Tuesday, September 15, 2009

free to be three

Well, the birthday was a success. We had the party early because her grandparents were in town, and organizing the party left me a little torn. Last year we invited everyone--neighbors, friends, Mitch's collegues with kids her age--and it was a big fun cookout with hotdogs and baked beans and watermelon and beer and cake. This year I was considering the same thing, but when I asked her if she wanted lots of people here or only a small group, she said small. Then she said the same thing when I asked her again the next day. And the next. She gave me a list of four friends of hers that she wanted here and she stuck to it. I suggested the kids of some of our favorite people, people I would want for my own sake to have at the party, and she said no. So asked again (children are fickle, right?), and again no. She really knew her mind. I considered ignoring her and planning the party I wanted for her--I mean, she is only three, but then it was her birthday. So little it was.

I try to let her be herself. I try to let her have her own opinions. Mitch lets her be herself so much that whenever he dresses her he insists she pick out her own clothes. I can't let go of control that much yet. She has some mighty cute outfits that I don't want to go unworn, for one thing, and I do have to look at what she's wearing all day.

So in the spirit of letting her be herself: night before last she asked to have her hair cut. Her hair that's never even been trimmed, her baby hair hanging now long down her back. She'd asked a few days before and I said that we'd see how she felt in a day or two to be sure it was what she wanted. In the morning it was still what she wanted. And the next day. So Monday night when she asked again I said, "You sure?" and she said, "Yup! I want it too look like Sophia's." Sophia is her favorite friend and has a little bob and bangs. I said, "You want me to cut it right now?" She brightened up and said, "Yes I do!" I felt a pang. "Your long hair is so pretty!" I said. "You might not be able to wear it in braids anymore, and I love your braids." From the next room Mitch called out, "You can do whatever you want, Frances." Sigh.

But I do want her to be herself. Theoretically. She wants to be someone else, like Sophia or one of the girls on Barney. "Just like Sophia's," she said. So I sat her up on a stool, got the sissors and a comb, and I cut her hair. Short little 1950s bangs, the rest up to her shoulders, which is still pretty long. "Does it look like Sophia's?" she asked. "It looks a little like Sophia's," I said. "The bangs are shorter, but they will grow." I saw a stray hair I'd missed and asked her to sit still again and she said, "Does it look like Sophia's now?" She insisted we call her Sophia for the rest of the night. Later she asked again if it looked like Sophia's and I said, "It will never look just like Sophia's, honey, because Sophia has wavy hair." "I have wavy hair," she said. "No, your hair is straight," I told her. "I have wavy hair and curly hair," she said. "No, it really is straight, Frances," I said. "Sophia!" she said. I said, "Right. I forgot. Sophia. You have straight hair, Sophia."


ebp said...

Yay again! You went with the tall cake... it is gorgeous.

Really, they are going to do what they are going to do. And it's only hair... better to hold out on the big things, but give them room to win on the little ones. Though I may be running out of runway on this approach as adolescence presses in.... I wish you were hitting these things first and I could just sort of watch, kind of like a parenting lab.

Amy said...

I gave up last year trying to dress Sarah and it's made our lives much easier (especially when we're racing around getting ready for school). She puts together some very (VERY) interesting color and pattern combinations, but she's so happy and proud that she put them together herself, that I gave up and just let her have it. I have one rule in the winter..arms and legs must be covered-however she wants to accomplish that is up to her. I should show you pictures of what she's put together. It's hard to let them make the decisions considering you've been responsible for making all of the big and little ones since her birth, but I find that in the end, it just makes one less thing that I have to worry about. How they dress (especially as they get older) isn't a reflection on the parent and I have contemplated getting a t-shirt for myself that says "She's 4 and she dressed herself" but I think that most people already know. :-)

rachel, danny, henry, claudia, and walter said...

will you please make me that cake for my birthday? please!