The girls have opinions. Lots of them. And they are not shy about sharing them. Unfortunately, this often takes the form of criticizing whatever it is they don’t like. Daughter #1 has strong opinions about what she is going to wear on any particular day. I can’t count the number of times we’ve had to tell her “No, sweetie, that dress has no sleeves. It’s winter” or “That’s not a dress. It’s a shirt. You need leggings to go with it.” Sometimes she avoids the argument altogether and just dresses herself, and I must admit that a lot of the time she does a pretty decent job of it.
Daughter #2’s opinions tend to come out at mealtime. She likes what she likes. Period. And getting her to try something new is often a battle royale. We try to keep it from becoming a fight, as she’s the kind of kid that, when confronted, will dig in and protest even louder. With gentle persuasion, though, we’ve gotten her to try a few new things, sometimes taking the form of “I don’t like this!” while she continues to eat it. Furthermore, on an unrelated note, you’d better not DARE sing along with a song on the radio or iPod–she will tell you about it. “NO! NO! NO SINGING!!” like Herbert’s father in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Despite the pitfalls, one of the most satisfying things about being a parent has been listening to my children discover their personalities. And there is no place where this becomes more evident than when we are watching something.
The first time the girls watched “Frozen,” they were rooted to the ground, riveted by what they saw. Now, since we’ve owned the DVD for almost a year and watched it countless times, there is a constant running commentary during every showing. “There’s the Yuck Guy! He makes bad choices,” they say whenever they see Prince Hans on the screen. They’ve even taken to naming his horse “Mr. Crankypants.” And a screening of “Beauty and the Beast” yielded the comment “Gaston is bringing the badness.”
This kind of commentary has even spilled over into the other things we’ll watch. When watching sporting events, they will often refer to the opposing team as “the Bad Guys.” During a basketball game she was watching with me, Daughter #1 told me “I don’t like those Bad Guys. I’m gonna throw them in jail with the Yuck Guy!” The girls have also said similar things during football and baseball games, as well, and this should give you an idea of the kinds of comments we heard during the Super Bowl.
However, it isn’t all snark. Daughter #1 in particular has expressed a great capacity for empathy. Elsa alone on the mountain has elicited “Elsa looks sad. I would give her a hug and make her happy.” Those heartbreaking commercials with suffering shelter pets has her saying things like “That doggie looks sad. I’ll make a house for him and he needs some buddies and a blanket and he can play and be happy.” And it’s been amazing to see her put these words into actions. She will often be the one approaching kids playing by themselves to see if they want to play with her. She will share the good things about her day with anyone who will listen because I get the feeling she wants them to be as happy as she is. As a parent, I am very often my own worst critic, but when I see my kids doing that, I definitely feel as though I am doing something right. And when I hear their running commentary during a movie or show, I’d like to think I’ve done my job encouraging them to watch with a critical eye.