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“Baby Doll’s First Trip”

Vacation is exciting. It’s also nerve-wracking for kids who take solace in routines and schedules. For our daughter, the antidote to travel anxiety was a real doll.

As we recently prepared for our family summer vacation, our youngest daughter Jasmine’s ADHD symptoms spiked. She’s ordinarily a blabbermouth from the minute her feet hit the floor, but now she was super-preoccupied with every detail of the trip:

“How many bags are you packing?”

“What am I going to do on the airplane?”

“What outfit am I going to wear to meet Minnie Mouse?”

“Are we going to eat at the airport or before we get there?”

Laurie or I would be in the middle of answering one question and Jasmine would interrupt with the next. It seemed clear to us her constant questions were a sign of anxiety. At six years old, she doesn’t have the ability yet to say, “I’m nervous,” so her questions are her way of coping with stress.

We also observed that her preoccupation with the flight coincided with another preoccupation: Ceece (pronounced See-See), who is currently her favorite doll. Every morning, Jasmine picks out her own outfit for the day, then she picks out Ceece’s. After meals, she retreats to her bedroom and feeds her. At bedtime, she puts on Ceece’s pajamas and brushes her teeth.

In the last hour before leaving for the airport, Laurie and I were scurrying around the house packing, cleaning, and working out last-minute details. It was then that Jasmine said, “Mommy, can you help me pack for Ceece?”

I told Laurie I’d finish up. After a few minutes, I went into Jasmine’s room to check their progress. “Daddy!” Jasmine said. “She’s got her backpack packed with her hairbrush, a snack, and book. She’s so excited!”

“Ok!” I said. “What’s she going to wear to Magic Kingdom?”

Jasmine thought for a second, and tapped her index finger to her lips. “Her yellow romper,” she finally said. “But she has to wear her converse and NOT her flip-flops because Mommy says we’re going to do a LOT of walking.”

“Good idea,” I said.

We arrived at the airport, and I overestimated the time we would need to get our bags checked, pass through security, and find our gate. So we had almost two hours to spare before our flight. And the whining started.

“Is it time yet?”

“Can I have a drink?”

“Can I have a snack?”

“I’m bored. Can I watch a show?”

Laurie said to Jasmine, “Does Ceece wants to go for a walk?”

“Yes!” Jasmine said, and she jumped up like she was sitting on a spring.

I watched the two of them walk off, Jasmine chattering off into the distance. They returned a while later and Jasmine leaped into my lap. “Daddy! You gotta see the pictures we took on Mom’s phone!”

“Um, sure,” I said.

I scrolled through a series of pictures where Ceece was posing in front of the airline logo, posing in front of the “Welcome to the Airport” sign, and posing with a pretzel. Laurie said, “Jasmine wanted to take these pictures so I could post them.”

“You’re supposed to post pictures of the kids on your Facebook, Daddy,” Jasmine explained.

Throughout our vacation, Ceece became essential in our family portraits. Our photo albums are filled with photos of her, posing with us and by herself; Ceece at Magic Kingdom, Ceece at Universal Studios, Ceece at the beach. She was the perfect distraction for Jasmine, who otherwise would have been a constant bundle of nerves, full of anxiety over every decision we made for what to wear, what to eat, and what to do next. But once Jasmine started to get overstimulated, we directed her to Ceece and we could see her visibly settle down. So instead of a week of anxiety and fits, Jasmine had a week of fun rides, fun treats, and fun caring for Ceece.