Today, I was texting with some friends about my friend’s daughter’s birthday. My friend shared that her three-year-old daughter was gifted a dollhouse, which you can custom design down to the WALLPAPER in each room. Given this, my friend would be taking this on as a mini project for her daughter to fully enjoy playing with this dollhouse. I thought it was really sweet — my friend wants her child to play with the dollhouse, and she’s willing to invest time in making sure the dollhouse looks just like what her daughter wants.
It reminded me that I still have a Greenleaf dollhouse that “Santa Claus” (aka my dad) gifted me when I was five years old, still unbuilt and in its original box down in my parents’ basement. I told my friend that if she wanted, she could have the dollhouse if she was willing to invest time in building and painting it. Otherwise, eventually soon, I’d want to sell it to make sure someone out there can actually enjoy it. I reminded her, though, that it’s not a dollhouse for playing; it’s actually meant to be a collector’s dollhouse for adults. My other friend didn’t understand what this meant, so I explained it to her; there’s an entire industry of dollhouses for adult builders and collectors, and this was one of them.
My friends were super confused: why did my dad gift me an adult collector’s dollhouse? Why wasn’t it ever built? And who was expected to build it and when? Was I expected, as a five-year-old child, to build it?
I’m no longer triggered by the memories of that dollhouse, as I’ve moved on. But for me, that unbuilt dollhouse is just representative of all the broken promises my dad made. He always said he’d build it. He never did. He always made excuses and said he was too busy. Finally when I was a teen, I asked one last time if he was ever planning to build it. He got mad, snapping back, “YOU can go ahead and build it yourself!” When an ex-boyfriend went up to him to ask if he could have it to build, my dad responded and said he was still planning to build it (no, never happened). So it just sits in its box, unbuilt, to be enjoyed by no one.
As an adult now with my own child, I get it: my dad WAS super busy. He was working a day job for most of my childhood along with managing and repairing three different apartment buildings and two rental homes. He rarely rested and was just constantly working to ensure we had financial stability. But part of me thinks he also did all that because he didn’t really want to spend time with us. He never played with my brother or me. We never had any real conversations. He was frequently irritable when we attempted to engage with him. My brother eventually gave up, feeling ignored, and decided to ignore him back…. that continued until the day my brother died. Our dad was usually doing his own thing when he was home. I don’t fault him for wanting a break from life while at home, but his negative attitude towards us as children, not to mention always saying he’d do things for us that he never actually did, informs how I want to parent my own child and how I want to set expectations to never let my child think my words are meaningless. I don’t want to become my mom or my dad with my own child. I want to be and do better… a lot better, so that when Kaia is an adult, she actually wants to willingly spend time with me and enjoy time with me, and she doesn’t do it out of obligation or guilt.
I want Kaia to know every moment of her life how much I love her and how much she is wanted. I want her to know I’m always trying to be better to her and provide her with the best, but not at the expense of quality time together. I want her to hear me say I will do something, and for her to expect that yes, I will follow through on it. I don’t want her to harbor resentment against me or think I’m just pushing her away from me. I want to be an example to her of how to be, both in attitude toward the world as well as actions. That’s my takeaway from my sad dollhouse memories.