olszko says:

    I am pretty “old” now. I have raised 2 highly gifted boys who are now young adults. I was in grade school in the early 60’s in the south which came with all kinds of complications. The American story made me think of a similar situation way back then. It was hard for me to fit in with the other girls. Their play seemed so boring but I thought it must be my fault. I made up my mind to spend a day at a friend’s house and figure out this Barbie thing. Put the shoes on Barbie, took them off, changed shoes, changed clothes, used accessories BUT just didn’t get it. It was boring. Shrugged it off and never played Barbies again. The point being, I thought I should to be a “normal” girl which may be what was going on with your daughter and American Girl.

  3. Maybe this is why my daughter insisted on Monster High Dolls but her vast collection (including the high school) remains in a box unused. The most recent one she received for her birthday from a “best” friend sits unopened on a shelf, more of a collectable than anything. I wonder if having a mind that is atypical affects friendships. My daughter is well liked at school but I worry that she is not invited to play dates and birthday parties much at all. Her teacher days she is well liked at school and she mentions friends. She is 8 and we are going to begin testing for IQ and I know she struggles with anxiety and possibly ADHD. We just found out last year her older brother is highly gifted and has ADHD. So complicated! This post has me thinking about play, friendships and giftedness… And how kids navigate finding belonging…

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