This morning as my daughter and I were walking into her daycare, a teacher, not in her class, stopped her to tell her how cool she thought it was that Olivia had said she wanted to be a police officer when she grew up, especially being the only girl to say that. “A lot of those girls wanted to be princesses, but not you. You always think for yourself. I love that.”
It was unprompted and totally from the heart and I could not have thought of a more kind and empowering thing this woman could have said to my daughter. As a quick background, the previous Friday my daughter and her class graduated from Pre-K. As part of the festivities, there was a picture of each one in their graduation garb with a sign saying “When I grow up I want to be a” and their answer. Among the girls, there were a few princesses, a doctor, a vet, and my daughter, the police officer.
As a side note, none of our family is in law enforcement, though my husband is hoping she will follow his unrealized career goal of going into the FBI. Regardless, when I say she was thinking for herself on that one, I mean it. No idea where that came from, but if you know my child, she notices everything. The criminals don’t stand a chance.
Anyhow, I’ve seen, even at four, the beginnings of needing to fit in are taking hold. You want friends, you want to be accepted. Luckily though, so far, that independent spirit that I both admire and sometimes curse in frustration, has held true more than not. She is adjusting beautifully, seems to have an easy time making friends and still is just who she is.
Latest example, on Disney day this week, you had to dress as a Disney character. Of course, the girls were all Disney princesses. Mine was a princess too, but she wanted to be her own princess, “Princess Sparkles”. It didn’t fit with the theme of the day, but the world didn’t end and she had a great time with Rapunzel, Cinderella, Elena, and the others.
Now, don't get me wrong, there have been situations where we had to talk with her about being a leader or a follower because, for example, she did something she knew was wrong when she followed a friend. So is she the perfect example of being above peer pressure? No, but we try to be open about it and address it when we can. Thankfully, even in her pre-K classes, they talked about “role models” and “copycats”, so we have back up. It’s such an important discussion and an awareness to create and in my opinion, it’s never too early.
However, standing up for yourself when someone pushes you around, or disagrees with you, or not following the crowd if it isn’t right for you, these things take strength, self-esteem, and confidence. These things aren’t built by the child totally on their own. It takes validation from other people too, I believe, like that teacher this morning. We all need that boost and reinforcement from time to time, even at four.
So, my little Officer Princess Sparkles, I do hope you always think for yourself and be true to who you are. When it’s not easy, just know there will always be support, even sometimes from unexpected places. It’s not always easy to learn to be comfortable in your own skin and really know and understand yourself, but when you can, there is no better way to be. Go get ‘em.