I think school might be the genesis. At Halloween she wore a Georgie costume and every other little girl wore a princess costume. The following week, she was princess crazed. She wore one, or two, of her princess costumes every single day. I freshened the dresses as best I could, and changed out the base clothing underneath. I refused to let her go out of the house in the ridiculous clunky plastic shoes and we came to an agreement about her sneakers, which are now called Princess sneakers. Then, for Christmas, she got some sparkly little shoes that are simple flats and shoes she can actually wear out and about.
Every day she says to me, directly after breakfast, "Mama, we go upstairs now, I need-a get my Princess on."
I find that statement---how she says it, what she says---very telling.
It's not an outfit; it's a persona.
Recently, she's been broadening her definition of what constitutes Princess Attire. She began transitioning to regular dresses that she deemed fit for a princess (fancy dresses, past Easter dresses, etc.). I appreciated this expansion. It was getting a little difficult.
But as her clothing definition expanded, so did her obsession with all things princess. She now must drink from a "princess" cup, eat off of a "princess" plate, use "princess" flatware, read "princess" books and so on. Because we've never been big princess fans, we don't really have any specific princess stuff so we have to get creative to accommodate this. For eating, as long as the item has pink, we're okay. For reading, as long as the book has a castle, we're okay. There are a lot of rules for the mom and dad of a princess and sadly, no manual for reference.
Sometimes we make a mistake.
And that leads to a major meltdown.
This is when I lose my tolerance for princess. This is when I start thinking there is no underlying reason for princess...she just likes to play pretty and diva. This is when I feel manipulated and start feeling a tugging urge to clamp down and put an end to this princess nonsense. This is when I start questioning my open acceptance of my kids and their kid-driven development, and start wondering if the naysayers have a point. I worry they might be right and that my validation of my kids and their stages is actually spoiling.
But then there is a light: Persistence suddenly began incorporating ballet outfits in her princess repertoire.
The ballet outfits I understand a little better than the princess. She loves dancing.
I promised her dance lessons when she turned three, we do the Bella Dancerella dance DVD daily, and I have begun teaching her a few basics about movement. (Once upon a time, I taught two ballet classes: 3 and young 4, and 4 and 5 year olds.)
This phase had loosely begun a few weeks ago, but then we went to her oldest cousin's dance recital and interest blossomed into fascination.
Persistence loves her cousin and often copies her, just because she thinks everything her oldest cousin does is neat. We often joke that Persistence is "monkey see, monkey do." The ballet mimicry caught my attention, gave me pause and I think a little insight.
Is she emulating someone, or an aspect of someone, whom she greatly admires when she dresses in these costumes? Is she forming her personality? Is she feeling closer to that person by dressing in a way that captures the moment she felt was so important?
I'm not sure. It's more than just role-playing and dressing up for fun, though; it's a serious business.
So although I haven't quite figured out why she is so princess obsessed or what it's reflecting from within her, I am trying to understand it and I am indulging it. The part I do understand is that it is very important to her.
If she needs to dress like a princess and wear a tiara, more power to her.
I do think princesses can be powerful; what we make of the idea of princess is what counts. They don't need to be trapped in a tower, waiting for rescue. They can play with wooden trains on a track, run races, paint pictures, and bump foot-pedal cars with laughing abandon. She doesn't know that, as a princess, she is supposed to be any particular way. She makes it up as she goes along.
I'm pretty sure that in Persistence's mind, princesses are Large and In Charge.
And maybe right there is the exact explanation for my three year old's princess obsession.
But while they talked, above their heads I saw
The feudal warrior lady-clad; which brought
My book to mind: and opening this I read
Of old Sir Ralph a page or two that rang
With tilt and tourney; then the tale of her
That drove her foes with slaughter from her walls,
And much I praised her nobleness, and 'Where,'
Asked Walter, patting Lilia's head (she lay
Beside him) 'lives there such a woman now?'
Quick answered Lilia 'There are thousands now
Such women, but convention beats them down:
It is but bringing up; no more than that:
You men have done it: how I hate you all!
Ah, were I something great! I wish I were
Some might poetess, I would shame you then,
That love to keep us children! O I wish
That I were some great princess, I would build
Far off from men a college like a man's,
And I would teach them all that men are taught;
We are twice as quick!' And here she shook aside
The hand that played the patron with her curls.
The Princess, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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