Since it is St. Valentine's Day, a holiday beloved by females and resented by males (who always want to point out that it's no longer a canonical saint's day), let's talk more about dolls and beauty. To set the tone, I couldn't resist posting this picture of a Kathe Kruse Mini-It's-Me-Elf (which I don't own but enjoy looking at).
I wanted to share some thoughts I had about a comment a blog reader sent me about yesterday's post ("Favorite Things"), wondering how I could possibly consider spending so much money on a toy. I feel compelled to answer her quite reasonable question.
How can you justify spending circa $100 on a doll? True, it's beyond the budgets of many of us. Normally, it would have been for us too, but this was an unusual Christmas for us in many ways. This is the main reason why I've made Waldorf dolls for years instead of buying them, because they are handmade and do tend to be very expensive (this sweet doll above retails for $50).
But let's consider another expensive doll that it's far more typical for even frugal families to purchase: an American Girl Doll (retailing at about $87). This Christmas, I could have conceivably bought two of these dolls for my daughters, and I considered doing so.
But in the end, I choose the Waldorf dolls from Nova Natural over Molly or Kayla or the other American girls, and I feel better about the purchase.
For one thing, now we’re not locked into furnishing and dressing a doll with official American Girl accessories found in the catalogs helpfully mailed to us every gift-giving season. And to my delight, my oldest girl is now setting out to design and sew clothes for her doll (thus bringing up the refrain of toys that "fit with children." I strongly suspect that if we had welcomed Nicki, the American Girl Doll of the Year into our home, she would have "begged" to be outfitted in the latest catalog styles instead of a homemade patchwork skirt.)
And I really like the thought of Peruvian women sewing the Waldorf dolls in a village cooperative, bettering themselves and their families in the meantime. I'm sure it probably added an extra $20 onto the price of the doll, but how often do you get to give a Christmas gift to a child that enriches another family, instead of the Mattel Corporation? I admit it, I justified the price in my head with that sort of reasoning.
And again, the Nova Natural dolls are very well made. Sort of like a piece of fine art that can stand up to your girls playing with it.
I think my girls treasure these dolls, sensing some of their value. Like some other special homemade toys we own, they understand these dolls aren't "replaceable" the way a Polly Pocket would be. The dolls don't travel outside of the house or make trips outside. Most of the time when I see them, they're in some sort of place of honor - the top basket on the toy shelf, on the bed, or inside the latest play fort.
I suppose my philsophy is that a few simple toys (even if they are expensive) are better for kids than dozens of cheap ones from KMart and Target. Buying one expensive toy like this one meant that the other presents for my girls were less expensive -- such as a $3.99 box of paints, and a cooking set piece together from dollar stores and the secondhand store. It comes down to a matter of how we choose to spend our money, which is a highly personal decision for families.
Beauty often has a higher price tag than ugliness and banality.
One time our family needed bunk beds, and we went to a discount furniture place and bought a set, wincing at the price tag. But the bunkbeds were so difficult to set up and and so flimsily made, that we were frustrated with ourselves for spending the money. We agreed: never again. We would use cast-off and hand-me-down furniture in the future, until we could afford to get Amish-made beds of hardwood. We still haven't reached that point in our finances, but we are trying to be content in waiting, and determined not to spend money on something that we personally find ugly but fits in the budget
And for those who are waiting, making Waldorf dolls (some years out of socks!) has been very rewarding for our family. (Those interested should check out the wonderful kits from Magic Cabin Dolls or the books Making Waldorf Dolls and Toymaking With Children.)
There is a hidden, sometimes intensely spiritual quality to beauty. It is elusive, and difficult to quantify, and so often expensive in time or money. This is because beauty doesn’t come easily for any of us, except for God.
Creating or owning or maintaining beauty takes effort. It often means yearning and waiting and working.
But I have found that if you set your heart on beauty and work towards it, beauty will come to you.
Sometimes, it just doesn’t occur to us to ask.
I'm breaking my personal resolution to not write a lot of copy on this blog! But having done so, I welcome thoughts from blog readers about this post.