DEAR KELLY: I know other people have bigger problems than I do, so I hope my question doesn’t seem silly. I’m honestly sad about this. As a little girl, I loved playing with Barbies and all the clothes and other stuff I had. I would play with them for hours. I know it’s stupid but I always thought I would just save it all for my daughters and then they would be able to play with them one day. I keep everything in two big duffel bags in my closet. I still have days where I take them out and just look at all the things I used to play with.
Recently, in front of my auntie, my mom said, “Why don’t you give Ava all your Barbie doll stuff? I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “I don’t know, Mom.” My auntie said, “She would love it. That would be so nice.” No one waited for my answer and no one seemed to really see that I didn’t want to do this. Or if they saw, they didn’t care.
Later, when I told my mom I really didn’t want to do it, she said that it was too late and my auntie had probably already told Ava and that would be a mean thing to do to little Ava. Kelly, I never said yes. The other thing is that Ava is not some poor kid with no toys. She is not a brat but she has a lot of toys and I don’t think she really needs all my Barbie stuff.
Please help me because I don’t know what to do. Is it being mean saying no to giving away my stuff that I want to keep because I loved it so much as a little girl? Am I being selfish saying no?
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DEAR GIANNA: We all have items or mementos that remind of our childhood. It might be a blanket, baseball cards, picture, medal or trophy, stuffed animal, old glove or ball, wooden boat you built or your dolls. Those things remind us of an innocent time in our life when the world seemed so simple and your favorite thing to do was to play. We become attached and hold on to those items to give to our kids one day because we want them to experience the same joy we did when we played with them.
It’s not a silly thought at all – to the contrary. It’s sweet and touching that you want to share your Barbies with your daughters one day and your feelings on keeping those items should be honored.
Speak up. Be heard. You are not being selfish at all. While your mom’s intention may have been good, her deliverance was terrible and put you on the spot. Talk with her again but this time, organize your thoughts and offer her a new solution. Ask her to please not offer your things in front of other people. Or identify with her the special toys you have that matter to you and that you have no plans to donate or give away. Perhaps those few things get placed somewhere different so there is no confusion on the ones that you wish to keep.
Tell your mom that you are sorry for not speaking up in the moment but you felt on the spot when she offered your dolls without asking you first. If she is worried about Ava, she can use the upcoming holidays to buy Ava some fun new Barbie stuff. Even if Ava was told she would be getting your stuff, she will bounce back and be fine. Little kids have the ability to let go of things much easier than we adults do.
Then call your auntie and tell her that you’ve been thinking about what your mom offered and you are so sorry but you don’t want to give away your Barbie dolls. Tell her you have always wanted to pass them along to your daughters and they are an important part of your childhood. Hopefully your auntie responds with understanding and kindness.
Maybe you offer to let Ava play with the dolls and accessories if she is at your house sometime but not for her take home and keep. Better yet, sit down with her and play with her. Tell her about the Barbies as you take them out and why they are so special. Share each of their names with her and any memories you have playing with them. Maybe this can become a fun tradition for you and Ava. She may have more fun leaving them at your house and only playing with them when she visits.
Hold on to the two duffel bags. Your feelings may change or they may stay the same but it should be your choice about what to do with them. Let go of other stuff or toys that feels insignificant or hold no meaning. Only keep the things that truly matter. Childhood toys feel like little treasures. They make us feel little again. They remind us that the simple things in life can be the best things.