With a little imagination—and Internet scouring—he got the doll of his dreams.
It had been a whole year since six-year-old Miles started asking his mom, Gina DeMillo Wagner, for an “American Boy” doll for his birthday. As soon as he saw his older sister get a customized American Girl doll, he knew he wanted the same—one that looked like him.
This wasn’t an out-of-the-ordinary request for Gina, a professional writer and photographer, as her kids had always ignored gender-specific “rules” about toys. “I wasn’t surprised. He has an older sister, and they play together every day,” she wrote on her website. “She loves playing superheroes and various sports with him, and he loves playing My Little Pony and American Girl with her.”
There was one slight problem, though: an American Boy doll doesn’t exist. Sure, there are “Bitty Baby” dolls made by the same company, but that would look like an infant. Miles insisted on having a big boy that looked like he did.
“At first I tried to explain to him that they just don’t make American Boy dolls,” Gina said. “I thought he’d eventually lose interest and move on, but he kept asking…and asking. Then, a good friend of mine jokingly said,’Couldn’t you just give a girl doll a haircut?'”
And that’s when the wheels started turning.
First, Gina hit the Internet to find a doll that looked like her son. Scouring eBay and Craigslist for a used 18-inch doll that was still in tip-top shape, she eventually found a winner—a “Madame Alexander” doll for $25 that, when you remove the hair bow and hot pink lipstick, looked like little Miles.
Once the doll arrived, she searched YouTube for videos on putting new wigs on, but decided to try cutting the hair as it’s finer and easier to cut and style, she says. It was the hardest part, though, as there’s no going back once you make the snip.
Next came acetone, which Gina used to remove the doll’s lipstick and blush, and scissors to trim the eyelashes. Then she went to the Internet once more—this time to order “boy clothes” on Etsy, which would replace the original cheerleader outfit.
By the end, Gina had spent less than $50 and invested a couple hours of work to give Miles the birthday present he had been dying for.
“I’m always telling my kids that you can waste a lot of energy complaining about the way things are, or you can put that energy toward solving problems and making things better,” Gina said. “This was one small, simple thing I could do for my son to solve a problem and fulfill his birthday wish. It was fun, relatively easy, and inexpensive.”
And Miles’ reaction upon receiving his doll (which he quickly named Fred)? Priceless.