I recently asked my daughter what she wanted for her upcoming fifth birthday. Her response: "princess stuff."
Up until this past year, I had successfully kept the princesses from knocking on our door. We didn't talk about them, see the movies or read the books. We steered her towards gender-neutral characters. We spent a lot of time pretending that the princesses didn't exist. And that worked when she was at home, where we could light up only the parts of the world we wanted her to see. But school is the wild west and kids talk. Within weeks of her first day, she was talking about Cinderella and Rapunzel and it was clear that she'd become smitten with fairy tales. We couldn't pretend any longer.
So this year, I waved the white flag. I opened the door and welcomed the princesses into our home. And here's why:
They bring her joy
Yes, I want my children to be happy. Not the fleeting kind of happiness that comes with cupcakes or new toys; I want them to feel a deep, heart-happiness. I want, for them, the kind of happiness that comes from realizing a passion and indulging that love. Right now, princesses are my girl's passion. Their glitter-dusted lives and their fairytale stories sweep her up in a whirl of excitement. They fill her with joy and I want her to know what that joy feels like. I want her to be so familiar with that joy that she can feel her way back to it when the world goes dark and the burdens grow too heavy. Years from now, when her tiaras have all been packed away, she will still remember what it felt like to dream of magic and fairies. And that memory will bring her joy.
When I stood between my daughter and her princesses, I was sending a pretty bold message: that it doesn't matter what you love, what brings you joy, what you are passionate about. It doesn't matter that you love to dress up and weave wild, magical stories about princesses and princes and fairy tales with sparkles. It doesn't matter because I don't approve. I am her mother, and so my approval does have a place. But I've come to believe that place is not here. I've come to realize that I will have to pick my battles. Sometimes I will have to prioritize my values and morals and what I want for her above all else. But sometimes I will have to yield to her, this little person entrusted to my care, and nurture her feelings, loves, and beliefs.
I get it
Tell me that you didn't dream, even just for a second, about being Kate Middleton on the day she became a princess and I will tell you that your pants are on fire. I understand the princess love. Deep down in the part of me that once was a five-year-old girl gazing at Cinderella gliding across the floor with her prince, I want to be a princess too. I want the long, flowing dresses, the fancy shoes, and the crown. Almost every girl wants, if just for a brief moment in time, to be a princess, to live in a fairytale. I get it.
I can guide her
Yes, there are parts of the princess culture that I don't like. I want to shield my daughter from the obsession with beauty and appearance. I don't want her to believe that she should sit, helplessly waiting for a knight to save her. I don't want her to crave material possessions or idolize spoiled girls with bad attitudes (lookin' at you, Little Mermaid). But none of those things have to be part of my daughter's princess experience. I can guide her towards the princesses that stand up as strong women, of which there are many. I can encourage her to build her own princess stories. While she is young and still likely to talk with me about her dreams and ideas, I can mold the narrative that plays out in her head. And I'll be far more successful if I use what she loves.
I know enough moms of older girls to know that the princesses will only be with us for a short while. They are here, all hot and heavy, for just a few years before they'll be too babyish. She'll move on to something else. And I know enough moms of older girls to know that I'll miss them when they leave. I'll miss the magic they bring, not just to my daughter, but to me as well. The princess years are simple, sweet, and magical. And I want to live in the magic, while it lasts.
How do you feel about princesses? Have you let them in?
Originally published on Raising Humans.