On Princesses

princess mugThis morning, I had the privilege of sharing some time with my almost-three-year-old (and don’t you forget it!) daughter, cuddling and sharing a cup of coffee. I had my black ceramic mug, she her pink plastic princess mug.
I’m a bit conflicted on the Great To Princess or Not To Princess debate. On one hand, I certainly see reason for caution in going to excess on externals and a Barbie or Disney perception of beauty. But I’ve never really understood why it is that some contend that I would need to avoid all princess language with my daughter. Since when does princess necessarily become equivalent to external beauty? I’ve never made that connection, and I don’t see that it’s necessary.

Yes, I can see how the two are related. And I can see how they’ve become more interrelated because of toys, movies, and programming aimed at girls. But I also know that those industries follow the money, and the money wouldn’t be there if girls didn’t crave that. As much as I hate to admit it, my girl loves pink. Loves it. And purple. And girl characters. And yes, princesses. She likes to wear dresses and run to show me how pretty she is. I did my best to not force it on her, and she found all that stuff anyway.

So I’m left with a bit of a dilemma. I want her to be a strong, independent woman. But I also want her to feel free to embrace her femininity, even if she fits some of the stereotypes. I want for her to avoid the trap of letting society enforce an arbitrary sense of beauty on her. I also want for her to feel beautiful, desired, loved, and special.

And—I’ll just say it—I want to be able to say she’s my little princess. I think there’s some real benefit in that. This morning I came to a realization, and I just decided I could go for it. Unapologetic. The only catch is that I’ll make sure I define what it means for her. So, as we talked about the princesses on her mug, I pointed out that they’re all different–that there’s no one like her either. I told her that princesses are important because they could one day be ruling the kingdom, and that’s why they’re special. Princes and princesses need to be protected and taught so that one day, when they’re in charge, they can rule well.

So if you overhear me one day call her “my princess,” know that I’m defining the terms, not Walt Disney or anyone else. Perhaps too, when she sees those films, she won’t get some view that the princesses are only valuable for their appearance, or to attract some certain prince. (I know I didn’t come away with that perception.) Because she’ll have been taught that the princess was already valuable because of who she is.