Breaking Norms, Causing Stress

Over the last few days, we have had two house guests, friends from our college days, staying with us, and my father-in-law staying at my brother-in-law’s house. Our guests came to attend another college friend’s wedding on Friday, and our FIL cared for the two kids to free up both my wife and me for this celebration. The ceremony and the whole event were wonderful. The bride, our friend, was truly radiant and joyous.

In the midst of the bedlam of extra people in the house, event schedules that are not necessarily aligned with our children’s timing, and being cared for by others, our kids did pretty well. Both are showing signs of needing a bit more attention, and both realize on some level that their mommy is leaving today for a trip. I think the ripples should settle by Tuesday or so.

One ripple was that one of our house guests, in a beautiful gesture of reaching out to us and of generosity, brought some presents for the kids. For our daughter, she brought a Cinderella doll which I did not even see. I was working in my office, and my wife came in to inform me she had seen it too late, and now our daughter was asking for it.

A quick switcheroo was performed prior to my wife coming in, and my daughter was occupied by the sticker book that had been meant for my son, but she still wanted the doll. My wife and I huddled and came up with a plan. I had to be out the door in fifteen minutes to chauffeur my friends and their parents to their wedding (I even ordered a costume cap to play the role!).

We called our daughter into my office and closed the door. Obviously this was different from normal, and she hunkered down; I worried that she was thinking she had done something wrong. We explained that it was about the doll. I asked her what she knew about Cinderella, and her response was, “She’s a princess.” Disney has indeed penetrated this market. I then asked her what Cinderella’s story was, and my daughter did not know. She did parrot back the words I have been saying that princesses (and other royalty) have to take money from people rather than doing jobs like mommy and daddy. I really have to stop that line of reasoning.  She just wanted the doll because it represents what she sees in the clothing, language, toys, and behavior of her peers.

I gave a quick synopsis of the story pointing out that Cinderella had a loving father, that her step mother and sisters were not nice to her, and that the prince liked her because of how she looked. I also talked about at the end of the story, Cinderella’s step mother and sisters were hurt, and maybe that would not help them from being mean. Bottom line, Cinderella was a loving person who could do things like cooking and cleaning like we do. However, the point of this story is that some one liked her just for how she looked.

We then talked about why we choose our friends, and we came up with a list together. My daughter chipped in as much as my wife and me about traits: caring, creative, smart, etc.

At that point, I noticed the Lego Mindstorms kit I brought home from school to learn this summer. I offered these things:

  • We would find dolls of people who fit our list of what makes a good friend. I have found these, and am looking for more.
  • She and I would learn the mindstorms together

My daughter seemed to accept this solution and even wanted to start that moment with the kit. Now I have to research dolls to see what might fit with our conditions. At least they should not be branded and have a predetermined role and story.

My wife talked several times with our friend who was completely gracious and supportive of our parenting; she is a parent, too. Later during the reception I entered one of these conversations, and she clearly articulated her perspective on it. I absolutely respect her opinions while at the same time not sharing all of them. I am just thankful that she seems not put out by this incident. I hope that it will not affect her relationship with my wife, and at the same time, I tremendously value my wife’s support in these issues.

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