Halloween has come and gone. At this point parents are nibbling away at buckets of miniature candy bars and costumes have been relegated to the toy bin or thrown away entirely. America is moving from one holiday to another as we throw away jack-o-lanterns and prepare to make pumpkin pies.
Except for me. I’m still a bit stuck in October 31st.
Last year my children dressed up as a Batman and a prisoner. While I admit to selecting the second costume, the former was chosen by my daughter with a great deal of enthusiasm. Big One want to be Batman more than anything else. I stood by her side, my chin held high, proud of my parenting success as represented by my daughter’s geek-love and gender neutralization.
This year, however, things changed. Little One wanted to be Tinker Bell. Big One wanted to be Rapunzel (via Tangled) [SPOILER] after she cuts her hair. Not a problem. I am a modern father and support my kids no matter what they want to do. If my daughters want to act like girls I will support them, I guess.
At around six in the evening on Halloween evening, my wife, kids, their godparents, and I, went trick-or-treating. We spent almost two hours circling our neighborhood and going from house to house, collecting far too much candy. The streets were full of other families, all dressed up and in good spirits. With every group we passed Big One would say, “I’m a princess.” Sometimes conversation occurred, other times there were only nods, and we all went about our night.
At one point Big One and I passed by a young girl wearing the same Batgirl costume (though my child calls it Batman) Big One had worn the year before. The two girls began to talk a bit. Princess Rapunzel told “Batman” that she had been Batman the year before. Batman politely complimented Rapunzel’s princess outfit. Then Rapunzel, my sweet, darling Rapunzel, said something that broke my heart:
“Yeah, I don’t like Batman anymore because I’m a princess and princesses don’t read comics.”
What. The. Hell.
I shook it off and waited until the next day to ask Big One about it. At some time in the afternoon I went to the play room, got out the action figures, and sat down next to her on the floor.
“So, you don’t like these anymore, eh?”
“I’m a girl.”
“Girls are beautiful, Daddy. Not Batman.”
“That’s not always true. And sometimes they are the same thing.”
She thought about this for a moment before saying, “But I want to be a princess.”
I kissed the top of her head and set the action figures to the side. “Then be a princess. Princesses are awesome and you are a beautiful princess–the most beautiful princess I have ever seen.”
“Daddy, no more Batman, okay?”
I moved to the toy chest and tucked the action figures away. “I’ll tell you what-”
“I’m going to put Batman and his friends in the toy chest. They’ll wait there until you want to play with them again. You don’t ever need to play with them again, but if you want to, they’ll be there. You should be a princess for as long as you want. You can be anything you want–a princess, a superhero, or a doctor (both girls enjoy Doc McStuffins)–anything.”
“Right now I’m a princess.”
“Yes, you are. And I love you.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
I stood and moved to the living room, leaving the girls to play in their dresses.
Later that day Little One brought me the action figures and asked me to play with her. We did. It was awesome. Big One, however, remained uninterested.
Even further into the day, when I was putting the action figures away, I caught Big One playing with a Wonder Woman action figure. When she saw me see her she hid Wonder Woman away and pretended to be reading a book. She was still wearing a purple play dress.
“You look beautiful in your dress.”
“Thanks, Daddy. I know.”
I put the action figures I was holding away and made my way out of the room. I paused in the doorway an turned back to my eldest child, watching her for a moment. I hadn’t been lying. She really does make a breathtaking princess.
“I like you as a princess.”
“You know who else was a princess?’
“Wonder Woman.” And with that I left the room.
Later that night I checked the toy box, Wonder Woman was still missing.
I wrote a book about my fatherhood experiences. It’s available now on Amazon. If you’re interested, click the cover: