I stood in the kitchen arguing with my mother about fairy tales, neither of us was going to budge. After spending the week, she had noticed Little Son was starting to question what and who was good, what made a person do bad things. She merely suggested I read some fairy tales to the kids as an easy way to illustrate good and evil, right and wrong. I was filled with indignation. The fairy tales I grew up on give children, especially girls, the wrong idea about the world we live in. In real life, pretty only gets you so far. You have to kiss more than one frog (or throw them against the wall) to find the prince. And good doesn’t always triumph. But on the other hand, it is impossible to avoid fairy tales all together.
She is rolling her eyes, I am spluttering. Mom thinks I worry too much, “parents are the role models Melanie, not storybook characters.”
Just As You Are
Bodacious is only 1, and I have been careful to not “princess out” her room or clothes. If she falls, I mostly let her pick herself up. She prefers trucks, Lego bocks and rock-n-roll. Ripping out bows and clips, she likes her hair to look Neil Young-esque. One of her favorite pastimes is shaking her head back and forth, whipping her babyfine locks across her face in true Rock God fashion. I love it. I want a daughter who is self-reliant, tough and unafraid to be the person God intends for her to be.
I also want a daughter who is sweet and loving. Baby Girl sings with her brother, and loves on her doggies with (mostly) tender hands. If she finds magic and wonder in her everyday, I will be glad. I want her to have imagination, empathy and kindness in her, to be a friend when someone needs one. I want her to be loving and capable of receiving love. When she finds her true love, I want her to be ready. Because sometimes, Prince Charming does come along. I should know, I married him.
Having a Ball
Recently, I watched with fascination as the Facebook comments rolled in. A friend wanted to know what was less detrimental — mermaids, faeries or princesses — as the theme for her daughter’s upcoming birthday party? That’s a million-dollar question. As women, do we eschew Ariel and Cinderella, finding and being empowered role models instead? Or as mothers, do we let our children decide who they love and emulate?
It was in these days, when I was worrying and wondering about how I would unfairly prejudice or inadvertently weaken my daughter, that I realized fairy tales actually had been hard on Little Son.
The Princess Bride
Sir Parksalot burst into big, fat tears a couple of weeks ago during drop-off at mother’s day out. He was red faced, sobbing in his car seat. “I will miss you,” he wailed from the backseat. Apparently, he didn’t want to leave his mommy when he got married to Princess Tella.
It seems instead of enforcing naptime, his teacher had been playing Disney princess movies. A lot of Disney princess movies. My sweet prince ended up with a fair maiden, and they were playing prince and princess games on the playground.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I happen to love Princess Tella. The kids have been friends since they were infants. She is articulate, sweet and fearsome. If Tella and Parksalot were to marry, it would be OK with me. But what’s not OK with me is my 3-year-old son is spending his time worrying about having to leave home to rescue a girl and marry her. Oh, and by the way Momma, he needs to keep his baby sister so they will have their very own baby. Sheesh!
Things have resolved themselves quite nicely, I will say. Little Son no longer is in that teacher’s class, and he and Princess Tella are still the best of friends. I have promised him when he grows up, he never has to leave home. I am sure no matter who he marries, she will looooove to live at home with his mother. I am, after all, the Fairest of Them All.
And my friend? Her daughter got a sweet homemade princess cake, adorned with tiny princess dolls. A recent photo showed her confidently hunting Easter eggs. Dressed as an action hero.
Maybe I do worry too much about Happily Ever After, Mom. Maybe there’s room for all kinds of role models.