I stumbled upon two articles this week that targeted (of all things) princesses. And by stumbled upon, I mean “saw them plastered multiple times across my Facebook feed.”
It didn’t help that one particular article lavished praise upon an all-girls Catholic high school in my own neck of the woods. So, pretty much everyone I know in town shared the news about their “revolutionary” advertising campaign with slogans like “life is not a fairytale” and “don’t wait for your prince” and “be able to rescue yourself” and “you’re not a princess.”
And while I feel the need to disclose that I went to a different (somewhat rival) all-girls Catholic school in the same town, it truly has nothing to do with my feelings for my own alma mater. If it had been my school, I’d feel the exact same way.
The other article was a blog post that took several Disney movies (mostly princess/fairy tales) and ripped them apart one ”stereotypical and static” character at a time.
Both posts rubbed me the wrong way. And I had a really hard time putting my finger on why, at first.
Then again, I let my daughter dress up as and pretend to be various princesses. We watch the Disney movies, especially the princess ones. She’s fascinated by them and I have no problems with that.
In our house, “princess” is not a four-letter word.
I’m not concerned one bit that watching fairy tales or pretending to be princesses is going to make her grow up to be an entitled, dependent, selfish, stupid, silly little damsel in distress, in constant need of rescue.
Seeing the bare midriff of a cartoon character is not going to cause her to dress that way when she’s a tween.
She’s no more likely to grow up still believing in fairy tales than my sons still believing in superheros.
And, there’s nothing wrong with make-believe, so long as there’s some actual parenting alongside it.
My daughter may dress up like a princess, but she’s still required to do chores. She’s expected to do her best. She’s learning obedience and respect. She’s learning manners, to do the right thing, to tell the truth, admit when she’s wrong, and apologize.
As a member of our family, she’s learning the importance of teamwork, how to get along with others, how to adapt and adjust when things don’t go her way, and how to be helpful.
She’s learning that there are consequences for her actions.
There are no gender barriers in our home. My daughter doesn’t get let “off the hook” because she’s a girl. She’s expected to play and get dirty and to do things whether or not society deems them for “boys.” And at the same time, she’s allowed to express her innate ability to mother and nurture by playing with dolls, playing kitchen, pretending to clean, and even taking care of her own baby brother. She’s allowed to be feminine, too. Because femininity is a beautiful thing.
I fully expect my daughter (and sons) to leave our home knowing how to properly hang a picture on the wall, cut the grass, change the oil in the car, and do the dishes and laundry. They will be able to bake a pie from scratch and bait a hook and lots of tasks in between.
There’s no self-entitlement in our home because my husband and I aren’t afraid to be parents. We aren’t afraid to say no. We’re not afraid to let them be disappointed. We have high expectations and strict rules.
Furthermore, she’s learning there is a one, true God who created her for a unique and specific purpose. He made her body perfect as it is. He gave her specific talents, a spirited personality, and a mind of her own in order to navigate this crazy, mixed up world. It’s her job to discover her own purpose as she grows- be it an executive, a mother, or some combination in between.
When it comes to girls growing up unable to take care of themselves, the “princess phenomena” is less to blame than helicopter parents who bend over backwards and do everything for their children.
When it comes to girls growing up too fast, dressing scantily clad, and being obsessed about their size and shape, Miley Cyrus is more of a threat than Princess Aurora.
When it comes to her future, I pray that we will have given her the skills and confidence to take care of herself. And yet, I pray that she’s not so independent that her heart is closed off to a man she can share her life with. Even though she won’t need it, sometimes it’s nice to be taken care of.
I’m hopeful that through our example, she’ll come to understand that true love is not the stuff of fairy tales, but the every day, ordinary love that stems from a life of giving and self-sacrifice.
It is our job as parents to be on the front lines teaching our children, guiding them, leading them, taking care of them, and (as the ad says) preparing them for real life. It is up to us to provide them with a moral compass, instill in them strength of character, and model respectful, mutual, sacrificial love.
But, it’s also important to cherish their innocence, encourage their imaginations, and let them partake in the enchantment and magic that make up a childhood. There’s a fine line between pretending to be a princess and becoming spoiled and selfish, between believing in fairy tales and refusing to grow up, between praying for a good man and waiting for someone who doesn’t exist.
In a society that is constantly looking for someone or something to blame, Disney princesses and fairy tales have become the latest target. In reality, though, it’s the parents that can make or break who their little princesses become.
And I guess that’s what rubbed me the wrong way about both articles. They both wrongly assumed that my daughter has a one way ticket to fantasyland because she loves all things princess at age 2 and a half. And because watching all those fairy tales will have taught her nothing about real life, she’ll need a school to set her straight.
But, I’m not buying it. If my daughter becomes a selfish, helpless, dependent, damsel in distress with no clue about the real world, I assure you, Cinderella is not to blame.
Life happens when we take responsibility for our children.