When my daughter was four years old, she received her first princess dress-up gown. It was a birthday gift from her loving aunt, who likely guessed that because my child was already four, she must’ve been living, thinking, and breathing Anna from Frozen for all her waking hours. (Anna is the princess’ name, isn’t it? I’m not entirely sure.)
For that matter, most of the adults in my child’s life would’ve assumed she’d know all the Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, and whoever-else-there-is-princesses, too. Isn’t watching Disney movies a rite of passage for a little girl?
The thing is, my child didn’t know any of them.
Was she already a social outcast at the ripe old age of four?
Were we raising her under a rock?
Were we ruining her childhood?
Should someone call CPS?
No. I mean, we’re reasonable adults. We drive cars (no horse and buggy in our garage); we go places (not just to church on Sundays). We interact with other humans (even those whose skin color doesn’t match ours). We’re modern people.
What we’re trying to do, though—quite intentionally—is to help our child gain a solid sense of herself before we throw a bunch of corset-wearing fictional “role models” at her. She’s never seen me wear a corset and we’re both all the better for it. To be clear, I’m not saying all Disney movies are bad. I enjoyed them when I was a child. We’ll get there eventually. I just don’t see the point of rushing it.
What I want more than to show her movies is to show her the joy of what it’s like to lose herself in the wonderful imagination of books. And to find herself in those books, too. I want her to dig in the dirt; that’s more important to me than showing her a princess who flips out over getting some mud splashed on her dress. I want her to decide what she’s passionate about. Will her make-believe play be about flying to outer space, finding imaginary organisms on her petri dish, or helping magical animals?
This is one way that self-love starts, isn’t it?
She doesn’t need to know her princesses for a healthy, happy childhood. Indeed, I know Disney has come a long way. It’s birthed some downright sturdy and strong girls, from what people have told me. That’s wonderful. I look forward to watching them with my child someday. (And I’d love it if they make their new characters look even more real, thank you.)
Until we’re there, though, she’ll wear her Anna(?) dress and happily play in it. She’ll just happen to be wearing it while she’s flying through our backyard or our living room, saving the planet from whatever it needs saving from that day. This is the childhood I want for her—and she’s surely not missing a thing.