MK has an American Girl doll.
She received it for her 5th birthday as a gift from her grandmas and she’s been smitten ever since. Kit Kittredge has accompanied our family on a number of outings including the park, church, the grocery store, ballet class, swimming lessons and most recently on our trip to Chicago. Seeing as how Kit has become such an integral part of our family, it seemed fitting that we take time to visit “her people” at the American Girl store on Michigan Avenue.
I know, I know…twist my arm. A day on Michigan Avenue. It’s a tough life.
Anyways, if you are a regular reader her, you know I’m a down-to-Earth kind of mom. It’s not that I don’t love the finer things in life, but extravagances, to me, taste sweeter when experienced as the result of a “deal”. Show me a Pottery Barn inspired nursery, I’ll knock off something just as cute but purchased from a second-hand store. I’m practical like that. Plus…I’m married to a financial planner. I know the value of the dollar better than I used to.
That being said, I as I entered the AG store I thought I’d armored myself with a good dose of synicism and healthy shot of self control. What I didn’t know was that the American Girl marketing people saw me coming from a mile away. As a result somewhere between the front door and the coat check, I was sucked into the vortex of American Girl doll insanity.
What was the first sign of trouble? I’m not exactly sure but I think I knew I was in deep when I found myself making an appointment for Kit at the AG doll salon. Yes, folks. There’s a salon. Complete with spa treatments for your doll, including but not limited to up-doos, body scrubs (for your doll, people. Stick with me here), and doll enhancement procedures. Kit now has her ears pierced and owns six sets of earrings.
Um…I don’t even own six pairs of earrings. Like I said…I was in over my head.
Honestly I think it’s quite possible the AG people slipped me a ‘mickey’ at the enchanted luncheon in the American Girl doll restaurant. I’m not sure if it was in the $22 a head four course luncheon, or the ala-carte $8 Mimosa that seemed to cute to pass up. Somewhere during that meal, I lost what was left of my mind. Next thing you know Mary Kate and I were grabbing doll outfits and accessories that suddenly became ‘must-haves’. Even my own mother got caught up in the madness. As a result, Kit now owns a ballet outfit that costs more than the get-up Mary Kate actually wears to real-live-little-girl ballet class.
The funny thing was while this craziness was playing out, little lucid moments of “Holy crap, Get the hell out of here before your husband divorces you for spending your daughter’s college fund in a doll store” were happening. It was then that I’d whisper to my mom, “we are going straight to hell for this” . Unfortunately, the part of my brain that understood how sinful it was to spend $30 on an outfit for a doll couldn’t seem to connect with the temporarily more dominant part of my brain that was enthusiastically justifying the splurge. I think I may or may not have actually had a conversation with a complete and utter stranger about how “you just can’t beat the quality of the AG clothes“. It was another mom who was glazed over with the same look of insanity. She was in as deep as I was. It was oddly comforting to know I wasn’t alone in my mania.
Eventually, I did get a hold of myself when I inquired about the car. A convertible Volkswagon Bug could be Kit’s for a cool $350. “That’s insane” I mumbled as I balanced the plethora of crap MK had piled into my shopping bag. It was then that we re-evaluated our needs and many things were redistributed back to their shelves. MK was happy to choose two items, and the rest was put on her mental wish list for future occasions. I was actually proud of my little girl for being so reasonable.
That’s when it hit me.
As expensive as the American Girl merchandise is the tone of their message has definitely resonated with my girl. You see, Kit came with a book about her life. Ironically she lived in 1934, and her family had to make many sacrifices as a result of the Great Depression. I’d been reading Kit’s story to Mary Kate each night before bed. The lessons of selflessness, frugalness and creative ways to make ends meet were making a mark on my impressionable young daughter. As I’ve researched the entire concept of American Girl, I’m realizing what a gift their brand is for girls. Their products are wholesome. They promote reading, and teach about kindness. There’s no provocatively dressed dolls peddling hoochie-mama innuendos at American Girl. Instead there’s a celebration of diversity sandwiched in between a message about female empowerment in the stories these dolls bring to life in their books.
I love that.
Reflecting on our day in the American Girl store, I realize that what I didn’t understand prior to our visit is that the AG store is an experience. It’s about browsing through the dolls. Learning their stories. Peaking the interest of young minds about the historical periods these characters were a part of. Yes, we left with a few treats, and that was definitely a splurge but what the AG store really provided for me was an opportunity to partake in a special afternoon with my daughter.