Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Princess Prerogative

Last week was Halloween,and this year my mom was able to resume her tradition of making Charlotte's costume. Last year my mom got married the month of Halloween, and we all begged her to not try and sew a costume whilst planning a wedding and commuting to her teaching jobs at three different colleges. She grudgingly acquiesced, and instead bought a little fairy princess dress for Charlotte.

As a kid, I knew summer was coming to an end when my mom took my sister and me to the fabric store to pour over Halloween costume pattern books so we could choose a costume. It was exciting seeing our costumes come together, and they were always expertly crafted. My mom is an incredible seamstress. She even made my wedding dress! During my early school years I went through the Disney repertoire, choosing such costumes as Tinkerbell, Cinderella, and Aurora. Later I branched out into other arenas, but I remember my princess and fairy costumes fondly.

See, I LOVE Disney. I love Disneyland, Disney movies, and Disney...well, anything! It is something that connects me to my childhood in a huge way. And, when I found out I was having a little girl, I couldn't wait to share the Disney princess experience with her. I know that this makes me the opposite of progressive and enlightened in the eyes of many, but I really don't care. I have wonderful memories of playing "The Little Mermaid" with my sister any time we were in a pool. I loved my Ariel pencil box and my Belle nightgown. I played dress-up for hours. I imagined fairy tale weddings. And, I swear to god, one day my sister and I put on dresses and fancy hairbands and went outside to sing to some birds, convinced that they would come perch on our shoulders if we just looked beautiful and sang prettily enough. My sister may deny this, but I assure you, it happened.

But you know what? We also drove a tractor at my grandparents' house. We played war games in the desert next to our house with the neighbor boys. We went on archaeological digs in our backyard. We may have played with Barbies (not something I'm dying for Charlotte to find out about, but that's just my personal preference) but we were never limited by them. We were raised to do well in school because we would need our education to make our way in this world. We were taught to respect ourselves. I'm proud of the women my sister and I turned out to be. And, I see no reason why I can't share a part of my childhood with my daughter, a part that we both happen to enjoy together, without fear of pigeonholing her or taking away her power as an individual.

I can teach my daughter that it's okay to twirl around in her nightgown and ask "Do I look so pwetty?" as long as she knows that that won't be enough or all that is expected of her. I do tell Charlotte that she is pretty. I tell her she's beautiful. But, whenever she asks me why I love her or why I wanted her to be my daughter (the "Why?" stage can bite me, by the way) I tell her it's because she is smart and funny and nice. And, we encourage all her interests. Truth be told, she is way more interested in bunnies and cats than she is in princesses. She loves to wear her dragon costume and growl at everyone who passes by. She loves to help her daddy fix stuff around the house. Sure, it'd be great if she saw Mommy fixing stuff around the house, too, but that is unfortunately not my strong suit.

Happily, some of the modern princesses offer a more balanced and stronger role model for little girls. Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog" is fiercely independent, clever, and hardworking. Rapunzel from "Tangled" is admittedly, naive, but also brave and struggling to find her independence. That doesn't mean I will shield Charlotte from the older princesses, like Snow White, who is just AWFUL. Seriously, that chick is useless. But, we can enjoy those movies with a little supplemental education. Long story short, I don't expect Charlotte to spend too much time waiting around for her prince to come, baking pies and sweeping floors to kill time until he rides up on his horse.

So, when my mom offered to make Charlotte's costume this year, we gave her a few choices (though I don't remember what they were,) and in the end she chose her favorite princess, Belle. I kind of love that Belle is her favorite. I guess as a Lit major, I have to appreciate a book lover in a princess. We had a few bumps in the road, such as when she informed us that she would rather be Aurora or that she would like to just wear her dragon costume for Halloween. But, I explained to her that because her grandmother was working really hard on her dress, there was just no alternative. In the end, she loved it. She twirled and practiced her curtsy, and I was in heaven. She also rocked her light-up Belle shoes until her feet started to hurt, and then we changed her into her tennis shoes, which was maybe even more adorable.

Mid twirl

Mid curtsy

Who knows what she will choose next year? Maybe another princess, maybe not. We will, of course, follow her lead and let her choose whatever she wants. But, in case she goes an entirely different direction, I'm just glad I got my princess fix this year. It was definitely everything I hoped for.


  1. Me too! LOLZ!


    Ok, real comment now. I'm kind of glad I don't have to deal with the princess thing, but mostly because I'm more of a Pixar fan these days than I am Disney Princess. I've liked the princesses (Belle was, obvs, the best. A brunette bookworm? DUH!), but I like some of the newer stuff better. Uh, woah, derail there, sorry.

    Anyway, I think your approach to the princesses is balanced--give C some princess, but some dragon too. Some sparkles with some dirt. Sounds like a balanced girl to me!

  2. A) That dress is amazing
    B) Snow White IS totally useless
    C) Our girls would probably form some sort of weird princess posse if we lived closer. With light sabers. And dragons.

  3. That dress is SO CUTE.

    And Mittens also likes The Princess & The Frog, but I suspect it's more because of the frogs. Still, if she's wanting to watch something over and over, TPTF isn't too bad.

  4. Oh wow that dress is awesome and how cute. Mine has always gone as a fairy or princess or something girly this year I was able to get her to rawk a witch costume, which is also girly-ish but still. ps... totally agree with the SNow White thing. GAH

  5. I don't think there's anything wrong with a healthy dose of fantasy. And don't be ashamed of your Barbies. I had some too.

  6. I think all you ladies are being a little hard on poor Snow White. It was 1937, you know. I mean that Betty Boop voice was annoying, but the whole riff they did on her in "Enchanted" was hysterical!

  7. Ginger- Thanks for the "lolz." ;)And, yeah, balance is pretty much my key word when it comes to all aspects of parenting, and this is no exception. It's what I strive for, even if I don't achieve it very often!

  8. Lex- That would be amazing! We need to make this happen.

  9. Shasta- I think Charlotte liked Princess Frog because of the frogs, too. She wasn't as thrilled with it when they were human. But, she did recognize and seem to enjoy images of Tiana when we were out and about. That was her first princess experience. :)

  10. Doria- A witch would be cool! Maybe I'll suggest that to her next year.

  11. Ry- "Sometimes I do blame the parents." ;)

  12. Mom- I have taken into consideration your point about it being 1937, and I maintain that she is crap. She's so annoying!

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