So I haven’t blogged in months. The plan was to start the blog, build up a respectable number of posts and then start inviting barbie enthusiasts to let me interview them.
I actually stopped blogging because I wondered if I had made the right choice by introducing barbie-play to my daughter at such a young age. My daughter was 4 when I bought her first doll (Trichelle). By the time she was 4 1/2 we had 4 houses, over 50 dolls, three cars, five horses, a Pet Shop, a Bakery, a Pizza Parlor, a Grocery Store, a Shopping Mall Food Court, several schools, a McDonalds…well, you get the idea.
The running joke with my husband and sister became a good-natured ribbing: it wasn’t really “Leah’s barbie collection” but was actually “Mommy’s barbie collection.”
I was happy to acknowledge that I was driving the high-speed ramp up of Barbieworld much more than Leah was, but I was more than capable of catalogueing the long list of reasons why the collection would ultimately benefit Leah. For a long list of reasons, see: This Blog.
I am a traveling computer consultant and as of the Summer of 2010, my daughter was living with me in a hotel in Boston. Daddy came to visit us and we went back to Colorado to visit him about once a month. Leah was going to a Boston-area pre-school during the day so she was experiencing a wide range of social and developmental activities. On the weekends we drove out on day trips to see all that New England that had to offer.
It was weekday evenings that were the hardest. I don’t oppose a few hours of cartoons every day and Leah could have watched the wide range of animated movies I had loaded onto a hard-drive for her viewing. She wasn’t interested. “Mommy, let’s play” was her constant mantra.
What does “play” mean in a hotel room night after night after night? I had to come up with activities that would not ruin the carpets (painting: out) or put holes in the walls (breakdancing, karate, basketball:out).
Barbies, because of their small scale became a no-brainer. If Leah was a boy maybe it would have been trains or Legos. Instead the room became Barbieland.
After a long day at work/pre-school we came home to the Residence Inn, ate a bit at the hotel “light dinner” buffet, stopped by the front desk to see if any ebay packages had arrived, then went up to the room to play barbies. USPS and ebay being the prime enablers of my new obsession.
We started playing twice a day: before and after work/preschool. I started trolling ebay after Leah fell asleep each night, frantically adding items to my wishlist and reviewing them strategically. We also learned the locations of every Target and Toys R Us in a 100 mile radius.
After three months of this, things began to change. As winter set in and our room became more and more crowded with toys, our Barbieland started feeling more and more oppressive. I began to feel guilty and self-indulgent. I became certain that I’d spent too much on Barbieland, trying to make it work for a daughter who was too young to enjoy it. Maybe it was just standard cabin fever. Maybe we were just homesick. But whatever the root cause, Barbieland started to bug me.
We packed up our belongings and moved to different hotel. One that had an indoor pool. Leah started focusing on swimming in the evenings instead. Occaisionally Chandra or Trichelle were invited along but for the most part, swimming replaced barbies for several months.
My Boston project started winding down. We shipped Barbieland home to Colorado. We shipped ourselves home to Colorado. Barbieland was a stack of boxes in the basement playroom. Christmas came and went. Kwanzaa came and went.
Daddy asked about Barbieland. Mommy felt guilty about the hundreds of dollars sitting downstairs in boxes. Daddy asked if he should drop it at Goodwill. Mommy shrieked in horror.
Mommy decided…wait, I. I decided, after a week of foot dragging, that I had to unpack the Barbieland boxes. Ohhhh! Look!!! Our Pet Shop! Ohhhh! Look!!! Jacob from Twlight!! Oh!! Look!! Our Dentist Barbie!!!
And what I learned? Don’t build Barbieland.
Now I didn’t say don’t gather up a Barbieland’s worth of dolls, furniture, vehicles and clothes…what I said was “don’t build it.” By this I mean, don’t set it all up and try to live within it.
Choose three to four “sets” to have out at a time, and pack the others away. Choose a sub-set of dolls. Choose a sub-set of clothes. That way, your collection will always be new and exciting, and it won’t feel overwhelming.
When we started playing again, after two months off, I noticed a new maturity level in Leah’s play. She was growing in her ability to play, just as I had hoped. She was more willing to be the pet shop owner. To suggest that a new pet owner needed food and pet toys in addition to their pet purchase. She was becoming a leader, not just following me. That renewed my resolve. She started asking to play everyday again. I was excited to play, too.
My ebay wishlist climbed to over forty items. Uh oh. Well, with the good comes the bad.