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Stones and Dolls

What Other People Do

JANE SANDERS ILLUSTRATION

Early December saw me doing two things that I always thought only other people did: passing a kidney stone and buying an American Girl doll.

The kidney stone, which came into my life quite suddenly on the morning of Dec. 7, has absolutely nothing to recommend it. As I said to my friend later, “You know it’s bad when they tell you they’re about to give you something ‘better than morphine’ and you can’t even muster up any enthusiasm.”

It was seven hours of brutal and excruciating pain – yes, worse than labor – that included on the highlight reel vomiting on myself while driving to the ER and a day-and-a-half of peeing blood clots.

I have consumed so much water since Monday that I feel like I’m floating. I passed a college-aged girl on the sidewalk yesterday and overheard her say to a friend, “I know I should drink more water, but it’s just … you know … why?”

It was all I could do not to double back, grab her by the shoulders, shake her and yell, “KIDNEY STONES: THAT’S WHY!!!”

As for the American Girl doll – well, that’s less clear-cut. I never had an American Girl doll as a kid, not because my parents couldn’t afford one (they couldn’t, not really, but I’m sure if it had been my heart’s desire, they would have found a way for me to have one) but because I was firmly #teamcabbagepatchkids.

So I can’t claim “nostalgia” or “bonding” as a reason for buying American Girl Kit Kittredge for Ruby’s combined birthday-Christmas present after several weeks of her nonstop campaigning.

And, I mean, I could claim that I like the dolls’ historical backstories and that I appreciate them bringing history to life for my daughter … but that would be a total lie. I don’t give a fig about historical context, and neither does Ruby.

So why did I buy it? Do I need a better answer than: “Because that’s what my daughter wanted for her birthday and Christmas?” I hope not because I don’t have one.

When I posted on Facebook that I’d bought it for her, I had a couple of people chide me for spending that much money on something so frivolous, and I don’t entirely disagree. I felt especially conflicted because the crazy-expensive doll was supposed to represent the Depression era. It seems all kind of wrong to try to teach your kid the history of the Depression by buying her a doll that could buy a week’s worth of groceries.

But as I wrote in my defense on my Facebook post when a friend asked “what [I was] teaching Ruby by buying her this hyper-polished unrealistic doll?”: “Well, it’s not like Ruby said, ‘Mommy, I want it now,’ Veruca Salt-style, and I immediately plonked down the cash with no discussion. She and I have talked about this extensively, about how much the dolls cost, about marketing and branding, about all the other things we could buy for the same amount of money. She still said this was all she wanted for both her birthday and Christmas, and since $125 is about the budget I have for her birthday and Christmas combined, I told her she could have the doll but would get nothing else. She accepted that. So as for what I’m teaching her, I think I’m actually teaching her a fair amount.”

I think that’s pretty valid, honestly.

Just before the holidays, in the car on the way to school, Georgia, age 3, told me she wanted “everything in the whole, whole wide world” for Christmas.

“Don’t be silly, Geeja,” Ruby said. “You don’t even want everything in the world. You don’t even want things like cars or beer or that gross canned octopus that Daddy keeps in the pantry! But no one can have everything. You have to pick the things you want most.”

That is what Ruby did, and I honored her choice by buying it for her.

I want my girls to grow up knowing that I’m listening to what they want and placing value on it – and I want them to know that there are limits to what they can have. I want them to know that there are hard-working parents who can’t afford to buy $100 dolls for their kids, and I want them to know that there are parents who buy their kids tons of toys but don’t shower them with unconditional love. And I want them to know that I can buy them nice things but not effortlessly, that there are sacrifices I make for them. I want them to know that they’re lucky, that we’re lucky, and that we work hard for the things we have.

And I want them to not laugh off that whole eight-8-ounce-glasses-of-water-a-day thing.

So my girls: Count your blessings, work your butts off and drink your water.

 

 

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