All Princesses, All the Time

My girls, en route to Kensington Palace

My girls, en route to Kensington Palace

Princesses are a big theme in our house these days. The girls are obsessed with “Sofia the First.” Every morning, they come up with princess nicknames for themselves—nicknames that Powerwoman and I are supposed to honor until we hear otherwise.

Of course L and R each also have (far too many) princess dresses, which they wear with pride.

There are days when the princess theme is so prevalent in our house that I think the children truly see themselves as royalty. What this means to them, however, is something we grown-ups still are trying to divine.

Clearly it means something. During our time in London, L requested special trips into Kensington Gardens so we could gaze upon Kensington Palace. The way she spoke of these trips, it seemed she was convinced we were going to run into Duchess Kate Middleton, strike up a conversation with her and get invited in for tea. (In case you’re wondering, no, oddly enough, this never happened.)

I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t spent time wondering what our daughters would do if they ever actually had the chance to be princess. These waking fantasies have increased in anticipation of the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

In the film, P&S take a most excellent, Bill and Ted-like adventure and travel through time with the help of a device called a WABAC (pronounced “way-back”) machine. DreamWorks is partnering with one of my clients, Expedia, on a promo for (and giveaway in conjunction with) the film; as part of that, I and my ExpediaViewfinder team members have gone from travel bloggers to time-travel bloggers until the movie debuts March 7.

Some of my colleagues have written on the blog about using a WABAC to travel to Paris in the 1920s, Egypt in the 1950s and Klondike Alaska in the heart of the Gold Rush. My post, about transporting back to 1850s Lahaina (on Maui), is here.

In the meantime, I’ve got another time-travel daydream: Because of my girls, I’d take the family back to Medieval times, to the era of princesses.

Back then (we’re talking the 1200s, people), just about every daughter of a high-ranking noble was considered a princess. They practically lived in fancy dresses. They had tea. They lived the high life. And they lived privileged lives at court—dancing and laughing and doing all the stuff my girls (likely) think princesses do.

Upon returning to this era, I’d hope to find a princess who would be willing to take L and R under her royal wing and teach them how to dance the carol, survive a formal dinner and treat others with dignity and respect.

Of course I’d also hope to connect my girls with a princess who had lots of dresses with lots of tulle (preferably in their sizes).

Heck, it’d be swell to find a princess willing to share her chambermaid and give my kids a makeover.

I know, the chauvinistic and misogynistic Middle Ages were no place for a modern girl. And I’ve done enough research on the subject to understand that most of these princesses were horribly unhappy—with their fathers, with their husbands (or their betrothed), and with their lives. But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t use the WABAC to transform my kids into Medieval princesses forever; I’d just want them to experience a taste of princess-hood. For a finite period of time.

I’d hope that like Peabody & Sherman (or Bill and Ted, for that matter), my kids would return from their time-travel extravaganza with one-of-a-kind insight and knowledge into the past, and a renewed appreciation for the present.

After all, if they’re going to be this into princesses for the next few years, we might as well put them in a position to base their passions on fact.

If you had a WABAC machine, where would you visit, and what time period would you visit there?

What’s in a Name?

Didi Dragonfly Weath-Weath, running like a maniac.

Didi Dragonfly Weath-Weath, running like a maniac.

We’ve been taking a lot of road trips lately, and L and R have come up with a fun new game for the occasions.

The premise of this exercise is simple: The morning of a big drive, we each pick new identities to assume for the duration of our trip. From that point forward—at least until we reach our destination—we must refer to each other by these assumed names and personas.

Not surprisingly, because our girls are, well, girls, most of the alter egos revolve around princesses.

This weekend, for instance, on a drive from our home north of San Francisco to see friends who live south of the city, L declared she was “Princess Tulip,” while R assumed the name, “Didi Dragonfly Weath-Weath.” On a separate road trip, to see a fish hatchery nearby, L was “Princess Sunny” and R was “Princess Boomer.”

(In case you’re wondering, for both instances Powerwoman was “Princess Ladybug” and I was “Balaenoptera Dadificus,” or “B.D.,” for short.)

Generally speaking, the name game is a great exercise in creatively passing time.

For starters, it inspires the girls to draw pictures of who they’ve just become—these art sessions usually take place at the breakfast table, while Powerwoman and I furiously dash around to pack up snacks and load the car.

En route, the game also is a great conversation starter; we encourage both girls to tell us stories about their characters. (Often, they tell the stories simultaneously. Go figure.)

Still, the exercise has its drawbacks.

L is incredibly serious about all of us calling each other by the assumed names, and forgetting to do so can really piss her off. What’s more, even though I’m the only male human in the family, apparently I’m not allowed to pick a “Prince” name because there’s only one prince in the family, and that’s our cat (the girls call him, “Prince Coomer”).

These negatives are minuscule. The Name Game is a great (kid-driven) activity for road trips, and I recommend it without reservation. And if you’re worried about forgetting the names in your family (or if your family is bigger than ours), there’s always the option of name tags.

What are some of your favorite ways to pass time on a family road trip?

Making Up for Lost Time

Back in action here in California.

Back in action here in California.

Eating Fro-Yo at our neighborhood sweet shoppe. Climbing rocks at the playground with the fossilized ammonites. Listening to the wind chimes on our back patio. Winding up the butterfly music box.

These are just some of the activities our daughters talked about when they longed for home during the four months we spent in London.

They also happened to be some of the first things we went and did upon our return.

We’ve been home more than six weeks now, and the must-do’s are still flowing freely. Every morning, L insists on donning one of the princess dresses she had left at home, just because she “missed them.” Every afternoon, R likes to do the same with those of her bead necklaces that didn’t make the trip.

On one level, these rituals are as much part of the re-acclimatization process as they are touchstones; by reconnecting with the stuff they loved most before we left, the girls are getting more and more accustomed to the notion of being home.

On another level, L and R simply are rediscovering their stuff, a process that is, at the same time, comforting and fun.

(R, upon “finding” a stuffed Pooh in her room last week, exclaimed, “I got Pooh!”)

If you think about it, we grownups engage in some of the same behaviors. The entire time we spent in London, I (literally) dreamed about coming home and eating a giant burrito; when we finally got back to our home in Northern Sonoma County, that’s exactly what I did. Powerwoman had her fantasies, too; four months of anticipation made a massage from her local masseuse even more relaxing.

The lessons here are to give in to these very natural longings, to let our kids miss their stuff.

You’ve heard the (British) phrase, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” right? Well IMHO, the best ways for us parents to help kids return to “normal” after a family trip are to encourage them to miss their stuff back home and indulge them with the chances to make up for lost time.

If we’re doing things right, effects of the process will be twofold: relief in the short-term, followed by a renewed desire to get away again down the road.

What do you look forward to doing or eating upon returning from a long trip?

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