I recently read something that awoke a new corner of me. After I read about how a set of parent's are desperately trying to keep out princess culture, I realized that this isn't the first I've heard of parents hating on the princesses like some evil step mother, eager for their children to be successful rather than silly. Their hypocrisy singed me, as fairytales had been a part of my upbringing and we allow our daughter to experiment with ideas and characters brought forward by the "princess culture." So now arises my inner warrior to protect the imaginations of children far and wide from being given walls to keep out imagination instead of tools to expand it. I actually feel for those parents and hope that in there own lives, they learn to find purpose in things of beauty and innocence, rather than seeing them as a waist of time. Stop and smell the roses!
The idea that princesses fill our children with ideas of self-entitlement and privilege is as used up and archaic as you can get. It doesn't make you a modern or cool or intelligent parent to fracture off a piece of magic because you are too short-sighted to see past the pretty dress. A child's imagination is one of the most powerful tools they possess. Giving them strict confines, by insinuating that their chosen play is inferior, deserves a finger wag toward the parent that does so. The confines and rules inflicted on pretend defy the rules of pretend itself.
There are admittedly pros and cons to any stereotype. Let's choose to extrapolate the great attributes that princess stories teach. They are great for arming our girls with ways to deal with adversity. Dealing with their own mistakes, understanding that there are consequences for their actions, building strong friendships, helping people and animals, seeing the best in others and learning to assert themselves are just a few ideas we can choose to highlight.
Some have said to their children mid-play that being a princess is not a career. This leads me to believe that these parents need a lesson in improv. Giving your children an absolute no in the land of pretend is an absolute crime. Maybe it isn't the game you want to play or an idea you want to promote, but give them some credit. They pick up things in these movies that are far beyond romantic whimsy and entitlement. When they do pick up those things, it is our job to help them see that those adjectives are usually left for the evil step-sisters who dream of more money and power, feeling they are above others. I would actually say, on the whole, that the ideas of entitlement, greed, and vanity are villainized in most princess stories. So, while being a princess may not be a career, we can certainly learn a lot from these young ladies who value education and service.
Snow White was a princess that possibly grew up to be a veterinarian. Her way with animals is unparalleled among the princesses. She is kind, gentle, and caring. She is a teacher to her friends the dwarves and although the film ends with true love's kiss, the majority of the story has themes that children can learn from.
Cinderella is a wonderful cook, seamstress and designer. In the most recent movie, she tried her hand at event planning. That's a lucrative business in today's world.
Belle is a researcher. She loves reading and, as the story goes, has read every book in town, some of them many times over. Pitching in a helping hand to her father, the inventor, I'm sure her research comes in handy.
Ariel is most definitely a skilled scientist or archaeologist. She collects things from the wreckage of ships and studies how they relate to a different culture. She experiments with a fork as a hair comb. Maybe she grows up to be a consultant for NASA. I bet, she would have been a great contributor to the control room during the Apollo 13 mission with her quick thinking and fearless way of exploring the potential of objects. She also is amazing in the sport of swimming, though she may have a slight advantage. We have given her a lot of thought as this is my daughter's favorite world of pretend at the moment.
Tiana is a Chef. She spends her whole life saving money and working toward a well thought-out goal.
Rapunzel is an artist. Specifically skilled at painting, she uses her books, music, and imagination to get inspired.
Let's not forget that Fiona probably teaches kickboxing and self-defense. Have you seen her moves?
We use the princess stories to inspire our daughter to do good in the world and be good to people. Role playing gives us an easy way to arm Sophie in ways of dealing with adversity in life. Haven't we all been a version of one of these characters?
Has anyone ever been "awakened" by someone from their past. Sometimes I see something inspiring from a person and it reinstates my faith in the human race and...walla...I have my Snow White moment.
Have you ever had to deal with a boss that was just terrible to you and had to wait for just the right moment so that you could assert yourself and move on to a better job...Cinderella.
Maybe you are made fun of by people because you are smart or just a little "off." Belle was rewarded with love by seeing past the Beast's looks. If we remember, she was afraid of the talking furniture too, at first, but was able to see that behind the facade they all were the same, in the fact that they were all trapped by their longing for the familiarity of their past lives. This story teaches you to leave the past behind and persevere though adversity to a new life.
Ariel (Sophie's favorite right now) makes brash decisions that put her friends and family in danger. She has to "face the music," incurring the disappointment of her father and doing business with someone who almost cost her her life.
Tiana is a strong girl with big dreams who has done everything "right." In a moment of weakness, she tries her luck at a short cut. The prince has done the same thing and they ended up in the swamp.
Rapunzel follows her heart and finds strength within herself and the wisdom of discernment along her journey.
Fiona allows herself to be redefined. She dreams of one "happy ending" at the beginning of her story and then is changed by life and instead of holding on to a dream that is tired, she ends up awakened to the idea that a "happy ending" is getting to be your true self.
One of the biggest factors that must be noted is that we spend just as much time pretending to be princes swinging from sails on ships (bathtubs), crocs cruising for hands, pirates searching for treasure with a highlighter as a spyglass, or backpacked sleuths using a receipt as a map and a hand mirror as a magnifying glass.
Our fairytale play is a family-tale. We all work together. When I play Ursula or the stepmother in our make-believe, Sophie asserts herself and bravely tells me that I'm "not nice. That's mean. Stop." Ever since my sister-n-law told Soph that she needed to take care of her "princess" teeth when brushing, I have been met with nothing short of exuberance on a subject previously scorned. So, I'm going to propose that a little vanity can be construed as just regular ole hygiene peeps.
As long as I'm proposing things, allow me to suggest... Let's stop being so anti-everything and find a way to celebrate our kid's interest, instead of wishing away the "princess" years. Why can't we multi-task? We dress up like princesses, chefs, or pirates and play with building blocks or put together puzzles or read books in our costumes. Just because you are dressed like a princess or...whatever, doesn't mean you have to spend all day in front of a mirror. As I recall, none of the princesses I have ever read about are slaves to their mirror. For our children's sake, let's think outside the box. If your kids do happen to be conventionally beautiful, don't make them ashamed of it by insinuating that throwing on a pretty dress is hiding a vapid, empty being. There are endless treasures inside all our kids, no matter what they look like or "who" they're wearing.
I am most certainly influenced by the fact that my husband and I have both earned our living as actors for the past many years. We are both college grads and I am currently continuing my education with Early Childhood Development through UCLA.