Upon figuring out how to work her mechanical toy the other day, my daughter Brontë threw both her arms up in a victory salute, shouting, “I’M A PRINCESS!!!”
Not sure how she defines “princess,” but I’m glad it involves competence.
She may, however, be moving on to bigger and better things. Today, Brontë declared herself the queen and is trying to set the agenda.
Somehow she figured out that a queen is like a princess with far more power.
Power is a fascinating concept for toddlers, who live utterly dependent lives in helpless passivity until they grow past infancy.
First, they learn to crawl, then walk, then say a few words. They learn to say “milk,” for example, and milk magically appears.
Dizzy with newly-discovered control over their environments, at some point, they learn the word “no,” and it completely goes to their heads.
NO! The power of refusal. NO! I will not eat that. No! I will not put on some pants. NO!
They just start refusing everything, left and right. They refuse anything and everything, just because they can, even things you know they want.
“You want a piece of candy?” (Here’s the real test. Will they actually refuse candy?)
(Toddler starts screaming.)
“You said you didn’t want it.”
(Oh, the conundrum. Toddler starts rolling on the floor, kicking the ground while wailing, “NONONONONONONO!”)
It’s bizarre how easily we all could say “no” at age two, given that so many of us will spend our adulthood trying to feel comfortable saying it again.
Eventually, however, toddlers move past the “No” stage and into more sophisticated methods of attempted power coups.
They will constantly test boundaries, social dynamics, limits and self-expression. In any way that occurs to them.
Play mommy off daddy? Sure, let’s give it a shot. Let’s also see how much endurance mommy and daddy have for a two-hour public tantrum. What happens if… say… I chuck this peanut butter and jelly sandwich so hard across the kitchen that it sticks to the wall?
Why not? Toddlers have no jobs or regular chores, so they have a lot of time on their hands to think this stuff up. They also have few ideas about how the world, and people, function. So, why not run a few experiments and note the results for later use?
I’m particularly impressed with Brontë’s most recent experiment of declaring herself queen then proceeding to issue orders.
It also leaves me with quite a dilemma: I don’t want to stifle that sort of creativity, but I can’t actually let her be in charge. Because if Brontë is in charge, then we will be taking an all-day bath while eating sixty pounds of chocolate.
While I like her self-confidence, we still need to maintain a proper hierarchy around here, so I declared myself “empress” and explained that I outranked her.
Hmph. Brontë begrudgingly accepted this turn of events, though she was rather disgruntled about her Disney-and-chocolate Bath Marathon getting canceled by the higher-ups.
To console herself, Brontë turned her attention to baby sister Bridget, whom she figured she still outranked.
Luckily, Brontë is a benevolent dictator. She wants her subjects to prosper, so instead of abusing her henchman, she decided to educate her.
After stepping into her room for a few minutes, Brontë returned with an armful of princess dolls. Sitting down in front of Bridget, Brontë looked her baby sister in the eye, very seriously, and began holding them up, one by one, to explain who each of them are.
Brontë (holding up princess dolls to her sister): It’s Belle… And Hair White… And Frog…
Me: That’s Elsa and Tiana.
Brontë (humiliated): “MOMMY, I’M TELLING MY SISTER!
Me: “Carry on.”
(Gosh, I didn’t mean to embarrass her.)
She has a point though. There’s no way the monarchy will succeed in this house if queens keep having their mistakes publicly pointed out.