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My Preschooler Is a Tween-in-Waiting

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I don't know what it is about the tween-girl world, but my 4-year-old is drawn like a moth to a flame.

young girl with cellphone

Bethany Sanders: My 4-year-old stood there with a look of awe on her face. Her eyes were wide, she was holding her cheeks with her hands and her jaw hung open. "It's. Just. All. So. Beautiful," she moaned.

You'd think were were standing at the lip of the Grand Canyon or spotting a rainbow after a spring rain. But we weren't. We were standing in the Barbie aisle at Target.

My youngest daughter is the girliest of girly girls, and sometimes I wonder where it comes from.

Earlier this week, she got an "iCarly" cell phone in a Happy Meal. She whips it out and gossips on it with the finesse of a teenager (the battery on my own phone has been dead for a week, so don't look at me). And she's known to go up to her room and play her favorite CD -- a mix that her dad made her for Christmas -- and belt out "The Climb" at the top of her lungs. If you dare sneak up there to watch her, she'll turn red and shut the door in your face.

Have I mentioned that I've never once let her watch either "Hannah Montana" or "iCarly"? She has no idea who these people are! It's like some sort of invisible force that's drawing her in.

I never owned a Barbie doll (horses were my thing) as a kid, and as an adult, my "mom" uniform consists of jeans and T-shirts. I'm far more likely to take my kids on a hike than on a trip to the mall. But though my girls have been raised in pretty much exactly the same manner, my younger one is just drawn to glitz and glam.

Even at 2 and 3, she was the girl who was always in a princess dress. She's known at school for showing up in a tutu to pick up her sister, and I can't count the number of times I've put her to bed in pajamas, only to find her in a tutu the next morning. Her favorite movies are "Tinkerbell" and "Tinkerbell 2," and her library card is maxed out on those terrible Barbie books with the complicated story lines (is my bias showing?).

I'm a big believer in letting kids be who they are, so we embrace this side of our youngest princess. After all, being a girl is a lot of fun and should be celebrated -- as long as it's age appropriate. But the way those older influences -- "iCarly," cell phones and glittery lip gloss, for example -- have a tendency to get a hold on her does cause me concern. She's way too young to be looking toward tween pop culture to define her play.

One of my favorite authors on child-rearing is Ellyn Satter. Though she writes about nutrition and exercise, her general philosophy is adaptable to almost any parenting situation: It's a parent's job to provide a healthy environment; it's a child's job to decide what to do with it.

So I'll continue offering my sugarplum a variety of healthy and appropriate childhood experiences -- anyone know where I can get a Barbie soccer ball? -- in hopes that she'll get a chance to know herself first before letting teen idols tell her who to be. Because even if being a girly girl isn't my thing, hanging out with my kids and giving them room to be themselves definitely is.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Katie March 26, 2010, 7:32 AM

hahaha Actually I DO know where to get a Barbie soccer ball. In the sports aisle. My girly girl princess has one.

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