Having a birthday this year is a good way to get me to post! I missed it one year and all my fans went crazy. And by “all my fans” I mean Steph, and by “went crazy” I mean she asked me several weeks later why I didn’t do a birthday post. It’s actually just another chance for me to wax philosophical on any given topic and narcissistically assume you all care what I think!
Last night right before I fell asleep I was reading a great book that two good friends recommended long ago and I finally took their advice. Basically, it’s like finding your favorite blogger has written a book. One of the posts, or I guess in a book they’d be called essays, was talking about the princess phenomenon of the past 15 years or so. It made me thing a lot about myself and my daughter. The author was purporting that the princess concept–of training girls from a young age that their beauty and a handsome prince will rescue them from trouble and deliver a perfect life is damaging to said girls. I fell asleep considering this and agreeing and disagreeing at the same time.
I agree–if that’s what you mean by princess: if you are beautiful and demure enough, eventually a good looking guy will come and rescue you at which time you will finally be complete, then no, that’s not what I want for my daughter or nieces or friends’ daughters. There’s a horrible trend lately of almost grown celebs who think it’s awesome to act dumb. They are giggly and flighty and flirty and talk in baby voices and it makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I don’t want to send a message to girls that they need a boy or man to be complete, that if they don’t look like Belle or Aurora that well, then you’d better wear more make-up or get a boob job. I want my girls (and by that I mean Sydney, Kaitlyn, Abby and every other little girl in our life) to find pride in their strength–physical and otherwise–in their abilities, in their humor and cleverness. Maybe they like flowers and babies and pretty dresses, maybe they don’t. But I want them also to try new things, jump in puddles wearing their brother’s frog boots, wrestle with their dads, fall of their bikes because they were riding too fast, lift heavy rocks to throw in the creek, make funny jokes and solve problems.
But I think there’s another aspect of telling your daughter she is a princess. If you do it right, you are conveying a message to her that she IS (already) beautiful. That she IS (right now)important, special…like royalty. That she is valuable and cherished and that you would pay a ransom of a million dollars to get her back if she were ever lost to you. I have a friend whose husband woke his 5 year old daughter up in the middle of the night to watch the royal wedding in April. He has strung white Christmas lights from her bedroom all the way to the TV room, where he snuggled with her and they ate tea and scones while watching the wedding. I don’t know what he said to her, how he described what they were watching or what makes a princess, but I guarantee she will always remember that with a warmth and a knowledge that her daddy loved her dearly.
It makes me wonder if there is danger and getting caught up in the debate over princess or non-princess, when what we should be focusing on is just LOVING the HECK out of our little girls and pouring into them everything we have to give and teach. I don’t remember what season of life it was (probably middle school) and I don’t remember the surely dramatic and life-crushing situation that initiated the conversation, but I specifically remember a conversation with my mom when she told me that pretty girls are a “dime a dozen.” I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but I got the idea. She said there will always be a girl or woman in the room, the class, the school that is prettier than me. And fortunately, I took this as intended, not to crush me that I’ll never be the prettiest girl in the room! But she encouraged me that it’s fine to want to look my best, but that I should just BE MYSELF and I would stand out in other ways. Find what I was good at and get better at it. Make people laugh and feel good about themselves, and they would want to be around me more. I will never forget that conversation and it has guided me through hundreds of self-esteem crises.
Sorry to my boys that these thoughts are not full of gender equality. And they are not necessarily date-appropriate; I should be talking about all the things I’m looking forward to in the coming year (ASHER! HOME!), but this is what was on my heart as I woke up this morning. I’m so grateful to my parents for, as Tina Fey likes to say, “instilling in me a confidence that is disproportionate to my looks and ability.” My birthday wish is to raise my daughter to trust her gut, to value strength and humor, to crave knowledge and wisdom, and to expect to be treated with respect and love–whether she’s wearing a Cinderella dress or mud boots that look like frogs.
PS: I’m 34 and proud of it!