Clinging to Girlhood - How One Mom’s NYC 'Guilt Trip' Turned into Lasting Memories with Her Daughters

Candace Derickx, founder and editor-in-chief of the blog Life in Pleasantville, shares how an unexpected visit to American Girl Place in NYC turned into a wonderful way to make special memories with her daughters. Thank you to Candace and her family for allowing us to share the details of her visits to American Girl as edited from her original blog post.


In 2010 I visited New York City for the first time ever to attend a conference. I immediately fell in love with NYC and in an unexpected twist, was struck with guilt almost from the time I stepped off the plane. On the one hand, I was living footloose and fancy free with my girlfriends in the Big Apple, but on the other hand I was missing having this amazing experience with my family. It weighed on me heavily that I had not brought them with me.

I was guilt-ridden and like any guilt-ridden mama will tell you, you instantly look for a way to buy yourself out of it. It was then, when I was looking high and low for that one thing that would acquire me fast absolution, my eyes fell upon the American Girl store on Fifth Avenue.

Up until that point I had never heard of American Girl, but I could tell by the little girls flocking into the store that this might be my salvation. Aside from the fact that I immediately wished I were a little girl again, I knew as soon as I walked through those doors that my daughters would love American Girl. Sixty minutes and $300 later, I walked out the door with two historical dolls and a significantly lightened conscience. Yes ma’am, if these dolls were what was going to allow me to go trip the light fantastic with my girlfriends, then so be it.

No shocker here of course when I tell you that my girls immediately fell in love with their new dolls, Elizabeth and Felicity. And so it is, after one more guilt-inducing trip to Chicago, several birthdays and Christmases later, there are ten permanent American Girl residents in this Canadian home. TEN! That’s five dolls apiece if you’re counting, plus every accessory you would expect a doll of this stature to have including but not limited to: beds, clothing, pets, crutches, balance beams, ice skates, pom poms, and more hair accessories than Lady Gaga.

There is so much American Girl paraphernalia in my house that I dare say we could open a flagship store right in my living room. It’s enough to drive a mother mad I tell you. And yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth for me.

The reality is that despite stepping on a wig-wire brush occasionally, I’m actually quite tickled about it all. I truly believe that American Girl is what has helped keep my little girls on the little side as long as they have. It has been four years since I first introduced American Girl to my daughters and they are still completely in love.

My girls have doted and fawned over their dolls. They have lost hours in play alone or together. Let me tell you, when ten American Girls get together, it’s off the hook. Sadly though, this era is coming to an end soon.

I watch my oldest (approaching 12 at warp speed) spend less time playing with her dolls and more time taking selfies, and it’s making me a little sad. So on a recent trip to NYC I decided a trip to the American Girl store on Fifth was in order while my girls are still drawn to it and so I could hang on to those last moments of girlhood for as long as I could.

If your girls are in love with American Girl dolls I HIGHLY recommend you make a point of visiting one of the flagship stores with them. Since this was our third visit to the store on Fifth I have five things that you should consider as must-do’s while there.

1. Arrange for a Personal Shopper (New York, Chicago, L.A. locations)


This service is free and that’s about the only time you can use that word in American Girl. These ladies are experts on all things American Girl and can help point your little ladies in the right direction. Also, they are excellent with helping them on a budget. The last time we visited, my girls had a $70 budget each. Our personal shopper knew this upfront and helped them stay within their means.

2. Stay for a meal


Choose from brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner. The food is quite good and the decor is girlish perfection. I recommend eating before you shop because you’ll need sustenance to make it through these absolutely behemoth stores. Added bonus: They have sangria on the menu, Mama. Nothing like a cold beverage to loosen you and your credit card up for a little shopping.

3. Celebrate a birthday


I’m pretty sure that if we lived near an American Girl store I would have had held every birthday party there. If you’re the mother to the girliest of girls like me, then a birthday at American Girl is a memory-maker. This year we were lucky enough to be there for my youngest daughter’s 10th, and it was seriously adorable. They even have mini-balloons for the dolls.

4. Visit the bookstore


I am not kidding when I say The Care and Keeping of You is like the girl bible in my house and has opened up countless conversations about growing up. Our last trip there we picked up books on navigating middle school bullies. I love the way they approach these topics with girls and highly recommend them to anyone trying to answer tough questions with their daughters. They also have great fiction books to go with many of the BeForever dolls. Finally, if you don’t already have a subscription to the American Girl magazine, sign up while you’re in the store.

5. Spend time in BeForever


The very first thing I fell in love with in American Girl were the historical dolls. Now those dolls will live on forever in the new BeForever section at American Girl stores. Here, girls can learn what life was like in the past for girls their age from 1764 up to the 1970s. They can play interactive games here, take quizzes, and send e-cards to friends at home. A trip to an American Girl store is not just shopping, it’s an experience.