Lynn Harris has written an essay on Babble today about her daughter’s new-found obsession with all things princess, a tale anyone who has a little girl can relate to. Harris says til now, her kids have been raised “mainly on toys of the handmade-of-wood-in-Denmark variety,” which are exactly the type of toys I thought my daughter’s nursery would be filled with before she was born. Then I realized living in a one-bedroom apartment meant her nursery was just a few square feet of wooden tile next to our bed, and that being a parent probably wouldn’t go entirely as I’d planned.
Even though I’d vowed not to expose my daughter to Disney – or to let her watch more than 2 hours of TV a day – reality soon set in, and while my daughter was watching only high-quality, educational PBS shows, she was getting about 3 hours worth of screen time daily, and eventually someone gave her something that was pink and covered in magic wands and crowns.
Rather than wince, I thought, okay, these gifts are fine, as long as they don’t come from me. One Melissa and Doug wooden princess doll here, a viewing of Sleeping Beauty there. No big deal.
And then I got divorced. And the Disney deluge began.
First her father started bringing home all kinds of Disney movies for them to watch on their visits together. Then I needed stuff to decorate her new bedroom with, because I left all of her old stuff at her Dad’s new place, so she’d feel a sense of continuity there. Fortunately I have a 12-year-old niece whose mother loves to keep stuff, so we had a lot of pre-school decor to choose from, including a Disney Princess alarm clock and a Little Mermaid musical snow globe. Much like Harris’s daughter, Bess, my own daughter’s Princess awakening truly blossomed on her 4th birthday, for which my brother made an insane castle-shaped cake covered in plastic mini-Princess dolls. It was, in a word, magical.
After that, I figured it was okay for me to finally get in on the fun, so for Christmas last year I bought my daughter a Disney Princess tent that she loves to play with her Barbies (I know…) and mini-Princess dolls in. You know the Polly Pocket-style rubber ones that you can’t dress or undress without having a nervous breakdown? Yeah. Thanks, Santa.
But, I’ve found, allowing my daughter to indulge in Princess culture isn’t all for naught. It’s stirred a love of music within her that we might not have otherwise seen as quickly. I’ll never forget the day my daughter was listening to me sing “Part of That World” and she stopped and said, “Mommy, I think you’ve really got the voice of Ariel.” (Thank God she doesn’t think I’m Ursula!)
Besides, as Harris notes, you never know what your child is really taking away from princess culture. Despite having been exposed to all of the vanilla, white-girl Princesses proper, my 5-year-old’s favorite female Disney character is Mulan, the warrior who dresses like a boy to get into the army. My work here is done.
Harris says, “we are powerless to fully shield our children from the pink princess tractor beam. Or, really, from any of that crap that is apparently streamed directly into their brain cells by an unsettling process I call Elmosis. (My kids had never seen him. And yet they knew him. What is that?).” I don’t know what it is, either, but I know it’s the evil force that made my daughter, at the tender age of 2, point to the golden arches of McDonald’s – having eaten there but one time – and say, “That’s french fries.”
Nonetheless, I’ve let go of my high-fallutin’ feminist ideals for now and have embraced a bit of Disney. I can’t wait to take my daughter to The Magic Kingdom for the first time and watch her eyes bug out and her face light up as we stand beneath Cinderella’s castle. Because even though I’m divorced, every time I look at my daughter, I know I’m going to live happily ever after.