princess: a non-reigning female member of a sovereign family; a girl that has been pampered, sheltered and spoiled her whole life.
“Anna-n-Elsa!, Anna-n-Elsa!” shrieks my almost-three-year-old as we cross into the magical world of Disney. She tugs at my arm, expecting to see the royal sisters from Frozen any minute. No such luck. Turns out they’re carefully guarded inside a smallish, Nordic-looking cottage in a corner of Fantasyland and there’s a four hour wait to meet them. Frankly, I’d rather kiss Sven.
I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed myself. The two latest members of the Disney Princess Club are pretty awesome: sisters torn apart in childhood by one’s strong magical powers find their way back to each other through the sheer force of sibling love. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks they’re cool. The day before we arrived at the park, there was a three-hour wait at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique to buy the Elsa dresses delivered that morning. They won’t be getting a new shipment until June.
Princesses are my guilty pleasure. Both my older girls went through what is commonly known as “The Princess Phase” so I’m no stranger to tiaras, sparkles, poofy gowns, princess parties and endless loops of the latest princess movie on the nearest screen. In fact, I’m looking forward to Lilah’s foray into this very glittery, very girlie world.
That’s right. I’m looking forward to it.
So much has been written, discussed and debated around the idea that it’s dangerous for us to quietly stand by and watch as our daughters are, to paraphrase Peggy Orenstein, swallowed whole by Cinderella and her pretty little friends. There is the theory that little girls’ love of princesses is based primarily on their beauty. I don’t deny that looks are a big draw, but that’s not the only thing the princesses have to offer.
I used to despise the story of The Little Mermaid. I mean, really, giving up your voice for a guy? Try as I might, my daughter Ella would not be dissuaded from having that Ariel costume. She even had the bridal version. I had to get over it. Instead of being mortified at my daughter’s choice of role model, I decided to demand more from that fish-tailed floater. And I got it. Yes, she gives up her voice, but it isn’t just so she can be with the prince. Ariel chooses to trade in her voice, a thing of great value, not just for the prince, but also for another thing of value – the chance to experience a whole new world. Instead of thinking of Ariel as the ultimate anti-feminist, I decided to layer her story with more positive attributes like independence and confidence and faith. It takes a lot of courage to give up a life that is safe and known to explore the thrills and perils of the unknown.
There is power beyond the prettiness in almost every princess story. An original version of the Cinderella story ends not only with a wedding, but also with Cinderella forgiving her stepmother and stepsisters for their atrocious treatment of her. Snow White faces her disastrous circumstances by caring for the Seven Dwarfs. Belle grows to love the Beast, despite his ugliness, proving that looks aren’t everything. Merida follows her heart rather than give in to tradition, but when things go wrong, she takes responsibility. Elsa overcomes her fears and Anna, with her pluck, perseverance and pure love, helps her find her way. And the one theme these fairytales all have in common? Love. Whether its romantic love, sister love, the love between friends or the love between a parent and child, love does save the day.
Now that I’ve learned to look beyond the mirror when it comes to fairytale princesses, I can help my daughters look beyond it, too. Independence, love, courage, kindness, forgiveness, adventure, curiosity, responsibility – these are the powers I want my girls to recognize and nurture within themselves.
Now, where can I find an Elsa dress in a size 3?
I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.