My daughter tottered into the living room. Her red Snow White high heels clicked and clacked on the tiled floor. Her lipstick had been dragged across her face with all the finesse of Heath Ledger’s Joker and her knickers were caught in the back of her frilly dress.
“Daddy,” she declared. “I’m going to be a princess.”
With the red high heels, the ill-judged lipstick and scruffy dress, many professions leapt to mind, but princess wasn’t one of them.
“I will be a princess when I grow up,” she emphasised. “And we will get married, Daddy, just like when you married Mummy.”
Her thinking was obviously flawed, unless we planned on moving to the southern states of America.
“So I’ll be a prince then,” I enquired.
“No, Daddy. You will be the king. Daddies cannot be princes.”
She is at that age where she is discovering her own abilities and aspirations. She is also at that age where I occasionally want to hit her with a pillow. (She’s at a great age for pillow fights.)
Every child’s age is special, but the kindergarten years are proving to be truly wonderful for this first-time father. We are sharing a voyage of discovery together, both hands on the wheel, me in my shorts and slippers, her in the red plastic high heels and dodgy lipstick.
Like hypnotic raindrops on a windowpane, I can see and join the dots in her inquisitive young mind. She discovers the concept of royalty and princesses in storybooks, defines her abilities, ascertains her aptitude for life as a royal, heads for the dressing up box, aspires for the real thing, spots a photo of a half-naked Prince Harry in the newspapers and gets in touch with Buckingham Palace.
Of course I made up the last bit. Not in a million years would Prince Harry ever be good enough for my daughter.
But this is a glorious time for both father and daughter. It is more than mere discovery. It is the age of aspiration. She is moving away from “this character is a princess” to “I want to be a princess, what does it take to be a princess, I can BE a princess.”
She is presented only with opportunity. There are no obstacles. She is limited only by imagination. Can is not yet replaced by cannot. If she aspires to become a princess, she will. Her thinking is not muddied or muddled by cynicism or realism. Her royal role is just a pair of plastic high heels away.
Each day holds a new discovery. Each day offers a new aspiration. Each day is a step closer to the end of innocence.
Until then, I’ll be happily stuck with a full-time princess, relief teacher and part-time ballet dancer for a daughter.
She knows that her mother is a teacher. In fact mother and daughter attend the same school. So she has deduced that if she marries Daddy, trains to become a teacher and works with Mummy then we can all live together forever in the same house like hillbillies in those terrifying reality TV shows.
So she takes her teacher training most seriously. Lesson plans and teaching materials are prepared before she conducts classes in her bedroom. She only has two students at the moment – Mummy and Daddy – and Daddy constantly gets sent to the corner to “think about his behaviour” after checking emails in class.
“You can’t send me to the corner,” I protest. “I must send an email to my publisher about my book.”
“Not in my class you can’t.”
And she raises a finger towards the classroom corner and off I go, chin tucked sheepishly into the chest. Sometimes she even confiscates the phone. She’s tough. It’s no Dead Poet’s Society in there.
When we are eventually dismissed from class, the pink tights come out, the tutu’s pulled up and we’re told to assume first position.
She also aspires to be a ballet dancer. So she will be a ballet dancer. Her career choice is not up for debate. That’s the beauty of her age of innocence.
Her father suspects she will probably not make a prima ballerina as she has so far displayed all the balance of an elephant on a beach ball. That’s the ugly side of my age of scepticism.
But Daddy is not about to burst bubbles any time soon. If she aspires to be a princess, a teacher, a ballet dancer, a butcher, a baker or even the candlestick maker, I will be on hand with the wax.
These are the days that her aspirations are made of. I’m happy to go along for the ride. I never want it to end.
But I am fed up with being sent to the classroom corner.
About the Author: Neil Humphreys is one of Singapore’s best-selling authors. His works include Notes from an Even Smaller Island (2001), Scribbles from the Same Island (2003), and Final Notes from a Great Island: A Farewell Tour of Singapore(2006). Be My Baby (2008) chronicled his journey to parenthood and was his first international best-seller. His latest Singapore book, Return to a Sexy Island, is a No.1 national best-seller. Humphreys has written extensively for The Straits Times, TODAY, The New Paper, Men’s Health and Young Parents in Singapore. He currently lives in Bedok with his family and hopes his daughter will learn conversational Mandarin so she can teach her Dad.
First published in 02-10-2012.