My daughter loves dolls. LOVES dolls. In fact, she loves them so much that she magically transforms into them whenever the mood strikes her (cue every single Disney song you ever heard, butchered by a three-year old).
Learning how to parent a young girl has been tough for me; I have always struggled with body image issues, so the desire to keep my daughter from being inundated by false body messages from the various types of dolls out there has been strong. The messages in the media, even on the shows about fairies she loves so much, all depict this image that is impossible to achieve, and while so many new shows and toys are coming out with counter-acting messages, I still worry how much will seep through.
I want to be able to raise my daughter in a world of confidence, unity, resilience, strength, and community.
Enter American Girl.
Every single doll has her own history, her own story of strength and resilience. Each story is filled with obstacles overcome, positive outlooks, and the importance of community and helping others.
Yes, my daughter is only three (“free and a halfs, Mama!!!!”), and she may not understand the value of these lessons quite yet, but I want to instill these values in her so that they are already ingrained when it comes time for her to tap into them.
She loves her “Riela” to distraction, and we talk about her life all the time. She asks me about her art, and asks me to read a page from “Gabriela” by Teresa E. Harris every day—we talk about Gabriela’s trouble talking, and how hard it can be to learn how to do something. These little chats as we play have already had such an impact on the way she approaches things in her own life, like her frustration with a puzzle, or struggling with a doll’s clothes; she no longer tosses it aside and moves on to something else, she will either take a minute to think about it, or will bring it to me for us to do together.
That, my friends, is positive learning. The people at American Girl understand that so much more happens with dolls than just changing their clothes and playacting. They have really thought about all of the little things, and those little things culminate into a really wonderful package for children to learn from.
Gabriela McBride is American Girl’s 2017 Doll of the Year, and rightly so. She has come out in a year where girls in particular need to learn about unity and overcoming obstacles more than ever, and never before has engaging with the members of our communities and the communities around us been so important as it is now. If a doll can help my little girl understand that, then I am in.
Thank you, ‘Riela, for helping me teach my daughter about the important things.