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Sugar and spice can turn into an exercise in spunk

January 14, 2014

By Lynda Hollenbeck

Remember the old nursery rhyme about little girls? "Sugar and spice and everything nice ... "
We've had a lot of attention on little girls in the newsroom lately with the arrival of Josh Briggs' and wife Christa's new daughter. We got daily bulletins on Brynlee long before her birth and they have continued since that historic day.
It's been fun because as a mother of a little girl (though she's all grown up now) who has three girls of her own (plus one lone boy) — and as a former little girl myself — I know quite a bit about the species.
No one has to tell me why the songwriter penned the thought "Thank heaven for little girls" because they are indeed fascinating creatures. My three granddaughters (as well as my grandsons) have provided lots of material that has appeared in this space through the years.
One of the traits I find most intriguing about female children is their independent streak.
I remember a time when I was babysitting with my daughter's third daughter along with her baby brother. I was sitting on the couch giving a bottle to Max when Molly decided it was time to "change" one of her own babies.
After gathering all the proper equipment — at breakneck speed, the only speed by which she maneuvered — she got started. She flung the doll down onto the floor, grabbed a baby wipe and went through the appropriate steps for cleaning a baby's bottom.
Next she picked up the baby powder, gave the babe an adequate shot of it, then picked up a diaper and slapped it onto the doll's posterior.
None of this was performed with any degree of gentleness, but Molly handled all the necessary steps without a hitch. It was a Candid Camera or America's Funniest Videos moment if ever I saw one.
Shortly after that incident I observed another demonstration in feminine independence at an area restaurant.
The "star" in this case (unknown to me) happened to be a little girl about 3. Blond, blue-eyed and fair, she was dressed to the nines in a navy and white ensemble that probably had been her Easter finery.
The outfit included a sleeveless dress and jacket. While eating lunch, her mother or grandmother (both were with her) had wisely removed her jacket. Ketchup, burgers and fries on navy blue and white Sunday best don't make for the happiest of mixes.
When lunch was done and it was time to leave, Little Blondie decided to put on her jacket and declined assistance from Mamma or Grandmamma. What followed was a lesson in feminine tenacity if ever I should see one. This was the kind of stuff that would have put a big smile on the face of the late Alan Funt.
Little girl put one arm into a jacket sleeve. No problem.
Then she tackled Sleeve No. 2. Another story here.
She tried once and failed. Undeterred, she tried again, but trouble was knocking at her door.
Then in an effort to hit the mark, she turned her whole body around. Not once, not twice, but several times.
I was entranced.
By this time, she got her arm into the sleeve, but she had twisted the jacket and the sleeve had turned upside down.
The older woman got up to straighten out the twisted sleeve, but the child would have none of it. This was her coat and her arm and the twain was going to meet only by her doing or not at all.
Still smiling, she took the jacket all the way off and started all over again.
Once again, the first sleeve connected without any difficulty, but there was still that other troublesome one. She tried to match arm to sleeve and just couldn't do it.
And again she began twirling. If she had been wearing toe shoes, she could have been mistaken for a ballerina. Someone else at her table offered to help, but the blond doll refused. She was determined to do it "all by myself."
Finally, after going through some of the strangest contortions I've ever seen, she met with success. A million-dollar smile then lit up her face.
Most of the little boys I've been acquainted with wouldn't have given a flying fig whether the jacket was on or off and surely wouldn't have spent that much time trying to get it on unaided. And diapering a doll step by step? Forget it.
By way of contrast, I remember that my older son refused to learn to tie his shoes. This was the situation when it was time for him to start to school and I was mortified that I would be sending him off without the ability to do this for himself. All powers of persuasion I had tried were to no avail.
When all else fails, I have been known to resort to threats. Any self-respecting mother will understand.
We were getting ready to go somewhere and I told the stubborn boy that I was leaving him behind if he didn't tie his own shoes. With those words out of my mouth, I picked up my pocketbook, took the two other children by the hand and marched toward the door.
Stubborn boy No. 1 immediately sat down on the floor, tied his shoes as if he had been doing so every day and beat the rest of us to the car.
If nothing else gets it, I recommend a healthy dose of fear. It'll work nearly every time.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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