Princesses and Ballerinas: raising girls

**Another unfinished/unpublished draft post I’ve re-worked.

Curly sits in the back of the car crying. She’s devastated. I’ve decided not to be ‘Anna’, and for now, on this short shopping trip to IGA, I want to call Curly by her real name, not ‘Elsa’. And I’m sure when Immy is old enough to understand, she’ll also object to being called ‘Olaf’.

Twenty minutes later as we pull back up to the house and walk inside, out comes the ‘swishy’ dress and cape, and Curly is once again yelling at the top of her lungs…”let the storm rage ONNNN!”.

Fast forward one year later…

It turns out Immy would object to being called ‘Olaf’, it must always be Elsa, and the swishy dress must be worn even if it’s hailing outside. She spins around in front of our hallway mirror, “don’t sizzle, don’t sizzle, put on a show! Let it GOOO!” Curly, meanwhile, is on a rescue mission with Skye from Paw Patrol.

Children learn by copying, imitating, role-playing. And it shocked me when I realised how heavily TV was influencing this part of their play; so much so, we’ve limited TV viewing to a Saturday morning affair. I don’t think there’s anything inherently ‘bad’ about that, it’s just a bit embarrassing when we visit people and all our girls can talk about is Strawberry shortcake, PJ Mask or Rapunzel. Back in 1990, dad took us all to see ‘The Little Mermaid’. I probably acted out Arial’s life for a good year (maybe two) after that. So it’s not unusual to this generation. My own father used to act out ‘Buck Rogers’ scenarios. So why does it bother me?

My girls love princesses, pink, purple and all that glitters.

As a curious feminist (I made that label up by the way), I want my girls to grow up knowing their beauty and strength lies firstly, in a relationship with Jesus, and secondly, in how they treat others, their ability to show grace and compassion. What does that have to do with the ‘princess’ phenomena in our house? I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m watching as this one plays out…will they grow up to be narcissistic princess wannabes; checking their reflection in every shop window?

I think it takes more than a princess obsession to set them on that path of insecurity. Either way, when I can, I encourage an understanding of true beauty. Friends are encouraged to compliment their cleverness, or strength and independence rather than just how cute their hair is. I tell them, what they wear or look like isn’t what makes them valuable or worthy. And just as importantly, their dad celebrates them. He tells them they are beautiful, and will continue to do so well into puberty (a time when father’s sometimes withdraw from their daughters). This role of fathers is so important to counteract the message, they will get in society, that they don’t measure up to the flawless perfection of someone else.

So we navigate the five dress changes before 10am, and I console myself that the foot stamping and insistence on wearing a singlet dress in 10 degree weather will end. After all, it did with Curly.

One thought on “Princesses and Ballerinas: raising girls

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  1. Love this! I wonder too if it’s also a part of a girls inner desire to enact how God sees us, as royalty, heirs in his Kingdom and deep down the dream of twirling around in a beautiful dress is something God delights in. Purity and innocence. Xx

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