Our second child, Little Miss, is almost four. Although I am not particularly girlie in nature, this girl is the Fancy Nanciest princess unicorn lover ever. Her favorite colors are pink and purple. Hubster and I had never really discussed what it meant to parent a little girl versus Spartacus who is very much all boy, but we’re learning along the way.
Now obviously she has both an older and younger brother, so she can also wield a light saber or nerf gun without missing a beat. But she has very strong opinions on what it means to be a princess.
What is a “princess”?
Princesses have long hair. When she last got her hair cut, she asked our stylist to cut her hair “long — like Rapunzel.” She disagreed strongly that one can only make hair SHORTER, not longer. We also attempted to dye her hair pink during quarantine with kool-aid. It went better than expected. She will sometimes sit and let someone fix her hair in a ponytail or braid, but most days she prefers to let it fly free and tangly in her face. Think Violet in The Incredibles.
Princess go barefoot. Rapunzel spends all of Tangled barefoot. When Little Miss has to wear shoes, they are generally inappropriate for the weather or activity. Think: Jelly shoes for the mulchy playground. Fuzzy boots for summer days. But if she can help it (or sneak in the car without me noticing) her toes are aired.
Princess apparently must cry a lot. Little Miss is very sensitive and dramatic. She cries easily, and while about 60% of the time this is caused by something her older brother did wrong, the other 40% is just because…well tears.
For example, earlier this week the kids were getting into the van in the garage while I finished up inside. Little Miss was in the driveway looking at the moon. I return outside 90 seconds later, and she is screaming with tears running down her face shouting about something Spartacus did. Spartacus gets the we’re-late-for-school-we-don’t-have-time-for-this mom glare, we pull out of the driveway, and by the time Little Miss calms down enough to explain, her is why she was crying:
Her brother told her the moon was made of rock.
Heaven help me. No wonder Spartacus looked so bewildered at getting chastised.
Other sources of tears include her brother looking at her, telling her that her shoes are on the wrong feet, turning the page too quickly on a book, or suggesting that we don’t have time to ride the train at the zoo.
Princesses wear dresses all the time. The longer, the better. She wears a princess dress over her clothing to school nearly every day (we alternate between her wedding dress, Belle, Rapunzel, and Minnie Mouse). On the days I have to wash her costumes, she grabs one of the dozen dresses in her closet. Last week it was 70 degrees and my kid is the one in her velvet Christmas dress at preschool.
Princesses talk like…princesses. They cannot be corrected. I have always enjoyed my child development classes in college, and now my children are my test subjects. Little Miss was speech therapy for about a year, so we have paid more attention to her development than we did her brother. It has been fun seeing her speech improve, especially after starting preschool this fall. For the last year, she would put random Ls in words: slocks go on feet. Annabelle’s fur is sloft. Just this week, she dropped the L. She COULD say it correctly, she just didn’t want to. It is one way she can assert her independence, apparently.
Princesses are never late, only five more minutes… At three years old, concepts of time exists in two forms: “last night” is any time previous to now, and “tomorrow” is the future. When Spartacus was four, I remember he pioneered the phrase “tomorrow-tomorrow,” which meant any time AFTER tomorrow. It’s amazing what our family can all plan to accomplish tomorrow: we can go to Florida, we can go to the zoo, we can go to the park, we can go to Grammy’s.
All requests for more time come in five minute increments, especially in bedtime snuggling, even if “five more minutes” is meaningless to Little Miss. Spartacus, now six years old, is much more particular about time, and gets upset that his sister wasn’t REALLY in preschool “last night,” but rather “yesterday.” Her response? Tears.
Princesses love tea parties. Sometimes we need to bake cookies ahead of time. Also, apple juice is better than hot tea.
Princesses marry princes. She wants to marry the neighbor boy, who doesn’t usually like the role of prince. It doesn’t seem to be important that her prince isn’t currently interested in saving damsels or learning to dance.
Princesses watch and read only thing about princesses. We watch Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast on loop as often as she can convince Spartacus to go along with it (when we can’t, it’s The Incredibles). Fancy Nancy makes regular appearances in the bedtime book rotation.
Princesses are disciplined less frequently than princes. Little Miss is often treated more gently than her older brother, especially by Daddy, and it is probably a combination being a girl and being younger. Because she was slower in walking and in speech, we very likely expected less of her, and as a result are more tolerant of bad behavior. We are working to be more consistent.
Example: last week she was eating waffles and wanted a hair tie to get her hair out of her face. I brought her the WRONG rubber band, and she flipped. We were at Grandma’s house, and Grandma went and found her the RIGHT rubber band (it was purple with stripes). If Spartacus had pulled that — which he has, often, over the “right” socks or the “wrong” hat — he would not have been obliged, but instead would have seen consequences for the outburst. Little Miss should see similar expectations and consequences.
Princesses have big brothers. One of our favorite books is the Little Critter “Me Too!” by Mercer Mayer. His little sister says, on every page, “Me too!” She wants to do everything he is doing, whether she is able to or not.
Sometimes, Little Miss is “really super brave” to join her brother, like when they went tubing at the lake over Labor Day. Other times she gives up when she can’t keep up. Even though she got a beautiful pink girl bike earlier this year, since she can’t keep up with Spartacus she now refuses to ride at all. She wants to play with him and the neighbor boys, even if she can’t take a nerf dart to the face. She has to have “homework” to do with him every night. It’s sweet to see as a parent, but I can also understand Spartacus’s frustration. Six-year-old boys don’t appreciate admiration of young ladies.
This is really just an observation post. I’ve been told the trickiest parenting transition is going from two kids to three. Man-to-man defense to zone. After three kids, more only add infinitesimally to the chaos, rather than exponentially. While we’ve been a three-kid household for over a year, I still don’t feel like we have a groove yet. Scoober Doo sleeps too much to fully be a member of the household yet, so we’re still adapting.
Some day soon, the olders will help with the littles, and perhaps parenting will at least logistically get a little easier. We’re not there yet. Right now the kids can’t see the things in front of their faces.
Spartacus: “Mom, where’s my backpack?”
Me: “Did you check your hook?”
Me [opens garage door. Points to backpack on hook]
So obviously, requests to bring a burp cloth, diaper, milk cup, etc. aren’t terribly efficient processes. But we will get there…eventually.