We took our girls to a local church quiz night recently. My elder girl invited two of her friends to join us, and the other children on their team (the children insisted on a kids only team) were two nearly teen boys my girls know through church. My younger daughter decided to take along two of the Gotz dolls, dressed up in their Bavarian outfits (well we had just been to see the Sound of Music!). Funnily enough she actually took along the shared dolls, Jayne and Peter. Samantha and Harriet, who were still dressed in Halloween outfits, had to stay at home (we knew those outfits wouldn't go down well at a church quiz!)
The two visiting girls arrived at our house and saw my little one playing with her dolls, and my elder daughter's soft toys all over her bedroom floor. One admitted she loved her own soft toys, but my elder girl was careful not to admit that any of the dolls actually belonged to her. We had discussed this beforehand, as quite often my girls use elder daughter's larger bedroom floor for doll play, and I was concerned that she would be teased by her friends for playing with dolls, aged 13. When they all got into the car, one of the girls was very happy to play dolls with my little girl (they played 'hide and seek' would you believe!). I think it was partly the novelty of having a little sister for the evening (this child has three younger brothers), but at the Quiz I noticed she was quite happy to have the two dolls on her lap for a while in full view of lots of adult strangers and the boys, and later was happy to resume the hide and seek game when we took them to their respective homes.
I think it is sad that we expect our children to grow up so fast, and put away childish things. There is so much pressure to conform to being a teen as soon as they start secondary school (if you don't like pop music you are 'so not cool'). My elder daughter's friends are not the types who go in for heavy makeup yet (and are despised by some of the really trendy girls for being just a little bit different from the average), though they all enjoy pop music and Nintendo DS, etc. But still liking dolls isn't something they can readily admit even to their own peers, it would be social death in the dog-eat-dog school environment. So observing the girls with the dolls at the quiz night gave me a quiet sense of pleasure, I felt as if, albeit briefly, I had scored a small point for the regaining of their fast disappearing childhood just by treating the taking of dolls to a public event as perfectly normal and not commenting on their play which would have made them self conscious.