Mommy Training

The little blonde girl wandered around the auditorium at the monthly Fiddlers Jamboree clutching her little blonde doll. Now and then the girl talked to the doll and stroked its plastic hair. When the fiddle music got lively, she danced with her, looking back to make sure her mother was watching.

Across the room, a plain-looking woman with thick glasses and scraggly brown hair displayed a real baby as if it were a trophy. She showed that newborn to everyone. Look, see what I have. Suddenly this mousy woman had a claim to greatness: she had borne this baby. It was a very new baby, its navel still not healed, its head a soft formless bobble buried in blankets. She held it very carefully and proudly.

Meanwhile, I cradled my guitar and watched a tall blond in tight black jeans, a striped tank top and a cowboy hat serve cake to her fat daughter whose buck teeth matched her mom’s. The mother had the MC proclaim that it was Shannon’s eighth birthday. After feeding her a giant portion of chocolate-frosted birthday cake, she hauled the kid on stage with her violin to squeak out a horrendous rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and an even worse “Red River Valley.”

The mother stood by, smiling, sure that her fiddle-playing friends were impressed by her little prodigy. The woman overseeing the show held her hand over her mouth the whole time. I couldn’t tell whether she was laughing or horrified.

Just when I couldn’t stand much more of this mother-and-child adoration, I noticed the first little girl had dropped her doll on the ground and gone in search of other amusement. In fact, I almost stepped on the doll.

The toddler is a mommy in training—as I was once. I learned my lessons well, but I was trained to be something I didn’t become. I sat in that sweltering auditorium, nervously awaiting my turn on stage and felt like a girl who had gone to a party and forgotten to bring her dolly. What did I have to show off? Just a nicked-up guitar and a couple of country songs.

This is an excerpt from my Childless by Marriage Book. Have you had moments when you felt so totally left out because you didn’t have children?

Copyright 2010 Sue Fagalde Lick

That baby’s a real doll!

Readers may or may not remember how I explored the toy section at Wal-Mart to find out what dolls girls were playing with these days. I’ll admit that I wanted to play with some of those dolls. The baby dolls were so realistic I wanted to free them from their wrappers and hug them against my barren breasts. But I didn’t. It’s a small town and I don’t want people to think I’m nuts.

However, it seems some women actually do buy baby dolls as substitutes for real babies. They’re calling them “reborn” babies or “memory” babies. For the whole story, read “Fake babies ease women’s anxiety, sadness,” published last week at MSNBC.com. Author Dr. Gail Saltz explains the therapeutic value of dolls for empty-nesters, women whose babies have died, and childless women. Unlike real babies, dolls never cry or need clean diapers, but in some odd way they provide some of the same positive feelings as real infants. “It fills a place in your heart,” doll-maker Lynn Katsaris told Lauer.

There’s a British documentary called “My Fake Baby: New Life with Reborn Dolls.” A clip from the film shows a woman carrying her “baby” around a grocery store. People who stop to admire it are amazed to discover it isn’t real.

Now, I’m ready to call this just plain nuts, but then again after my dog Sadie died, I purchased a dog statue made of stone. It’s about a foot and a half high and sits on my hearth gazing up at Sadie’s picture. I call him Stoney and make jokes about how he’s such an easy dog to care for. The idea was to purchase a memorial to my beloved pet, but before we got the new puppies (agh, wild mudballs!), I sometimes talked to Stoney and thought of him as my dog.

So who am I to say we’re too old for dolls, especially as Chatty Cathy looks down on me while I type?

These Dolls are Too Much Work!


In the toy department at Fred Meyer’s last week, I watched as a mother dragged her daughter over to the doll department and asked her to choose which color stroller she wanted. The girl, maybe 7 years old, wearily said she’d take the purple one.
I have been researching dolls for my book on childless women. I knew what we had when I was a child, but not what kids are playing with now. Only a childless woman with no little kids in her life would have to rely on Google and trips to Wal-Mart and Freddies to find out what dolls are hot now. I felt like a spy, whispering into my little voice recorder as I roamed the aisles. Keep in mind I live in a small town. We don’t have a Toys R Us.
Thank God there are still plenty of baby dolls, but some of them do so much I can see how they’d wear a little girl out. The first ones I saw, on the end display, actually defecate. Seriously. They come with fake food, fake poop and fake diapers, which I suppose one has to replenish on a regular basis. Who decided that was fun?
Other dolls drink and wet, just like good old Betsy Wetsy of the 50s. Water goes in one hole and out the other. The baby dolls close their eyes when they lie down and open them when tilted upward. Some are programmed to randomly wake up giggling or crying. Some say a few words. They come with lots of accessories, including diapering supplies, bottles and food, play pens, car carriers, strollers, and sleeping bags. You’d need a station wagon to carry all their stuff around.
However, these dolls are awfully cute and lifelike. In addition to pressing all the “try me” buttons, I wanted to scoop one out and hug it. I guess that’s why I still have my Chatty Cathy doll, pictured above. She speaks as if she’s had a stroke now, but I still enjoy her company.
There are plenty of older dolls these days, referred to as “fashion dolls.” These include the Bratz line that has been demeaned for teaching shallow values. I don’t know; I think they’re cute, although their huge painted-on eyes are kind of strange. We also have lots of Dora dolls. And Barbie’s still around, slightly more realistic-looking than she was in the ’60s.
Most girls enjoy dressing their dolls and pretending to send them to school or parties or into glamorous careers. Kids get to practice for real life. I don’t see a problem with that, although many of the childless women I have interviewed claimed they never liked to play with dolls. Foreshadowing their future?
It’s encouraging that today’s dolls come in multiple ethnicities. On the other hand, it worries me that so many of them come with names, prefab dialogue and written histories. I think one of the best parts of play is using one’s imagination. Let the little girls name their own dolls and make up their own stories. That’s part of the fun, having those conversations that start, “Let’s say we’re going to the store and . . . ”
In addition to the many dolls, Wal-Mart and Freddies offered lots of stuffed animals, including a parrot that never shut up, and a dog that supposedly lifted its leg and peed if you pushed the right button. Again, like the defecating doll, a little too real.
I’m happy to report that there are still plenty of dolls, and they’re not going to corrupt our society’s children.
As a woman who never finished growing up, I kind of want one. Is that why we get pets? An adult woman doesn’t look half as crazy cuddling a terrier as she does holding a Little Mommy doll—unless of course she can find an actual little girl to play with.

Copyright 2007 Sue Fagalde Lick