If there's one thing that still haunts me about living with my in-laws other than the repeated image of my father-in-law seeing my naked ass is that I feel as though I lost a lot of parental control.
In your own home, you are the master of your domain, and you are able to safe guard and filter what enters and exits your child's brain.
These are the formative years. These are MY years. These are the very few years that I have left as a strong primary influence on my daughter.
She'll get plenty of time to run with her peers in which she will surely be influenced to do stupid things like think Ricky Schroeder is hot stuff and wear too many pairs of matching slouch socks at one time.
But when you live with your in-laws, the evil step-children of mainstream America, you are left to fend for yourself without the ability to filter.
The barbies, the princesses, the pretty pink ponies pleasantly peering past posies.
It's nothing I would ever purchase for her and it's nothing that I find imperative to her development as a young girl.
And yet, thanks mostly to their neverending gifts that a frazzled mother cannot pry from her daughter's hands (or theirs) and throw directly in the trash, she is obsessed.
I had turned my head the other way for most of our time there, because in the long scheme of her life, this will be a very small period in time. But when she told the Mayor that he couldn't wear a princess outfit because he was a boy, and she started drawing all her people laying down because "they're sleeping princesses waiting for their prince to come" I started to take notice.
And now that I live in my own home, I feel my power coming back. The power that says I can raise my children how I want to raise them. No Backyardigans decorations on her wall, no outfits drenched in Dora, and no barbies.
I've purged our house, pawning off many of her character toys (that she doesn't play with anymore) to friends of the family when we moved. And I've directed friends and family who like to buy her gifts to this guide.
But the princesses still live strongly, on our screen, in our magazines, and for our Halloween costumes. I gently steer her to generic princesses, with super magic powers that include finding the cure for cancer and helping others in need.
Unfortunately, it's hard to find images like that.
I do know that in every obsession, is a teaching moment. Where her princess can be a different princess. The princess that eats vegetables. And cleans her room. And shares with her brother. Even if she is still obsessed with every freaking Disney princess movie out there.
And I'll try to remember that in a few years, I'll be the Evil Stepmother all year round -- no costume required. So I had better make the most of these years while I can.