As a father of two girls there are a few things I have had to come to terms with. Aside from challenges that might lie six more years down the road when these adorable little creatures become Teenagers, top on the list for their first seven years is Princesses.
First let me say, in case you don't already know (and for you to not know you must not have a daughter under age 10) Princesses are freaking everywhere and little girls love them. And as role models they are pretty horrible.
But it would be a terrible idea to ban them or overtly repress them. We want what we can't have. To my daughters I say, you may have a sip of my wine, you may have a Coke the day you stop believing its 'spicy' and if you like Princesses that's ok. But I get to define what a Princess is.
I call it the Art of Princess Jujitsu. Don't take Disney head on. Don't take Princesshood head on. Redirect the force to your advantage. At my house a girl has to possess four qualities to be a princess. She must be 1) Smart, 2) Tough, 3) Nice and 4) Pretty, the last I didn't add, but I am not allowed by my daughters to leave it off. Fair trade.
Almost every virtue you could want for a child fits into one of those 4 buckets. Nice is being kind to others, helping out Mom and Dad, not fighting with your siblings ... Smart is listening at school, practicing the piano, collecting leaves and learning their names, ... Tough is being brave, trying new things, not whining everytime you scrape your knee ... Pretty I hope will become loving yourself and your body for what it is. Fortunately I haven't had to have too many discussions about that yet, but my girls know that Daddy doesn't believe you need a dress to be pretty ... of course they disagree.
At four my eldest could discuss with me which of the princesses best exemplified all four virtues - Mulan, Pocahantas, and Dora the Explorer (though we have had discussions if Dora is truly a princess, so far she is). And they know Daddy thinks little of Sleeping Beauty because "she doesn't do anything" - At least Cinderella was demonstrably Nice.
Beyond Princesses, there are Barbie dolls. Now that Princesses are both loved by the girls and accepted by their parents, I use them to do my dirty work. I tell my girls a story about the time the Smart, Tough, Nice Princesses had a treasure hunt/race against the Barbies. The Barbies lost because they just sat around being pretty and waiting for a boy to do all the work for them while the Princesses got on with business and had way more fun.
But all is not happily ever after I'm sure. At the edges of the Princess Kingdom, I see the Bratz closing in. A co-worker of mine put it best about Bratz - "they teach your daughters to be sluts". I'll have to hone my jujitsu skills for that one.
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