One evening last week, my daughter came home from daycare, had her milk and went to put on a skirt that my mom made her. After slipping it on over her head, she plopped down onto the bed and stated with a bright smile…
“I’m a princess.”
I saw red.
No, her skirt was not red. Nor anything else in the room.
I was red inside – completely fuming.
I turned to my husband and said, “We need to get her out of daycare now.”
A bit of an extreme reaction?
But I did not want to raise a princess lover.
I know that kids choose their own path, and I am a believer in that, but honestly and naively, I never thought that MY daughter would ever take the princess path. I really should know better because my sweet nieces, daughters of a non-princess anything mom, love their Disney princesses.
So, very calmly, I asked my daughter, “Oh, really? What is a princess?”
I’m pretty sure she said “I don’t know.”
But honestly, I can’t say.
I wasn’t even listening to her.
Instead, I was drafting the email in my head to her daycare teachers about how I did not want to perpetuate gender stereotypes.
I was scorning Disney and pink and all things frilly and frail.
I was trying to figure out which of her classmates might have possibly put the princess idea in her head.
Since last week, my daughter has said she’s a princess several more times. Each time added more salt to the wound and put me a step closer to drafting that letter to her daycare teachers.
It has been eating away at me, and when I read this article this morning on the clear designation of girl and boy toys, I had enough.
I posted it to my Super Mom Village Facebook group and vented a bit. It sparked an amazing conversation, and I got some really thoughtful responses. But they were not at all what I expected.
My fellow moms did not rally with me and lambaste Disney and princesses. Instead, they essentially questioned my fundamental reasoning and said maybe a little “self reflection” needs to be done.
“Who me? Self reflection? There is nothing wrong with my view on princesses.”
Or so I thought…
As I relived that moment after milk on the bed and the subsequent times she has said “I’m a princess,” I got a queasy feeling in my stomach and a lump in my throat. Every time. Both reactions are signs that something is amiss.
After I walking around in denial all day and trying to rationalize my way out of it, I have come to the realization…
“Crap. I have princess issues.”
The reason I don’t want my daughter to be a princess is due to my own beliefs, limitations and experiences.
What beliefs you ask? The real question is which one? Where do I even start?
I never grew up with princess movies, toys or even pretend play. I played sports, X-men, and Encyclopedia Brown with my brother and guy cousins. That being said, you’d think I would have a neutral view on princesses. To the contrary, I feel my identity tied so much to not being a princess and not having those memories that if my daughter becomes one, I fear I won’t be able to identify and relate with her.
I see princesses as heavily associated with fairy tales, which is not exactly how my life has unfolded. I have always held a deep belief that my daughter should “earn her stripes.” Not in a cruel way like subjecting her to age-inappropriate situations, but to be knowledgeable about the world beyond first world problems, understand that not everything is a fairy tale and that she is the creator of her future. To me, having princess fantasies would make her less in touch with the greater issues of the world. But as I write this, I realize I sound cruel and heartless – more like the evil stepmother in the stories than a loving mother.
I think of princesses as weak and kind of useless. One of the Super Moms said, “Can I ask what’s so wrong about wanting to be a princess? Princess Di was pretty badass.” My friend had a good point. If my daughter was a princess, she’d be a pretty bad ass one, and she definitely wouldn’t wait to be saved by her prince but would bulldoze her way out of a sticky situation! I should have faith in her abilities beyond her belief that she is a princess.
I see princesses as frivolous. With ridiculous fairy tale problems like finding her prince, or falling under a spell and waiting to be saved, or spending all of her time at balls and talking to animals. Basically, not contributing to society. I can’t have a daughter who doesn’t see how ridiculous those issues are! I want her to save the turtles and whales and solve global warming! But these things are all beyond my control. (I’ll have to write about control issues another time!)
I see being a princess in direct opposition to the values I want to teach her.
Those include independence, empathy, self confidence, understanding world issues, and serving a greater purpose.
In a nutshell, I fear what princesses represent. However, this is an unfounded fear. I have demonized princesses and fairy tales in my head. Seen them as the sole reason that little girls become weak women. I have projected my beliefs and insecurities onto how I want to raise my daughter.
But what mom isn’t guilty of that? What can we do but provide experiences and share our principles and philosophies to help mold the future of this world?
But where do my beliefs end and hers start?
I know I want her to be her own person. For her to do her own thing, to create her own memories and experience even more than I do. I know I want her to take charge and simply to kick ass . But I have been under the misconception that the only way to do that is for her to take the path that I took. After all, how can I be a great mother when I can’t directly relate to her experience?
It seems I’ve got a bit of self work to do in this area.
As she gets older and I continue my self development, I’m realizing that raising a daughter is going to be where a lot of my self work happens. And I am simultaneous excited but scared to unearth these inner demons. I know that working on myself directly impacts my mothering and my daughter. It’s a journey that can only benefit the both of us.
So what beliefs do I need to breakdown?
In this instance, I need to think outside of my princess stereotypes. (Conjure images of Princess Di.) I need to let go of trying to control all of her situations. (But I still may send a note to daycare.) I need to believe that growing up differently than the way I did is okay. (Take a look at all of my amazing friends who are strong women and know that every single person took a different path.) I need to trust that I can be a great mother even if I can’t directly relate to her challenges. (I’m resourceful, I have many experiences that I can pull from my tool bag to help her and if I can’t, it’s okay!)
One of the brilliant Super Moms said, “Have faith in the foundations that you set for her. Ultimately she will end up being herself, regardless of whether you approve or not.”
She is absolutely right. The best I can do is share my principles and have faith. My daughter will choose what she wants.
Who am I to decide for her?