Monday, November 1, 2010

Raising a {sensitive} Princess

I had one of those special moments as a mother last Saturday afternoon. It was a magical afternoon with several moments that made me smile but one that made my heart stop, and fill with warmth and overflow with love and a sense of pride.

Saturday afternoon was a very special "Princess Party" to celebrate the 5th birthday of one of Taylor's best friends. So, in honor of this we dressed her in a very pretty princess dress, and attended a tea party.

Watching these 4 and 5yr old girls, led by the birthday girl's very mature and kind 12 yr old big sister, was definitely a special way to spend an afternoon.

The birthday girl is outspoken when she's in a comfortable space, but in times of uncertainty, she's easily brought to tears. She becomes timid and burrows herself into the shoulder of a comforting adult. I have witnessed several of these incidents in the 2 yrs that I've known her. She takes extra time to warm up to her classmates at preschool, and is often consoled by her teachers after her mom has said her goodbyes in the morning. I've seen this same girl cheerfully greet me at the end of the day, eager to share how she spent the day playing with my daughter. She's eager to lead me to her important papers that need to be taken home, and will often hand me Taylor's lunchbag. Her name is affectionately spoken by Taylor in our home on a daily basis.

So, I'm giving you this background so you have a glimpse of just how sensitive and emotional this birthday girl is. So, while a little girl's 5th birthday party ideally should be spent squealing with delight, this birthday girl shed lots of tears. She was overwhelmed by all her princess friends and at times found it challenging to hold conversation or engage in simple hospitality. She burst into tears immediately when she was greeted by a real Sleeping Beauty who joined the party (invited by the birthday girl's mom) to entertain the girls with magic and fairy tales.

And, when it came time to open the beautifully wrapped presents, she again, suddenly burst into tears, as it was all just too overwhelming.

It was in this moment that my heart sank. I sat and watched this little girl cry, so vulnerable to her emotions. Within a few inches of her, sat my 4 1/2 yr old Taylor. I watched Taylor closely and her face went from confusion, to sadness as she watched her friend's tearful explosion. For a second, the expression on Taylor's face made me think she was going to cry. My instinct was to comfort her, but she was in the center of the circle, and I didn't want to add to the scene or draw more attention to her.

There was a certain amount of irony in the situation because when you're 5 yrs old, your birthday is supposed to be one of the best days of the year. This little princess was surrounded by her best friends, her family and, of course, an enormous pile of presents. Yet, here she sat, with big alligator tears streaming down her face. The irony of the situation prompted much laughter from most of the guests.

But, as I stood silently, watching the emotions on my girl's face, I realized, amidst all of this commotion, 2 little girls were sitting behind Taylor and they were laughing at the birthday girl. Laughing at her tears and her raw emotion. Suddenly, Taylor turned around, looked at those girls and very loudly and very assertively said, "Stop laughing, you guys!".

It was in that moment that my heart overflowed with pride! My precious little princess intuitively knew that she needed to defend her friend who was in tears. She's such a sensitive yet assertive little person. I know she was born with this incredible spirit and it's my job to help nurture it. There are many, many, many days when her assertiveness is overwhelming to me and I am challenged in teaching her that she does NOT rule the house and her bossy behavior will not be tolerated. But, then, there are moments like this moment, in which I am so incredibly proud of her ability to stand up for herself and her friends. Moments like this when her true kind and caring spirit shows through and she shows that she's both assertive and sensitive.

I love my little princess and I hope she never loses her assertiveness and sensitivity.