"Not dat one. It not a pincess one!" She wanted to wear a white fluffy summer dress, but it was October and snow was in the forecast. I sighed.
"I need ta be a pincess!" She wailed.
There were no winners in this battle. I relented. She could wear the fancy dress if she wore pants underneath. She nodded. "But I wear pink pincess pants." Fine.
When she was dressed and had donned her crown, she insisted I hold her up to look in the mirror. "Wook at dat pincess!" She said to her reflection. "She so pretty."
When it comes to parenting, I pick my battles and at 2-1/2 my daughter is a self-crowned princess. I don't like it, but it's not a something I can fight any more. I tried. I truly did. I dressed her in sensible clothes that were gender neutral colors. I encouraged her to dress up like an alligator. We made pirate ships out of boxes. But one day, she came downstairs and announced she was a "pincess." It was all over after that. She donned dress ups over her play clothes and when the dress ups were dirty, she draped herself in scarves. She began calling herself "Pincess Ellis" and insisting we all do the same. And we do. Also, I realized that it's hypocritical of me to say she can't be a princess, while also telling her to be whatever she wants.
So despite all I know and believe about the harmful myth of "happily ever after" or the image- and man-obsessed model of princesses, I'm letting my daughter be one. But it doesn't mean princesses in our house don't come with a few rules. So here are some ways I support my princess, while still maintaining our feminist values.
1. Being a princess is a privilege, not a right: In our house, princess are nice. Princesses share. And princesses most certainly don't yell in their little brother's face. If these rules aren't followed, princesses lose their fancy dresses or crowns. It's a powerful way to teach good behavior without resorting to time out.
2. Read good books: Not all princess stories have to be about mild-mannered girls in fluffy dresses. One of my favorite Amazon lists is a list of unconventional princess books. Among those books, my daughter's favorite is "Not All Princesses Dress in Pink." Another one of our favorite princessed-themed books is "Olivia and the Fairy Princess." Also, if you are the parent of a little princess, I recommend reading Peggy Orenstein's "Cinderella Ate My Daughter." The book is a searching look at princess culture in America and asks hard questions about how we are raising our daughters.
3. Everyone is a princess, unless they don't want to be: In our house the royal scepter of acceptance is extended to everyone. Daddy doesn't choose to be a princess, neither does mommy, nor do some of my daughter's girl friends. Some boys love being princess. Some boys don't. But we never make assumptions.
4. Princess culture is strictly DIY: We do have fancy dresses and we do have dress ups, but I shy away from branding our princess look with any sort of princess trademark. We make our crowns and festoon our own outfits. I want my daughter's idea of a princess to be fueled by her own creativity, not the product of someone's marketing scheme.
However, the main thing I've been learning from my turn in the world of toddler royalty, is that I don't have all the answers. The above, are guidelines, really. Ultimately, all I ever wanted for my daughter, and all I ever want, is that she become the person she wants to be. Even if that does involve crowns and addressing her as her royal highness.
- By Lyz Lenz