Dear Mrs. Concerned About My Parenting,
I just wanted you to know, my daughter is turning out fine.
She’s eight now. Straight A’s in school. Piano lessons, basketball, rides her bike, hangs out with her friends. She’s confident, tender, loves Jesus and Sunday school, alternates between playing nicely with her siblings and fighting with them, and still believes in Santa and that the Elf flies to the North Pole and back every night.
She was four when you had what was not your first conversation with me about the subject of princesses. Disney Princesses to be exact. You were against them. More importantly, your daughter, the perfect parent, was against them and she would never allow her daughter to have anything Disney Princess themed so please don’t buy any for her. Ever. There are so many reasons. Body image, sexuality, reliance on a prince for rescue, commercialism, and little girls being convinced the world should cater to their whim.
At the time, my daughter was in love with Cinderella – and had been from the time she could say her first words. I will go so far as to use the word obsessed. Princess clothes, shoes, dolls, toys, books. It was all princesses. Any time she was asked what she would like for her birthday or what she was saving her money for – princesses. By this point we were all growing weary of princesses. So when you again launched into another monologue on the pitfalls of parents who princess, it made me think.
What if you’re right? How will I know? What are the signs our daughter is growing up princess flawed? Singing and dancing as primary form of communication? Expecting small woodland animals to clean her bedroom? Speaking to her mirror? Do I take her to therapy? Are there psychologists that specialize in Disney?
She happened to be nearby the final time you condemned princesses. Her eyes grew wider and wider and I could read her thoughts – my mom is going to box up my princesses and I will never see them again. But just then, as you began to segue into why a woman in your church doesn’t let her daughter have anything Tinker Bell (again, I plead guilty), my four year old spoke up.
“I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t love princesses,” she said. “God is a King and He’s also our Dad and that makes every girl a princess.”
Well there wasn’t much to add to that argument. Discussion complete.
I’ve waited and watched and worried. Don’t all moms? When my son was four and his sister was away, he asked if he could play with her Barbies. I said yes and began to ponder how to handle gender confusion. A few minutes later I heard him calling, “Help! Help!” in a high pitched Barbie voice as he systematically ran each one over with a Tonka truck. Lovely. I’m apparently raising a sociopath. My youngest daughter is now three. She lives for Jake and the Neverland Pirates. She can turn any object into a sword, continually commands her siblings to walk the plank, and refers to people as “me hearties.” I don’t even blink anymore. Whatever.
A few months ago my eldest told me she thinks she’s getting too old for princesses and can we please redo her room. Hot pink and black. An unfamiliar ache as I forced back tears. I knew this day was coming. I had noticed the dresses and matching hairbows were getting pushed to the back of the closet. I was no longer asked for help getting ready in the morning, since a messy ponytail with a grungy T-shirt and jeans has become the new uniform. Books about how to be a princess (controversial advice like being kind and remembering your manners) have been replaced with Who Was? biographies, the Little House series, and “I Survived…”
A couple weeks ago she packed up some princess toys to give to kids that don’t have many things to play with. She picked out some to hand off to her cousin. She neatly boxed up ones she doesn’t play with but isn’t ready to part with and slid them under her bed. She’s counting down the days till she turns nine, which is when she gets the birthday present of a room renovation.
While she was at school today I looked around her bedroom. She decorated her Christmas tree yesterday and reminded me this will probably be the last time she uses princesses on it. I take in her wall – coloring book pages I colored and framed for her when we were dirt poor hang over photographs of her with each princess at Disney from when we weren’t. Soon it will all be gone. Replaced with garish hot pink and wild zebra stripes. And as we work on the new look, I will recognize that this too is temporary and the pink will one day turn to posters of bands whose music I will hate and school colors and makeup and smelly sports uniforms. And I will ache and fight tears.
While I was writing this, my eldest called me from her dad’s cell phone on her way to piano lessons to tell me that she and her kindergartner brother (the sociopath) both had their names on the announcements for reading the most books in November. She’s excited about a play she has a solo in next Sunday. She can’t wait for Christmas vacation because she wants to sleep in and have some “free time to watch cartoons.” Her Christmas list has nothing princess on it. She’s hoping for a tablet (nope), stuff from Bath and Body (sure), an American Girl doll (maybe) and for her brother never to be mean to her again (wouldn’t count on it).
So thank you for your concern. It was duly noted and fretted over. But you can relax. My daughter is turning out just fine.
A good (enough) mom