Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Morning Princess Dilemma

When he was 4, my son, Joe, and I would spend a half hour in front of his closet every morning choosing the day's tshirt -- which usually included some form of superman, batman or spiderman emblazoned across the chest. A character that might have been acceptable last week would be villainous (and unwearable) the next. I'll never forget my frustration.

Here it is five years later and, just as Joe decides he could care less about what he wears, my daughter becomes obsessed with clothes. Super heroes aren't Maia's thing though; she likes princesses. Bonus points if it's a Barbie® princess.

Getting ready each morning was becoming a nightmare. Maia's in preschool. She should be wearing jeans but was insisting on dresses. And not just any dress... she likes the big fluffy ones with velvet and tuel. Too cold out for a sundress? -- no problem! She'll wear a long sleeve shirt and pants under it! Adorning herself with a tiara and assorted jewels (including plastic clip-on earrings) she comes to me with a comb and direction to do her hair so it "swoops" across her forehead, "like Barbie." She finishes her outfit with mismatched socks (on principal) and sparkly sneakers.

Never mind the obvious question (which is "HOW did this happen?"), we'll jump right to the "what do we do?" part. The answer: (almost) nothing.

One thing I've learned as a parent is that I MUST choose my battles with care. Some things are worth fighting for, others are not. As long as she's dressed appropriately for the weather, I say go for it! So what if it's the dress she wore to her aunt's wedding? Maia will be too big for it when the next formal opportunity arises. Why NOT get some use out of it?

The caveat: choose tomorrow's clothes the night before. Maia lays the outfit on the bed to admire and then crawls under the covers, looking forward to dressing the next day. No more wasting precious morning minutes arguing in front of the closet or searching through laundry for the "pink velvet" skirt she must have. Now we have time for breakfast and giggles before leaving for school. A much better start to the day than screaming and whining.

Learning to express oneself is a huge part of growing up. If Maia wants to pretend to be a princess, I'm not going to jump in and stifle her creativity (though I admit to being a bit disappointed that she hasn't embraced super heroes or fire fighters... a subject for another post, another time). I'm just happy we've learned how to make the morning hour relatively peaceful and calm. It makes getting to school so much easier.

Originally published in SchooGo/ParentsTown February 4, 2010

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