We spent two consecutive Sundays at the Mall of America to celebrate Joan and Kate’s birthday. The first was last week, when my mom was visiting. She wanted to take the girls to the American Girl Store and have lunch at the bistro there.
(Joan and Kate with Grandma having lunch.)
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to visit an American Girl Store, but the experience is… well, an experience, that’s for sure. The store is floor-to-ceiling pink, with little girls and their dolls everywhere. Of course, there’s lots of dolls and doll-and-matching-girl merchandise for sale, but there’s also a doll salon where you can make your doll an appointment to get her hair done or ears pierced (yes, the doll’s ears) (which we did on our visit last week), and a restaurant where you can dine with your doll.
There is a line of “Bitty Baby” dolls for the really little girls, but the actual American Girl dolls are marketed for girls ages 8 and up. There’s a line of dolls made to look like the girls, and the more popular line of dolls that each live in a different period of American history. Each doll has a set of historical fiction books that chronicle their lives, as well as period-appropriate clothing and accessories. So, along with spending ALL OF YOUR MONEY on the dolls/merchandise, your daughter is also getting a history lesson.
(Marin and her bitty babies drinking lemonade.)
The restaurant is designed specifically for having a date with your doll. All of the dolls have little chairs so they can sit right up to the table with everyone else,and if you forget your doll (or don’t have one), they have a whole fleet of choices available for loan. The waiters treat the dolls like customers, too, and bring them tiny cups and a tiny pitcher of (real!) pink lemonade and little plates of (real!) desserts.
(Joan and her doll Julie– from 1970’s– showing off their matching hats.)
The staff is really, really fantastic. Since we were celebrating a birthday, many members of the staff knew the girls names and stopped by our table to wish them happy birthday by name. The chef came out to talk to us– with her American Girl doll sous chef, of course. In fact, Kate’s doll (named Kit) has a stuffed dog that goes with her. When the waiter saw that the stuffed dog was “joining us for lunch” she quickly brought her (the STUFFED DOG) a bowl of water.
(Kate’s doll Kit– from the 1920’s– and her dog Grace enjoy lunch with us.)
The attention to detail is fantastic; what little girl would not LOVE this place? When I was a little girl, I would have DIED in this doll heaven. However, as parents, it’s hard not to think of the price tags ($100 dolls and $30 outfits for the DOLLS) as a giant racket. A giant racket that yes, we’ve encouraged in our daughters by buying them the dolls. SIGH.
However, the next week, we returned to the Mall of America on the girls’ actual birthday to spend the day at the amusement park. On that particular day, there was some kind of dance line/cheerleading competition going on at the mall, and groups of little girls all dressed in their cheerleading outfits were everywhere.
As I watched these various groups of girls, I was ASTOUNDED by some of their cheer/dance outfits. I’d say about HALF of the groups had the girls (ages roughly 8-12; ie, NOT high school girls) in tops that were basically the size of a glorified sports bra, with their belly’s showing, and a tiny skirt. Most were wearing heavy make-up and hair pieces, too.
I don’t know about you, but I see NO REASON why little girls need to be prancing around showing off their navels at a mall in January. Many of the girls had some kind of glittery design swirled on their tums. And then I caught a glimpse of one of the troops doing their performance, and the HIP GRINDING and GYRATING. I just… you guys! Little girls! Doing dance moves that looked like sex positions! Dressed like slutty teenagers! And dressed up like that, presumably, by and with the blessing of their MOTHERS.
Suddenly, that American Girls store, with the 12-year-old girls having lunch with their dolls, all dressed in matching period clothing, didn’t seem so obscene after all. I mean, sure, the prices are still a racket, but at least it’s allowing (and encouraging!) little girls to be LITTLE, ya know? And while our family isn’t swinging by for a new American Girl doll on a random Saturday, it’s a really great place to go for special occasions, like the girls’ birthday.
(I didn’t take any photos of the cheerleaders, but here’s the girls on the log ride, the group favorite, trying not to get wet.)
I don’t want to sound like an elderly, crotchety old lady here, and I realize I’m on the BRINK of doing just that. But really, I just don’t think it’s necessary to teach and encourage our little girls to grow up so fast, to be so sexy before they even reach puberty. To paint a glittery design on their stomachs to draw EXTRA ATTENTION to that bare area of their bodies. And for that, I give the American Girl store props for making it COOL to play with dolls past age five, for creating a fantastic place for our daughters to be little, just a while longer.