Saturday, January 26, 2013
A Cinderella Story
There have been lots of discussion lately about how the princess culture is ruining our daughters and I have to say, I think it is a bunch of malarkey. Don't get me wrong, I want my daughters to be successful, hard working, whatevers and I don't think that dressing up like Belle for twenty minutes out of the day is going to have a lasting effect on their psyche. Princesses are a fantasy and dressing up is fun. Look at Halloween...it's basically a big dress up party. People get to be whatever they want to be and it's no different for kids. Kids are brutally honest and will pretty much dictate to you what they want to play; well, at least my girls do.
I have read about guys who have tried to keep the goods away from their girls and have tried to avoid princess culture as much as possible. I say to that, let it go, players gotta play and little girls gotta play princesses. Let's face reality, if your kids go to school there is no way around it. Princesses are everywhere; they are on backpacks, lunch boxes, purses, and even underwear. I guess that my love for princesses can go as far back as potty training my daughter. She LOVES princesses so any motivation that revolved around that was going to get her attention. Belle, Cinderella, and Aurora helped to put butts in the seats and my daughter was psyched about getting a sticker for #1 and two stickers for #2. I even promised princess underwear when she mastered the potty, which she promptly showed to anyone who would pay attention to her dropping trou to show them off.
Kids talk, a lot, and mainly about things that interest them and princesses are high on my girls' lists. If they want to, they are going to find out all their names, what movies they are in, and what their special talents are whether you want them to or not. The more you resist the princesses, the more they are going to want them. I am not the only blogger out there that is not against princesses, in fact a great mom blogger, Mom101 recently recounts her experience with princess culture at Disney, the mecca of princesses everywhere. There was a great discussion today called "A Princess Problem" on HuffPost Live today with two stay at home dads who argued both sides of the debate.
As a stay at home dad of two girls I have realized that there is just something deep down in a female's DNA that makes them like certain stuff. When it comes to nature versus nurture, you can bet that I was not the one saying "Hey let's all dress up in sparkly costumes and pretend we are having a tea party!" My girls always want to play beauty shop but again, I have no hair. I'm bald, so it is not like they learned it from me. In my opinion, princesses will always be around and I for one am glad that they are because it gives me an opportunity to play something with my daughters that they really love.
Coming from a family with three brothers, I never knew anything about what girls liked to play with. I think that God blessed me with these two little girls for that reason and clearly he wanted me to be more well rounded. I know more about girl stuff than I probably should but in my line of work that comes in handy. When my daughter is not using her manners at the dinner table and proceeds to use her fingers instead of her fork I remind her "Act like a Belle, not like a Beast" You can use the power of the princess to help you too. Both of my girls have played with toys that belonged to my son when he was younger with my two year old daughter more partial to Superman than any other toy we have given her. It just goes to prove that kids like what they like. For more on that subject check out Tom Burns' article Why I Bought Boy' Underwear For My Daughter. Ultimately, it is up to you as a parent to expose them to all kinds of play beyond princesses if you are hung up on preventing them from partaking in all things princess.
Call me crazy but I ENJOY playing princesses with my daughters. They will not be little forever nor will they like princesses forever. Do I think that letting them watch Tangled is going to make them into aloof women that rely on a man to rescue them? Nah. In fact, Disney has made an effort to produce more modern princesses like in Brave and Tangled that are much more than beauty and the ability to talk to woodland animals. I have read Cinderella Ate My Daughter and while Orenstein makes interesting points about Princess culture having an influence on girls, I have to say that so did Sex in the City on 20 and 30 somethings alike and not in a good way.
I believe that kids imitate what they see so I can look back to how my wife interacted as a young girl as a source of inspiration. My wife wasn't the typical teenage girl. She didn't go to the mall and hang out all day like many do today. In fact, she still has no desire to engage in this sort of activity. This may or may not could have something to do with the fact that she didn't have cable and only watched PBS growing up but the jury is still out on that.
So I say what is the big deal? I say everyone just calm down and let kids be kids. If my son dressed up like Bob the Builder does that mean he will whistle and cat call at girls in the street when he is older? Why do we as adults try to ram some ideology about what professions are "ideal" when they are so young? If we believe that our daughters dressing up only like princesses early in life is going to lead to them making poor decisions later in life, based on some Cinderella story premise, then I probably shouldn't let my son pretend to be Batman. He might become a vigilante and a billionaire vigilante playboy at that! The horror!
Girls are always going to like dress up. They like it when they are two and five, they will like it at their 8th grade dances, at their proms, going out with their girlfriends, and (ARRGH!) boyfriends, and they will of course enjoy it at their (GULP!) weddings. I taught in a high school for almost ten years. We used to do a project that was about self worth that was based on self portraits. The students were required to bring in a picture of themselves as a child. I can tell you from experience that lots of those sweet little girls went from princesses to Victoria's Secret Pink wearing, inappropriate clothes for your age, young women. Lots of them did not. Many of them went the complete other way and are highly successful in what they are doing now. I think it is hardly fair to blame the princesses. It's a parent's influence that matters most.
Girls have it rough. They have to deal with boys that basically never grow up and are clueless about their feelings. Girls are rushed to grow up too quickly, they mature faster than boys, and it is a lot of pressure on them to uphold ideals of beauty when all they really need to hear is that they are beautiful the way they are. The princess debate will wage on and there will always be much speculation but I fail to believe that something this important in their lives at five years of age will have such a negative impact on their lives. Can you remember much from when you were five? I sure can't. So, this guy is not buying into princesses being the root of evil in our daughter's lives.
I think my princesses are beautiful the way they are whether they want to play Legos, He-Man, or Disney Princesses. I look forward to having breakfast with the princesses at Disney in February. I look forward to their faces when they get to meet the "real" girls from their stories that they know so well. I am going to enjoy my two beautiful daughters dressing up in pink, sparkly costumes. I am going to revel in the afternoon tea parties with our stuffed animal friends and I am going to continue to enjoy the glitter I find in the dryer lint screen for as long as I can.