Pinkalicious” dresses are much more important to three and six year old girls than “protective papa” thinking denim pants to protect little legs and little knees are what is important from the bumps and scrapes inherited on the playground.
Okay, yes, I want my daughters to be active, assertive and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. Evidence of that is our play time, and each of my daughters trying to tackle me. I tell you, I’m not sure there is anything more fun to watch than my daughters run out a good five yards, turn around, and with determination of miniature 300 pound football players showing in their faces run toward me full speed to do a half-tackle semi-jump kick to the stomach. They get a real “kick” out of it (or, I should say, I get the kick out of it), resulting in both of us laughing for quite a while with every one of their attempts. To date, they have worn me out every time! I have to say, “Okay, that’s enough…” which is good for about two more attempts at tackling me. They have yet to give up!! I should do an experiment to see if I can out last them, but I’m afraid of the medical consequences of being struck so often by little projectiles with fast feet.
These kinds of play lead me to think my daughters needed protection, and denim pants were just the thing. But after my three year old looked me straight in the eye one morning while I was helping her get dressed, she said, “Papa, I DON’T like pants. I like dresses.” There was something in that self-determined voice I could hear out of my love for her that said I better listen, as I was setting, in part, the foundation for our communication, i.e., her ability to speak her mind, and her perception about being heard and respected after voicing her preferences (Now, I do know what issues matter, and this one is more important to her than me).
Given our little chat, the other day I took my three year old to Ross thinking I’d zip-in and zip-out after buying a couple dresses, to offset the denim pants hanging in her closet. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “This is about a 30 minute activity.” Boy was I wrong. I held up little dresses in front of my daughter one at a time, while she stood in front of the mirror and waited for me to ask the age old questions that great philosophers have not found the perfect way to determine the answer to, “What about this dress? Do you like it?” My little one apparently didn’t like my taste since she liked about two for every thousand I presented. I realized I wasn’t in the right store and there was not enough selection when she said, with a frown, after holding up the last dress, “It is not pink enough, Papa”. Hmmm, that ended my affinity for Ross. “This place”, I grumbled under my breath, “Is just not going to cut it.” So, I put the dresses back, we held hands and I was now tasked to make multiple attempts to answer her question on the way out of the store, “Papa, how come we’re not getting dresses?”
What did I learn? Well, if I watch my little girls’ faces, I can see immediately when the dress selected is going to be a struggle to get on. Whatever is programed into my daughters already has preferences and a sense of what makes them feel good. And, it does me no good to push the issues and say, “Come on, you’ll like it when it is on.” Conversely, without any effort, I can see in their sparkling eyes and blossoming smiles, when I have struck gold and selected the right dress for them. Their faces light up in a way that that makes me feel good inside, to know that I am spending time with my daughters shopping (and not watching the clock) and finding what is important to them.
I’m not sure I will ever know what that perfect dress is. It will likely remain a mystery. But, that’s okay, because I love waiting for their happiness to come and show in the reflection of the mirror we both stand in front of. It is likely a time that is fleeting, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Now, I know how important Pinkalicious is to my daughters and how important their preferences will be to them for the rest of our lives.