Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Barbie Dreamhouse

Two days before her seventh birthday, Caroline met me in the kitchen.

“Do you know what I want for my birthday this year?” she asked me while I cooked ground beef.

“Well, we’re having this conversation a little late, aren’t we?” Her gifts were hidden, unwrapped, in the luggage closet.

“A Barbie Dreamhouse. Remember?”

How could I forget? Every parent I know that has purchased one has advised against the massive piece of plastic with 250 accessories that end up in registers and vacuums.

“What do you mean, ‘remember’?” I was stalling.

“Remember. Dad told me last year, when I turned 6, that I couldn’t have one because our house was kind of like a tent,” she continued with gentle persuasion. I then flashed back to living in a tent for 12 months with two kids and three grown men. One, of course, being my husband. The other two were there to work on the house.

“But now that our house is done, and I have a bedroom, I can have one. Right, Mom? Dad said that.”

“Oh, Daddy,” I sighed. “He’s funny.” I picked up my phone to text him in a fit of rage.


Me: You failed to mention that you told Caroline she could have a Barbie Dreamhouse for her birthday now that the house is done


Me: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cody: Did she bring that up?

Me: Just now. 2 days before her birthday

Cody: Thought she’d forget

Me: Has she ever forgotten anything? Every time we pass the Love’s truck stop in Booneville, Missouri she reminds me that’s where she puked up a Happy Meal. It’s been 4 years.


Me: So now what do we do?

Cody: Have you gotten her anything yet?


It was two days before her birthday. All purchases were made. They would be wrapped after the kids went to bed that evening. And when Caroline opened the gifts, Cody would be just as surprised as the birthday girl.

Me: Yes. (rolling my eyes)

Cody: Any toys?

Me: No. I got her shoe polish and an iron skillet.

I deleted and didn’t send that last text. I put down my phone. It was time to stop the madness. Caroline had already left the room to tend to her babydoll.

She didn’t get a Barbie Dreamhouse for her birthday two days later, and if it crushed her, she covered it well.

I really struggle with more plastic in our home because I’ve seen our children the most delighted outside. Carrying sticks around a pasture fighting off pretend coyotes. Building forts from straw in the hay mow. Finding rocks they just know I’ll love. Catching and holding hostage lightening bugs, frogs, and inbred kittens. 

During birthdays and Christmas, I try so hard to remember that our job isn’t to put every marketed toy into the hands of our children (though, by the looks of their rooms you may not believe that). Our job is to teach them the joy of eating a tomato straight from a garden they helped plant. Our job is to give them the freedom to experience the feeling when you find the perfect stick to make a cowboy’s pistol. Our job is to let their imaginations run wild in hot, humid or freezing cold air. It’s quite easy to get swept away in wanting to make our children happy through buying, buying, buying. We just need to shove them outside and tell them to stay off the road.

The night of the mother/daughter kitchen conversation I later bathed the kids. There was a ring around the tub after it drained, grass and dirt swirling. We’re living in the good old days.

Caroline spoke up while I brushed out her hair. “I was thinking. If it’s too late for a Barbie Dream House, is it too late for a horse?”

We looked at each other and laughed.

“What?!” she asked laughing. “We already have the barn!”


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