Before she was born, I had big plans to shield my baby girl from the pressures and dangers of this world. Of course, by “pressures and dangers” I mean Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel and Snow White. I appreciate the feminine side of life, and looked forward to dressing up my little lady in cute clothes, but I wasn’t going to let this barrage of pink and purple ball gowns invade my home and brainwash my daughter.
And my resolve lasted for about 8 months, until she was old enough to sit in the bike trailer. We wanted to go on a family bike ride, so my husband ran to the store to get her an infant bike helmet. He walked in the door with a fuchsia piece of plastic, adorned with those familiar Disney eyes and ridiculous waistlines. He knew my preference, but shrugged and said “This was all they had.”
I relented in the name of safety. (And I had to admit, she looked dang cute. I mean: come on.) Little did I know, it was a sign of things to come. Most little girls need very little encouragement to let their imaginations and creativity take them into the land of princesses. I relaxed my stance as birthday and Christmas gifts started rolling in and my baby turned into a toddler and preschooler who would spend hours dressing up and playing “princess.” It brought her joy, and the real danger seemed to be those little plastic high-heels she toddled around in.
I still can see that, taken to an extreme, the “princess concept” can be damaging to little girls (and grown women.) Training them from a young age that their beauty and a handsome prince will rescue them from trouble and deliver a perfect life is a recipe for heartbreak and low self-worth. I absolutely don’t want my daughter to believe that if you are beautiful and demure enough, eventually a good looking guy will come and rescue you, at which time you will finally be complete. That’s not what I want for my daughter or nieces or friends’ daughters or any girl, anywhere!
I want our girls to find pride in their strength–physical and otherwise–in their abilities, in their humor and cleverness. Maybe they like flowers and babies and pretty dresses, maybe they prefer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and football. I also want them to try new things, jump in puddles wearing their brother’s frog boots, wrestle with their dads, fall off their bikes because they were riding too fast, dig deep holes in the sand and dirt, make funny jokes and solve problems. I want them to be kind to others and stand up for those who do not have a voice.
But I think there’s another aspect of telling your daughter she is a princess. If you do it right, you are conveying a message to her that she IS (already) beautiful. That she IS (right now) important and special…like royalty. That she is valuable and cherished and that you would pay a ransom of a million dollars to get her back if she were ever lost to you. I have a friend whose husband woke his young daughter up in the middle of the night to watch the British royal wedding a few years ago. He strung white Christmas lights from her bedroom all the way to the TV room, where he snuggled with her and they ate tea and scones while watching the wedding happening across the ocean. I don’t know what he said to her, how he described what they were seeing or what makes a princess, but I guarantee she will always remember that with a warmth and a knowledge that her daddy loved her dearly.
It makes me wonder if there is danger in getting caught up in the debate over princess or non-princess, when what we should be focusing on is just LOVING the HECK out of our little girls and pouring into them everything we have to give and teach. As parents, it is our privilege to find our daughters’ passions, and help them pursue it, not decide in advance what WE want and then force them onto the path of our choosing.
My goal is to raise my daughter to trust her gut, to value strength and kindness, to crave knowledge and wisdom, and to expect to be treated with respect and love–whether she’s wearing a Merida dress or froggy boots.