All Dad’s Should Play with Barbies

Last night, I sat on the living room floor, wrapping presents for my one and three-year-old. Matchbox cars, a mini guitar, a baby doll, a Barbie…. a Barbie.Β 20131219-152607.jpg

Barbies were the epic toy of my childhood. Jodi and I would build pretend houses, castles, and towns that cascaded the stairs and continued down the hallway to our adjacent bedrooms. We planned epic date nights, elaborate weddings and day trips to the beach (the bathroom sink) for our Barbie families. Hours… and probably weeks of our life were consumed with imaginary play. We asked for Barbies when we got good grades, when it was our half birthday and even when we had earned a big enough allowance. We dreamed of being in “Barbie” magazine.

Yes, that existed at one time.

As I picked up the Wedding Dress clad Barbie I had picked out for my daughter, I replayed all these images and wonderful childhood memories that I treasured. So many feelings of happiness, giggles and freedom. Will my daughter treasure this plastic doll the way I did?

The most significant memories of Barbie days were the ones where my Dad played by my side. I remember so clearly the way he would lay on his side, with his head propped in his hand as he sent our Barbie convertible zooming across the floor. He would silently laugh, his shoulders bobbing up and down, as Jodi and I whined in exasperation, “Noooo… that’s not how you do it!” He tried to argue (between his laughs) that Barbie was late and had to drive fast.

He gave Barbie the most hilarious high pitched voice and Ken’s voice was two tones deeper than my Dad’s natural tone. When they were supposed to say “I do”, my Dad would make them say, “I don’t”. We would all roll on the floor, laughing in surprise.

Most days, Jodi was the in charge of outfits for the Barbies. Dad never dressed them right. Jodi would say, “Here Dad, let me show you!” Again, Dad’s shoulders would bob up and down with a silent laugh. Did we even realize he was teasing us?

We went on vacation to the beach one year, Jodi and I packed a carry-on suitcase FULL of our Barbies and their accessories. I think we carried it about 10ft, cause I know my Dad STILL talks about how he had to lug a suitcase full of Barbies through the Chicago airport. I wonder if he laughed or scowled when we refused to check it through on the way home. πŸ™‚

Having become the parent, I now realize the sacrifice and intention it took for my Dad to love us in this way. He had probably worked all day and would have loved to go for a run through the woods or sit on the couch and watch TV or even go play catch….. I just can’t imagine pretending with Barbies was on his “end-of-the-day priority list.”

Nonetheless, his girls were on his priority list. Whether it was Barbies or gymnastics or prom dresses, he was there to share in our excitement. He may not have always known what to really do or say, but he always had a corny dad-joke to make or high-five to give. His shoulders still bob up and down when he makes a corny joke. I treasure that. I treasure my Dad and the memories he gave us.

He was (and still is) a good Dad. He really gave us so much love.

As my three-year-old opens her very first Barbie doll this Christmas, I hope that she not only embarks on this wonderful journey of little girl fantasies, but that she also remembers this as the beginning of memories made WITH her parents. Parents who played with her, laughed with her and sacrificed their time to see her smiles. Parents who chose to get past our grown-up realities and engage in childhood make-believe.

It’s worth it! Time spent in a make-believe world is an investment into a child’s real-world life. Barbie world here we come…

PS- The real work will be if I have to figure out how to engage in a GI JOE or Spiderman world. Ugh oh. πŸ™‚

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