Friday, 26 July 2013

"More than a Princess"

"Mom, where's my uterus?"

My six-year-old is very into my pregnancy. She was into the last one too, but, being less than three, her interest showed more through play than questions on human anatomy. I puzzled for weeks over her practice of placing an ornate toy mirror on her mermaid doll's tiny tummy before realizing the mirror was a Doppler and she was listening for the heartbeat.

"Hold on," she says, and runs off to fetch the Bearnstain Bears classic "Too Much Junkfood," a second-hand find from my brother than includes a doctor's explanation of why the Bear family needs good food so their bodies can do all the things they do.

"Show me," she orders, flipping to the page where Dr. Grizzly shows what bears look like "on the inside." Human body systems have been a big interest for her these last couple years. By the time she was five, she would tell you that something had gone down her trachea instead of her esophagus rather than simply saying it "went down the wrong pipe." My precision princess prefers to use accurate vocabulary.

I study the illustration of bones and blood vessels and the large empty space under the intestines; Dr. Grizzly's left out the reproductive system. I can't say I blame her, my grade-six teacher skipped that particular unit in health class as well. The poor man had enough trouble getting through the lower half of digestion (also absent from the Bearnstain bear). No such qualms for my little lady - the details of human excretion are currently an infinite gold mine of mirth. A large amount of our dinner conversations begin with queries about the end result of only eating a certain kind of food. We discuss the problems of vitamin deficiencies, muscular atrophy, and - when I forget to stop myself - constipation and diarrhea. Five years of potty training has taken its toll on my sense of appropriate topics for the dinner table. It's almost a relief when the talk turns to the life cycle of the mosquito, or the location of volcanoes in Alaska, or how long it takes to get from Edmonton to Moscow.

When we're not discussing digestion, or mining my iPhone for pictures of lava, she's searching for deeper meaning in fairy tales, Disney movies, episodes of "Strawberry Shortcake". It's incredible how many themes can pulled from a mere 20 minutes of programming or five pages worth of continuous text. The intent behind the characters actions, the back story that fuels their reactions, the reasons why the character most hungry for power is the one least fit to wield it; between her natural inquisitiveness and my tendency to ramble, there were hours of meaningful literary conversation hidden in such unlikely places as the dance scene in Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (love-at-first-sight myth, blown) and "Barbie in A Mermaid's Tale 2" (and that was just the book based on the movie neither of us has seen).

I never assumed that my daughter would grow into a princess. I dressed her in pink outfits and frilly little frocks through her babyhood on the assumption she'd shun them eventually and I might as well enjoy her cuteness while I could. She's been picking her own attire for three years now, and it hasn't happened yet. She still likes her Sunday finery, and spent her preschool year in skirts and tights, if not in dresses. She chose pants only twice, and both occasions followed her overhearing me say that she "never" wore them. Compliment her outfit, and she'll gladly go into all its details - after all, she picked it out herself. If you tell her she's a beauty, however, she'll say something along the lines of "I know" or "well, yes", and then return to whatever she was discussing before you interrupted to state the obvious. The princess has heard all that before, but what she really wants to know right now is the science behind the rainbow.

For the first half of her life, her toys were as girly as her outfits. The grand bulk of them were gifts from friends and family, happy to have a baby girl to spoil. The most control I yielded was in making birthday and Christmas wish lists, but, beyond a boycotting Bratz and Barbie (and eventually caving on the latter), I've mostly catered to the interests she'd already shown, and her own requests soon followed suit. She loved the princess dresses and fairies and baby dolls she'd received, so, while the content expanded somewhat as she aged, the themes of her wish-lists remained pretty pink. Beyond a few of her books and some of her stuffed animals, the play kitchen, girly-coloured legos, and arts & crafts were as close as we ever got to unisex.

When she got herself a brother, however, I did ask for some "boy" toys, if for no other reason than to even out the playroom a little. Lo and behold, my dainty daughter took to trains like a duck to water. And emergency vehicles. And construction equipment. When my in-laws passed on my husband's old collection of match-box-size cars and trucks to my son, she dove right in, eventually claiming half of them as her own. In true big-sisterly fashion, she lords over her little brother as they play; whether the medium be dress-up dolls, dinosaurs, or a construction site, she maintains firm control over the storyline, and corrects any errors her minion may utter. A tutu is more than just a skirt, and a bulldozer mustn't be confused for a back-hoe. My princess has grown into a queen of an ever-expanding toy empire: all the better to apply the ever-growing knowledge base stuffed in her inquisitive mind.

I can't say my observations of daughter and son have led to any solid theories on gender development. I'm well aware that my case study of two says as much about their differing ages and personalities as it does about their sexes. It will be interesting to see how their dynamic changes once one of them is outnumbered, and what a baby exposed to equal amounts of "girl" and "boy" toys will chose to play with. I have no doubts, however, that my daughter, while still very much a princess, is also so much more, which is why this video gets me teary every time I watch it.

GoldieBlox, I salute you. But I promise you no engineer. My money's currently on biology, but we'll see what else she gets into.

2 comments:

  1. How fun that she is SO curious and speaks such high-fallutin' words so young. :-) That makes me smile. :-)

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    1. Her continuous exposure to her thesaurus-wielding parents is probably to blame, but it IS fun. Like living with a precocious Anne of Green Gables ;)

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