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December 13, 2012

Life Changes When There's A Princess In The House

When she's not dressing up as a princess, Maggie likes to ride, always demanding "go faster!" and "I want to jump!"

I was warned this would happen. I’ve been invited to a Princess Party.

Well, not me, but my 3-year-old daughter, who needs a driver.

For most of my adult life, my weekends have fallen into one of three categories: compete a horse; go to see a horse for sale or present a horse who is for sale; or do random catch-up farm work like getting in hay, cleaning stall mats, etc. Decorating tiaras? Not so much.

But for the past three years that I’ve had a child, weekends have been more along the lines of, “Oh my God, I survived the week. Remind the dogs that you still know their names, try to catch up on sleep, dig out the floor of the house beneath the many layers of dirty clothes left where they were taken off. Horses? Are they out there? Right, make sure they have water.”

It’s only just now that my daughter is becoming her own little person that she can do things more independently, and I can slowly return to a life with horses who get ridden. I’ve been making up for lost time lately, riding some horses for a friend, so when I got the invite to the Princess Party, I quickly calculated how that might impact, say, a Saturday cross-country school.

But, as it’s been said, to everything there is a season, and for this particular upcoming weekend my plans seemed to be falling along the lines of what the invitation promised:  “Wear your favorite princess (or pirate) outfit! We will decorate tiaras, have a princess dance party, and share cake and refreshments.”

If you had told me four years ago that I would even be sent such a thing, I would have laughed hard. Where do you go to purchase a princess outfit? How, dare say, do they dance, and why am I guessing it’s not to Foo Fighters?

For years I turned down all kinds of possible extracurricular activities: outdoor recreation, social events, vacations. There was always something that had to be done with the horses. I was accused of never doing anything different, just horses, horses, horses. But skip a Princess Party? How could a small child ever recover from that? I had no choice.

In addition to learning where princess outfits are sold, I need to be schooled in just what you bring to these parties. A small gift under $25 was my gut instinct, but my more experienced sister tells me she’s taken her daughter to birthday events where this would be the bottom of the barrel. They’re just kids! But I don’t want to look cheap. How many of them are in her class again, I wonder, multiplying in my head.

If I were to be really looking forward to this party, what would be happening is, I would be packing a few bottles of wine. Then the whole princess thing might look entirely different. We could all be princesses or pirates, or whatever.

When our daughter turned 1, we invited our friends, had an outdoor dinner party and filled up coolers with alcohol. Unable to even walk yet, she could hardly protest and had few friends in her rolodex. After all, it was more a celebration for us, an almost unbelievable “we kept her alive for a year!” self-congratulatory fest. Based on how much remained in the coolers when we cleaned up the next morning, we (and our friends) are no longer as much fun as we used to be.

Not Funny

But a few days after receiving the invitation to the princess party, upon looking more closely at the email for clues to these social nuances, I realized it wasn’t on a weekend. It was on a Tuesday. Meaning my husband, who picks up our daughter from school each day, would have to be the one attending. I got a visual and swallowed a laugh. Someone who would rather be out on the horses or tractor himself, he might need only one princess party to scare him away from chaperoning any future parties, ever again.

But there’s an upside for a father at a princess party. He has, for instance, a certain following at the local playground, where he frequently takes her after school. If he ever thought he had a gender advantage at horse shows, the playground makes that ratio look shabby.

He’s more than once mentioned advice from his little posse of playground mother friends about potty training, healthy lunch options and local kids activities, with the implication that all of these mothers would welcome his company to such outings. I know this behavior designed to elicit jealousy because I spent 13 years living with a Corgi. I don’t rise to the bait.

“Yeah, you should go to the corn maze with Allison and her daughters. That sounds great,” I say, imagining the precious free time it will give me: a long, unhurried ride, perhaps time to ride two horses. No rush in getting back. It’s not the reaction he wants.

Yet here he is, about to have to tackle a princess party. These are the scenarios you just don’t prepare for when dating, or if you’re like me, really at any time in your life. I’d occasionally imagined a bad accident or lame horse ending my ability to compete on a weekend. But a scheduling conflict with a princess party? Never in my wildest dreams.

The sad truth is that princesses are all the rage with our own 3-year-old: books, movies, dolls, clothes, are all about the princess right now. It will pass. We’re not sending her to Toddlers & Tiaras, and every time we read Cinderella I reiterate that it doesn’t matter whether she ends up with the prince or not. She could still make a good life without him.

But all the princess imagining, whatever it is, it makes her so happy that, honestly? I kind of wish I could go to the party too, just to see her delight. The horses were there yesterday, and they’ll still be there tomorrow. Today, it’s just a brief window with a princess in it.

Each Thursday, we'll feature a blog from a member of the Chronicle staff. We're just like you—juggling riding and competing with work and family. Associate Publisher/Executive Editor Beth Rasin balances overseeing the editorial side of the magazine with raising her 3-year-old daughter Maggie and caring for a herd of horses, three dogs and a cat at her farm. 

 

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