Daddy Dolls help children of deployed parents communicate their feelings and establish a connection with the absent parents.

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Daddy Dolls

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Categories Dads, Emotion, Holidays, Products, Talking to Kids, Toys, Travel, Wouldn't Do Without WednesdayTags ,

Monday was Memorial Day, the American remembrance to honour all who have given their lives in service to the USA.

Too often, we get caught up in the excitement of a day off work, family barbecues, and widely advertised sales, forgetting the Memorial part of the day altogether. My daughters’ father is a career soldier and has served 3 combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we’re thankful that he has never been injured, I’m very aware that not all military families are so fortunate. On this day of the year, I always remember a waitress I met near where we live. We started chatting about our families when she noticed that my girls were twins. She was pregnant with her twins, she told me, when her husband was killed on duty at the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001. She moved back to Texas so that her parents could help her raise her three children even as she grieved.

It’s easy to overlook how war, especially war that takes place far from our shores, impacts children. It does impact them, though. My daughters have known all their lives that Daddy goes away to catch bad men. They know that he carries a gun, and so do the bad men. They also know that most of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan are just mommies and daddies and kids who don’t want any fighting. They just want to be together.

These conversations with my daughters were not easy. They were at least as hard as the conversations we’ve had about divorce and that mommy and daddy don’t love each other any more. Now that M and J are 9, they can verbalize how they’re feeling. When they were younger, it was much harder, especially with Daddy away more often than he was living with us at home.

To help my daughters talk about and process their father’s absence, I turned to Daddy Dolls, a company started by two Marine wives. They turn the full-length photo of a loved one into a doll for your child to interact with. Ours came out wonderfully. They held up through 2 years of daily hugs and countless runs through the washing machine, looking just as they did they day we received them. Sadly, they’ve been left at the bottom of the toy bin since shortly after the divorce, despite my efforts to bring them out to play.

I ordered the girls’ dolls the day that my now-ex left for his 3rd combat tour. We took photos of L in front of our garage the morning he deployed to Afghanistan. The company removed the background image and printed a smiling picture on each of two camo-backed dolls.

Daddy dolls give the military child something to hold onto while a parent is deployed.

When our then 4-year-old daughters received their dolls, they were completely enamoured. You can see their reaction in this video.

A few days after we received the Daddy dolls, I walked over to J’s bed after brushing M’s hair. J had her doll in her hand, facing me.

J (age 4, as Daddy): Hi Sadia!
Me: Hi L (ex’s name)!
J: So, how are you doing?
Me: I’m fine, but I miss you. I have a hard time falling asleep.
J: I just came by to say, “You’re welcome.”
Me: I see.
J: You’re welcome for the dolls.
Me: I love you!
J: I miss you all, even Penelope (the cat).
Me: And we miss you.
J: (as J, addressing the doll) You and me only have the … What’s the hole called?
Me: A dimple.
J: You and me only have a dimple.
M (age 4): Mommy and me have moles!
J: Does Daddy have a mole?
Me: Yes.

Of course, the utility and value of these dolls isn’t limited to families with a deployed parent. Any child suffering loss might benefit. I gave a gift card to the site to a friend for her son when her husband passed away. Moving away from the morbid, when it comes time for holiday shopping, a Daddy (or Mommy or Grandma or Sister) Doll might make for a good present. We received ours in less than two weeks.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.As with all Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday posts, I received no compensation for this review.

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

49 thoughts on “Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Daddy Dolls”

    1. Military families pay an enormous cost. Missing their soldier is only part of it. The hardest part is that the person who returns from war is often unrecognizable.

    1. It’s clear that the women who started the company really understand children! The tactile part is so important!

  1. These sound perfect for helping kids deal with loss, I bought my friends kids worry dolls & guardian Angels when their dad passed away but I don’t think they worked as well for them. I wish I’d known about these, l be forwarding this post to my friend who’s husbsnf is off on a long navy stint soon. #thetruth
    Ali recently posted Still breastfeeding?My Profile

    1. It was very thoughtful of you to seek out something like this for your friend’s children. Please let us know whether your friend finds these (or something like them) helpful!

    1. This is going to sound hokey, but I try to take a moment every day to consider someone who lives a completely different life that me. It keeps me grateful.

  2. What a really great idea those dolls are! I can’t imagine how hard it must be for families like you. Thank you for sharing as it has made me understand a little more about how difficult it must be for all involved. Thanks for hosting #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Glad I can shed some light on it… especially as an EX-army wife, who no longer lives that reality. Or perhaps Army ex-wife is more accurate.

    1. My favourite was M asking, “How did Daddy get so small?” That one has had a sense of humour since the day she was born!

  3. I have heard of these dolls before from friends, and they sound like such a great idea. They even do these dolls for parents that work away for long periods of time. It’s really good (and important) for kids to have something to actually hold onto, and something that they can give a cuddle – especially if it’s a photo of a parent. Good post. #TwinklyTuesday
    Kelly recently posted THE SHOWMy Profile

    1. I agree 100%. I shopped around other options, like the dolls where you can insert the parents’ photo in the head, but this seemed like the best fit for my girls, and the quality is excellent.

    1. I think it has. Even with the divorce, how the kids interacted (or didn’t interact) with the dolls gave me some insight into how they were feeling about Daddy, particularly when they’re get all their stuffed toys out to play and leave the Daddy Doll facedown in the toy bin.

    1. They are hard conversations, but we all have hard discussions to have with our kids, whether it’s The Sex Talk or the death of a loved one.

  4. What a wonderful idea. My husband is in the army, and even though his job doesn’t require him to deploy to war zones he is still away for long periods of time. I think M would love a Daddy doll! :-) thank you #twinklytuesday
    Sophie @ Mum, M & More recently posted Tele Addict!My Profile

    1. Please let us know if you get one and whether it helps! Military life is such a surreal experience, and I love to share anything that helps!

    1. I think some of the best parenting ideas come from us looking back on our own childhoods and thinking about what would have been nice for us.

  5. Oh wow, these are an amazing idea!! It must be so hard for their father to be away for such long stretches of time. They are adorable with their new dolls. Thank you for hosting #TwinklyTuesday x

  6. What a fabulous idea. I can’t imagine how hard it must be having to explain to children that one of their parents goes off to fight bad people. These dolls must have provided such comfort to your girls when their dad was away. #TwinklyTuesday Hugs Mrs H xxxx
    Mrs H recently posted Moving on after a miscarriageMy Profile

    1. The hardest part is trying to protect the children’s innocence and sense of justice in a world where both are often missing.

  7. What a fantastic idea this is. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is being an army wife but to do it whilst also having children (and twins!), is just something else! I should have got a mummy doll for zach for all the times I’ve been away – although slightly different as we are always able to FaceTime! Thanks as always for being a fab co-host on #TwinklyTuesday

    1. It’s a fascinating subculture, but I could never quite get on board with the morality and gender attitudes of military life.

  8. Looking at getting 2 daddy Scilla with 2 separate soldiers and can’t figure out where and how to order. Any guidance would be great! Thank you!!

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