Summer Sunday: When Grandpa’s In Charge

Summer Sunday: When Grandpa’s In Charge

IMG_1884If Facebook ‘likes” are a measure of my parenting coolness, then most indicators show I’m a pretty cool mom. A picture of my seven-year-old, Mollie, jumping off a dock with her cousins – 31 likes. My four-year-old, Belle, euphorically jumping in a puddle in the rain – 84 likes. Mollie and her friends riding single track in Crested Butte– 40 likes. Hucking a cliff in Lake Powell – 66 likes.

And then the girls at the American Girl Doll Store — 62 likes.

According to Facebook data, taking my girls to the flagship American Girl Doll Store in Chicago is cooler than both mountain biking and jumping off a dock, but not quite as good as hucking a cliff in Lake Powell or splashing in a puddle. This was interesting because I had thought of the trip as an aberration — no where close to as wondrous as our mountain life. Maybe that’s what made it so compelling.

To back up, I did not take my girls to the American Girl Doll Store. I accompanied them. My dad, their grandfather Boompa, took them. The American Girl Doll Store is something I swore I’d never do – no how, no way.

I had made up my mind about American Girl Dolls immediately after I first learned about them. A colleague in the San Francisco Bay Area told me about a trip she was taking with her daughter to the American Girl Doll store in LA.

“All the way to LA for a doll store?” I asked and added, “Can’t you just buy them online?

Clearly, I knew nothing about American Girl Dolls. As I l became educated, I learned they were not going to LA to buy dolls. Instead, they were traveling the 400-odd miles to purchase matching outfits for their child and their child’s doll, to get their hair done (the doll’s, not the actual real girls), and buy accessories in the form of bikes, skis, beds and swimming pools – again for the dolls.

Ironically, I learned, the woman who invented the American Girl Dolls did it to create the antithesis of Barbie. She gave each doll a name, and a story. These dolls inspired “historical characters” such as Kit, a Depression-era aspiring journalist; Kaya, a young Nez Perce girl talented with horses; and Saige, an accomplished artist who saves her school’s art program.

But, eventually, Mattel (the makers of Barbie) bought American Girl Doll. Parents can buy Kaya’s teepee for $122. Kit’s school desk and chair for $100, and Saige’s horse, Picasso, for $94 (or over $300 on eBay) and visit American Girl Doll Stores to dine with their dolls, have their doll’s hair done or design a custom silkscreen t-shirt for their dolls – all of which cost a pretty penny and none of which the doll, or the actual girl, pay for. Instead the bill is given to mom.

I had set ground rules with all of the women in the extended family, aunts and grandmothers, that they were not, under any circumstance, to buy American Girl Dolls for the kids. I had covered my bases, or at least I thought.

In families, as in politics, the threat always comes from where you least expect it. And in this case, from my 70- year-old father — an old-school, mid-western, self-made, republican cardiologist who barely remembers a birthday, much less plans trips to the flagship American Girl store for his Colorado granddaughters – direct offspring of his liberal, democratic, feminist daughter.

So when my girls told me Boompa wanted to take them to the American Girl Doll Store, I laughed. I was confident the trip wasn’t going to happen, that is, right up until I was on booking tickets for Chicago.

By this time, my resolve had cracked. My girls sold me with the stories of the historical dolls and they each had received one for their respective birthday. We read the books, but kept knowledge of the accessories on the down low. Boompa’s timing was good. I had already been weakened. He was 70; I’d been challenging him my whole life. I could let this one go.

I’d have to because Boompa was already in motion and he had his own ideas about what taking his granddaughters to the American Girl Doll Store looked like. He showed up in a limousine dressed in a tuxedo, red cummerbund and bow tie, and with a top hat and cane. The Monopoly Man was taking us to the American Girl Doll Store.

IMG_2339Of course, as with most things we predetermine we hate, none of my fears were realized.

When we left the store, each girl carried a bag as big as she was. Inside Mollie’s were Kaya, her dog, Talto, and his travois (dogsled). In Belle’s were Julie, her disco ball, her ‘70s inspired rainbow dress and white disco boots. Both girls left elated and unscathed.

Back at home, the American Girl Dolls didn’t take over our lives. My girls still played outside, said please and thank you, and did their homework. They didn’t become possessed consumers and the principle values I try to instill in them remained. My pictures on Facebook returned to those of my children ripping around a Pump Track on their bikes in tutus and hiking in the mountains. Only, in the most recent photo, an American Girl Doll is strapped to each of their packs along with their sleeping bags. Welcome to the San Juan Mountains Kaya and Julie.

I also now realize why those pictures will never get as many FB likes as a picture of two young girls with their grandfather, dressed in a tux and top hat, at the American Girl Doll Store.

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