Tuesday, May 25, 2010

She Who Wears The Pants

One of the things I love about the nursery school that C goes to is this: she comes home dirty.
I send her to school in clean clothes, and she returns to me with paint on her shirt and dirt under her fingernails.

She has a closet full of lovely dresses that came as hand-me-downs and gifts.  For many weeks, when picking out her clothes, she has chosen only dresses.  This didn't present a problem in the winter, because snow pants can be worn over anything.  And in Rochester, they are. 

But we've gotten into warmer weather, and tree climbing and bike riding season are upon us.  The long dresses kept catching as she climbed up playground sets, until she would hop down and say, "That's okay, I don't have to do this right now."  I've tried to convince her to wear shorts or pants to protect her legs, and to help her go further in her physical play rather than retract.

Have you ever tried to convince a three year old to do something?

So, I removed all the dresses for a temporary time.  Each morning she'd throw open her closet door, look at the swinging hangars, and say, "Guess my dresses aren't clean yet...I'll just wait until they are."  And then she'd march around in underwear as though any minute all the dresses would come up from the wash and hang themselves back up.

The fact that she only liked to wear dresses did not concern me.  When I was a kid, I only liked to wear Jams.  For a full year, I wore Jams because why would you wear anything else?


But it was when her thought behind this was revealed that I was perturbed.  In a frenzy of underwear marching and waiting for the dresses, and me directing her to pick something else, she began to cry that princesses don't wear pants, or shorts.  They wear dresses.

Except it was in the voice of an exorcist and there was a lot of flailing arms and jumping up and down for emphasis.

My attempts of telling her stories about girls who did wear pants were quickly discarded in favor of more underwear marching.

In the midst of this phase, C was playing in the basement while I was sorting through some boxes and bags.  In a suitcase that was too heavy to move, I unzipped it to find no less than 793 Star Wars action figures and space ships from 1977.  My husband comes from organized people, and all of his Star Wars toys were zipped safely into this giant piece of luggage.  C was at my side instantaneously, digging her hands in as though she'd discovered gold in action figure form.  A steady stream of questions poured from her lips, none of which I could answer because I know 2 things about Star Wars:

1. Joseph Campbell talks about it a lot.
2. I forgot the other thing. 

Then C inhaled deeply, thrust her fist into the depths of the bag and pulled up the lone woman in the whole mess.
"Who.  Is.  This."

I could answer that question:
"Princess Leia."

"But she's wearing pants."

"Yes, she is."

"But what is her name?"

"Princess Leia."

"But she's wearing pants."

"Yes, she is."

"Princess Leia?"


We put the giant suitcase aside, except for the Princess that wears the pants.  And because I don't know much about Star Wars, I've given myself free reign to make up our own stories.  Did you know that Princess Leia rides her bike very fast?  And cleans up her toys when she's done playing?  And loves to read stories and color and paint?

And guess who can't wait to put on pants every morning?


  1. OH MY GOSH!!!! Love it. Hooray for Star Wars. Your husband must be so very proud.

  2. and, can i just say, i think you are a great mother. c is very lucky to have you.

  3. I love this story! Who would have imagined that George Lucas did something right? YAY for repurposed mythos!

  4. Came across this because I was Googling the EXACT same problem with my three year old. I've been trying to tell her princess Jasmine (from Aladdin) wears pants but that isn't enough for her. Will have to try Leia. Thanks for the tip!

  5. It's funny because Princess Leia doesn't wear pants, it's more like a long tunic, but it seems that luckily the doll was just made that way.