"Our Loving Family"

Buying a dollhouse for my daughters third birthday was a cinch. Finding the right family to live in it was a bit more difficult.

One mother builds a dollhouse family to reflect transracial adoptive families.

I cringed as I stared at the PayPal invoice. Somehow, I’d gone from just browsing to spending nearly $100 on eBay. How did that happen so quickly?

Last month, our daughter, Emma, turned three. It seems only minutes ago that she was meeting her sister and brother in the airport after her 20-hour plane ride home. Now, we can’t imagine life without this cheerful, chatty girl who has completed our family. We figured out the perfect birthday gift: the Fisher Price Loving Family Grand Dollhouse. Emma had seen the commercials during episodes of Dora the Explorer and Wonder Pets, and had been asking for a doll mansion of her own.

The mansion was easy–I found it at the first toy store I popped into. But the “loving family” to live in it presented difficulties. When you purchase this particular dollhouse set, you can choose either a blond, Caucasian family or an African-American family. Neither reflects the makeup of our family. But I wasn’t about to give up.

Collect Them All!

That night, I stayed up late searching for “Asian dollhouse families” online. Finally, a breakthrough on eBay: It seems Fisher Price manufactured Asian families as part of the collection back in 1993. I narrowed my search to “hard to find/rare” Asian family members from the set, and began scrolling through auction listings.

I liked the idea of mixing and matching figures. I took the searching seriously because I wanted our imaginative play to be fun, healthy, and reflective of Emma’s experience. It also seemed like a good time to broaden her understanding that family and friends come in all shades, and, in real life, we don’t have to pick just one.

For the first of my eBay treasures, I ordered the Asian mom for $11.99, plus shipping and handling. This mom, with the cute black bob, doesn’t look like the mom Emma is growing up with, but I thought the figure might introduce the idea of having a birth mom. Emma’s birth parents are certainly part of our family circle, and I hoped she might appreciate having an Asian mom in her dollhouse.

The next day, I cruised the auction site again. I was thrilled to find a Fisher Price Asian dad and baby. I’d worried about what would happen to Emma’s self-esteem if she had only blue-eyed, light-skinned babies in her doll collection. Vowing not to let that happen, I carefully monitored the auction. At the very end, I snuck in a bid for $10.23 and managed to snag the dad and the sweet baby in pink pajamas and a white bonnet. As I reviewed my purchase, I imagined us reenacting our “how we got Emma” story with the baby doll. And now we had a birth father figure, too! Although I doubt that the birth father in the fishing village where Emma was born dresses in loafers and button-down shirts, I’m content with this doll dad with the happy smile.

For the next few days, I was on a mission. After methodically logging on and checking every new option, I spotted a bonanza: a 29-piece collection of miscellaneous furniture and dolls. It was pricey at $57, but it included three Asian figures–including a toddler girl. I hesitated to spend so much, especially since I’d be buying the set for a few prized figures, but the birthday countdown was ticking. These toys haven’t been manufactured in over a decade, and Emma’s just entering her dollhouse years. Of course she needs a doll that looks like her current, spunky self. I swallowed hard, stuck with the bidding, and won the three figures, and the 26 other items, which were just gravy.

Looks Like a Family

The brand-new, three-story mansion set me back $53.38. The six Asian “Loving Family” members–15 years old, already played with and chipped, purchased a la carte from eBay sellers–totaled $91.06. I wrapped them all together in glittery, purple paper, and it was, indeed, the best possible birthday present for our sweet girl. She loves it all: the dollhouse, the furniture, the old figures, and the new. To Emma, it doesn’t matter how it was assembled, it’s the way a family is supposed to look.

For the record, I am still scouring online auctions for the elusive Asian babysitter/big sister, who wears purple stretch pants and a snappy vest over her green sweater. I need a doll that looks like an older Emma–her future teenage self. You know, someone to drive the red convertible and go to the senior prom with the red-haired cowboy. If you are reading this and attempting to assemble your own transracial dollhouse family, do not try to outbid me. I am serious. We are building our “loving family” over here, and I am determined to make it work.


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