Raising an American Girl

Raising an American Girl

This is my daughter. Holy shit what a big bag, right? Well, I didn't pay the tab for the contents of that thing!

My mother. I love her in a blind, stupid, overwhelming worship-y way.

My mother-in-law. I love her too. And I respect her for her strength and tenacity and single-minded focus.

However, it is only my love for them and their ability to afford to continue to feed my daughter’s current American Girl addiction that allows me to let them live, because even if I could afford to buy my daughter the entire American Girl catalog, I. WOULD. NOT. DO. IT.

I don’t know who started in with the American Girl crap. I think it as my MIL, but I can’t be sure. But even if she didn’t start it, my mom would have. She desperately wanted to take my daughter to the American Girl store downtown Chicago for lunch and to buy her a doll on her 5th birthday.

Sure, why not? I agreed that it was a great idea, an adventure! A day in the city, girl fun and blah, blah, blah, HOWEVER, I informed her straightaway that if she decided to start buying my kid American Girl stuff, she would have to be the one to feed the beast. She agreed. I should have got it in writing.

So we went, and it was lovely, and my daughter had fun, and I had fun, and my mom had fun, and my mom bought her granddaughter a doll, and a pet for the doll, and some clothes for the doll, and all I could think of the entire time we were in the massive building filled with creepy ass dolls and their ice skates that cost a small fortune was this –


For the cost of one American Girl doll bed, a family of four could eat for a month.

Now when I tell you that, it’s not that I’m trying to spew a bunch of anti-capitalist blather here, suggesting that nobody should ever buy their child’s doll an adorable snowboarding outfit so the doll doesn’t feel left out when the family is skiing over the holiday break.


What kind of a heartless bitch do you think I am? Buy it! I mean can you imagine what the people in the ski lodge would say if an eight year old was drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream and real gold flakes for sprinkles while carrying around a doll whose parka didn’t match hers?


I mean really, how completely bourgeois! It’s like that story in the latest Harper’s Bazar magazine when JLo admitted that sometimes dresses herself and packs her own suitcases. She was all, isn’t it just so beautiful and simple when I do these difficult things? Poor JLo. Next thing we know she's going to be admitting she puts her dishes in the dishwasher or wipes her own ass.

But before you get all snatchy about this and say that I’m bitter and jealous, please understand that I mock this celebrity dumbfuckery because I can and because it deserves mocking. Sort of like when Gwyneth Paltrow claims that her deal of the day on Goop is really a deal.

THIS is a deal for a Goop girl. To me it looks like a few weeks of grocery money.

Note that this is a deal exclusively for Goop, which is by it’s own admission, exclusive. I have no beef with that Gwynie or JLo. They are grown women who can make their own decisions about how to spend their hard earned cashola. I repeat, hard earned cashola. These ladies work hard and deserve their success. But with that success comes the running of their mouths and that kind of thing is very hard for me to resist mocking, because I am a jerk and a smart ass with the maturity level of a 3rd grade boy.

Moving on.

Ah, so much like Goopie Gwen and JLo, my daughter has developed a taste for the finer things in life. I’ve taken to calling her Cate-Lo, but I do this now in order to give her a little perspective about money, to raise her as an American girl who knows that the streets here aren't really paved with gold. At least not in our neighborhood.

“Mom, have you ever heard of Abbycombey and Firch?” she asked me recently.

“Abercrombie and Fitch? Yep. It’s a clothing store.”

“I would like you to take me there to buy clothes.”

“How much you got there in your piggy bank Cate-Lo?”

“I spend my Christmas money on American Girl stuff, so I don’t have any.”

“I spend mine paying bills so I guess were are both shit out of luck. Today you are just plain old Catey from the block.”

END OF CONVERSATION. I giggled. She did not.

Designer clothes and American Girl accessories? I have my work cut out for me here, huh, because as a general rule, I refuse to pay more for a doll’s outfit than I do for my own clothes. I refuse to fork over twenty-five bucks for a stuffed animal that I could scoop up at Walgreens for five bucks. I will not take my child to a clothing store to buy a thirty dollar shirt with the name of a store blasted across the front because she wants one. At least not right now. She has plenty of clothes that fit and look fine and it’s not her birthday or Christmas.

No. Just no.

I understand that plenty of people walking this earth that can wipe their ass after a particularly sticky and large bowel movement with the amount of money I pay each month for my mortgage and not have it effect them at all. Good for them. I don’t begrudge anyone who has earned fat cash the right to do whatever the hell they want with their cash dolla (but sticky poop is a sign that one needs more fiber so for rich folks there is really no excuse for not buying healthy food).

What I do struggle with is explaining this stuff to my daughter in a way that makes sense to her. I am trying to teach her the true value of a dollar: a single, smudgy, greenish piece of paper with George Washington’s stern looking mug staring out from it. What can a person buy with that dollar and how does a person earn that dollar AND how do I teach her these lessons without stressing her out?

Kids worry. Some of them worry a lot, but that doesn’t make them want any less. I save up so that on special occasions like Christmas and birthdays, I can get my kids the unique and at times, costly things they request. I’m happy to do it too. I want my kids to experience the special-ness of a gift and to understand that part of the sentiment includes the single-minded-focus it takes to scrape together the cash it takes to purchase these items when there isn’t much extra. I DO NOT want my kids to be worry-warts, stressing out about every dime and afraid to ask for things or want things. I DO want them to understand what it takes to be able to have the things they need and the things they want.

Oh, but I realize that this is a jog, not a sprint. I am going to have to find ways to be a supportive role model and educator instead of a smart ass dream crusher. I am going to have to make it a priority to find opportunities to teach my daughter about money without stressing her out and making her feel guilty for wanting nice things and worrying about whether her birthday gifts mean the bills won’t get paid, because that’s not the case. There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things. Don’t we all enjoy nice things? I know I do!

In the meantime, I am happy to let my mother, my mother in law, my cousin and anyone else who wants to pitch in, buy my daughter the American Girl crap she used to think was stupid and now suddenly finds as beautiful as JLo finds putting on her own underpants. And I won’t lie about the fact that I will save some of my pennies to get her some of the things she wants for her birthday, because I love that she loves to play dolls and immerse herself in a world of worry-less fantasy where she can do anything and everything! I want her to have a childhood, a long, wonderful, safe childhood.

But in the meantime, I’m going to do this once in awhile.

And this

Why do I do this demented crap? Because being a mom who has to teach a couple of kids about financial responsibility is hard fucking work and sometimes I just have to let loose and let my freak flag fly high. As a true American girl, I have the freedom to do this and mock celebrities if I damn well feel like it.

God bless me – a real American girl!

P.S. Kudos to the marketing genius behind American Girl who thought that creating these characters from different times, places and cultures and pushing the whole – these dolls help educate girls about what it was like in times past and making books and old fashioned clothes and butter churning shit and blah, blah, blah….. Well played. Seriously, however even though I love that Rebecca character and her Uncle Max who doesn't care what you call him as long as you don't call him late for dinner, I still hate you. I might have bought into that line of "but our product is so educational" bullshit if you fuckwads didn’t charge seven hundred and fifty million dollars for fake American Girl food.

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