Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Plastic Bag Princess turns five

What's a doll dress without glitter?
ViolaMae and I have had an exceptional year of togetherness, to a degree that we are unlikely ever to repeat. Now, as she turns five (already!?!), I have been thinking about the dramatic changes in her life this year and the wonderful bonding opportunities we've had.

Last September Augie started all-day kindergarten. For the first time in her life, ViMae didn't have her older brother (by 15 months) at her side.

She was lonely for a day or two, and then she began, in a dozen different ways, to blossom. She came to relish our undivided attention. She developed the confidence to choose activities she enjoyed. No longer always interrupting herself to check on her brother, she displayed an impressive attention span.

The Plastic Bag Princess
She and I soon found ourselves spending hours each day doing crafts--drawing, painting, stitching, stickering, making and decorating doll dresses, creating holiday decorations of her unique design, cataloging the shell and rock collection Peter gave her, even writing and illustrating a couple of books. (For the messiest crafts, she wore a big plastic bag as a smock, and I dubbed her the Plastic Bag Princess after a favorite princess-as-hero book, The Paper Bag Princess.)

Among other things we also read, picked flowers in the garden, played DragonVale on the iPad, made up stories, and played dress-up with colorful scarves serving as skirts or veils. 

To top things off, we both began to dance, singly and together. Early last fall we danced programs dreamed up by Vi. A sample directive: "I'll be a rosebud and you be a fairy princess that touches me with her wand and I'll rise up out of the ground and open like a flower."

Shhh...a preview!
Shortly after that she enrolled in a dance class; I've been taking her there every Tuesday morning and helping her practice between classes. That's how I learned about the tap class I began in January. Now we are dancing together in a parent-child class preparing a production number for the recital, which is this week. I'll have more to say, but I want to note that she is giving me a huge gift by dancing with her grandma! I hope that in turn I'm helping her develop a long-term interest in dance.

 As Vi's personality has emerged this year, it is clear that she is very creative in ways that draw upon not coloring within the lines, literally or figuratively.

Coloring outside the lines
She has blossomed as a natural spinner of stories, mixing real-world settings with fanciful ones. She can pick up any little thing and make it the protagonist of a lengthy narrative, or the centerpiece of a craft construction.

She loves pink, princesses, fairies, dragons, flowers, ballet, gymnastics, swimming, shells, rocks, and dresses with twirly skirts. Wherever we go, she tends to wear a fancy dress with casual leggings or pants beneath, to protect her knees in case she climbs a tree or hangs upside-down on playground equipment. On the other hand, she might decide to show up in her dragon costume. And all winter she loved walking into preschool wearing her jacket backwards, with the hood up, holding my hand for navigation.

In princess dress in Pa's workroom
She still loves to be with her brother, and we see that every morning while they are both here for breakfast. But when he isn't around she is quite happy to spend time with Peter and me, and sometimes to play by herself. She makes friends wherever she goes. At a playground or a library story hour she gravitates to other children and melds effortlessly into the group, sometimes becoming the group's new leader. We hear her organizing their games and we never see signs of resistance or resentment. Watching her show some children how to use a big sculptural toy at the library last week, Peter said, "She's going to be a teacher."

Whatever she turns out to be, she will follow her own heart, win people over with her charm, and approach each situation without a lot of pre-set boundaries and limitations. It has been such a joy to spend time with her this year and get to discover her strengths, even as she herself discovers and flexes them.

And oh, by the way, Happy Birthday, sweet ViolaMae. I love you very, very much!


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