My brother-in-law Robert, who I adore, is constantly sending me articles about childhood trends and phenomenons. In part because he is fascinated by pop culture and more fascinated by the way it manifests itself in children (particularly his nieces). Over the weekend he forwarded this article from the Chicago Tribune on the "Princess Phenomenon" invading the homes of otherwise good people.
The note that accompanied the forwarded article was short and sweet,
"I had no idea it was such a phenomenon. The things parents have to negotiate! You have all my sympathy".
I started to think of about this in combination with a comment that was made by my high school math teacher when I bumped into her when I had the girls at a Halloween parade "Diane, I can not believe that YOUR DAUGHTER is dressed as a cheerleader".
Growing up I was a self described "tom boy". Pink was evil, skirts were not an option and carrying a purse? I think not. I still do not own makeup. I have not worn pantyhose since my wedding (almost 6 years). There is NOTHING that sparkles in my closet.
My daughters on the other hand are a completely different animal. Princesses movies are on often, and dress up clothes/makeup/jewelry/hair accessories can be found in ever crevice and corner of my house. So the question is, how did I grow up to have "princess" daughters and why doesn’t it bother me? I think that the answer lies in the way my daughters would define a "Princess".
This evening I decided to to sit down and have a conversation with Sarah about Princesses. She is the most fond of Cinderella and Ariel.
I asked her to tell me why she likes them. I was ready to hear all about Prince Eric, dresses and fairy god mothers.
"Because", she said, "they are nice to the Animals". Wooow! That's my girl!
"What animals are the Princesses nice to?" seemed like a logical follow-up question .............
"Well" said my charming three year old, "it depends. Cinderella is nice to the mice. Ariel is nice to the fish and the crabs. Mulan is friends with the coyote. Ohhh, and Pocahontas loves all the animals, even the Wolves. She hates it when they cry. An she is good to the air. She also loves John Smith".So, we have environmentalism and a little Jamestown history thrown in for good measure.
I figured that we were on a roll and dug a little deeper. "What else do you like about Princesses?" I asked.
"They are nice to everybody. Especially their Mommy's and Daddy's. Oh, and they call their Daddy's 'Father'. I like that". That would be Bell, Ariel and Pocahontas, for those of you who are not well versed in Princesses.
"Anything else ?????" (at this point I was so stunned I couldn't be sneaky)
"They're smart, like Bell when she reads, and they are happy."
OK. Clearly I am now being played in an effort to delay bedtime, but I think I get the idea. Not once in this discussion did I hear the word "dress" or "slipper". Maybe my little girls are dressing like Princess because it allows then to emulate the "positive role models" that I have been desperately seeking as a Princess replacement. Maybe the beauty they see in these fictional characters has nothing to do with Princes and Balls, but the things that got them there? Maybe I need to be a little less judgemental about their interests/choices and let them be kids.