He loves to wrestle and play soccer and baseball, and is even learning to use power tools to help build a workbench in his family's garage. At 6 years old, Nicholas Matejko is a mini man’s man, wearing a leather jacket and sometimes even cologne to be like his teenage brother.
So Nicholas’ mom, Ivette Martinez-Matejko, was a little surprised but happy to oblige when her young son asked for a doll. But not just any doll. He wanted one that resembled him and came from American Girl, the popular doll retailer where his big sister got her Isabelle doll.
When he learned there wasn’t one, Martinez-Matejko turned to the Internet and found that others had taken this matter into their own hands. She purchased a $40 secondhand, one-eyed American Girl doll, and with some TLC and a haircut, transformed it into an “American Boy” doll for Nicholas.
“He was so happy when he saw the doll,” Martinez-Matejko said of the reveal earlier this month. “When he opened his eyes and saw the doll, he was in heaven.”
After all, Nicholas had seen his 8-year-old sister, Anya, playing with a doll that looked like her, dressing Isabelle in different outfits and braiding her hair. He felt left out, his mother said, and wanted an 18-inch buddy of his own to tote around and tuck into bed.
“He said, ‘I want someone I can play with too,’” Martinez-Matejko said, adding: “It was important to him to have a doll that looked like him and I wanted to give him that.”
There are other kinds of boy dolls for sale, but Nicholas was set on one from American Girl. He wasn’t interested in the dolls for younger boys that the company does offer, the smaller “Bitty Twins” dolls, because they seemed too young, said Martinez-Matejko, a mom of four from Wood-Ridge, New Jersey.
“He thinks American Girl should be making American Boy dolls,” she said. “I think the demand is there for an American Boy doll,” she added. “It’s a huge opportunity to teach history through their historical line.”
She and Nicholas aren’t alone. The wish for an American Boy was shared in an essay on The New York Times’ Motherlode blog titled, “Where Are the American Boy Dolls?”
American Girl spokeswoman Stephanie Spanos said by email that the company is aware of Martinez-Matejko’s effort: “We applaud her ingenuity!” But no full-size American Boy dolls are planned.
“With nearly 30 years in the industry, we have received numerous requests over the years to create a boy version of our classic American Girl dolls,” Spanos said in the email. “Although we do not have plans to develop a separate boys’ line at this time, we remain steadfastly committed to developing products for our core audience—American girls.”
Even as Martinez-Matejko describes her son as a “very boyish boy,”she doesn’t believe in toys being only for one gender. Her children, three boys and a girl, have all played with dolls.
“I want them to enjoy their childhood, and each (to) have the opportunity to enjoy themselves and express themselves," she said.
Doll play is a great way for kids to learn how to nurture and have compassion, she said. Nicholas named his doll Jayden after his favorite Power Ranger, and he’s been a “pretty constant companion” over the last few weeks.
“He dresses him up in soccer outfits,” Martinez-Matejko said. “He puts him in PJs and into his little bed. He gets him dressed when he gets dressed, and carries him around with him. It’s like his buddy.”
Nicholas and Anya have played dolls together and built doll furniture from boxes.
“It’s given them time to bond and play together and create things on their own,” Martinez-Matejko said. “It’s time without fighting over a video game or what show to watch next. It’s been really great.”
Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.