Parents who go around telling their daughters that they’re a princess get a bad rap.
No one wants to listen to that jive. I mean, even saying the word “princess” in reference to your own kid is enough to make people cringe out loud and roll their eyes.
But you know what? I don’t care.
I’m 44, a single dad of three young kids. My youngest two are my sons, ages 5 and 2. But my oldest one, my first child, the one who kicked off so much for me in my life, that’s my daughter. Her name is Violet; she’s 7.
And I’m not ashamed to admit that she is my princess.
No, that isn’t even good enough; let me rephrase that. Violet is my PRINCESS, y’all. Point blank. That’s the way it is.
But the thing is, she has no idea. I’ve never actually looked at her and told her, “Hey, you know you’re a princess, right?”
Why not, you ask? That’s easy. I don’t want her to hear me calling her princess. What I want is much simpler than that. I want Violet to feel like a princess without ever knowing the term.
How do I do that?
Haha, I’m glad you asked.
I raise my princess the same exact way the coolest, smartest parents have been doing it for the last billion years. I make sure my daughter feels loved.
Boom. That’s it.
Simple. Tidy. A job that never ends, but a job I’m glad to have. See, the whole secret to raising any kind of princess is not to let her in on any of it! I’m really serious here. The one tried-and-true trick to helping your princesses along the road of strange, cruel life is pretty much keeping it a secret all of the time.
Me, I listen to my daughter. A lot. I listen to her talk to me about stuff that’s important to both of us. But a lot of other times, I end up listening to her talk to me about stuff that is way more important to her, not me. Listen, I like Godzilla probably as much as the next dad. But I never dreamed that I would have a daughter who likes to talk about Godzilla A LOT. And Mothra. And Gigan. And a whole slew of creatures that exist in this alternative Tokyo world that’s being criss-crossed and knocked around by a fire-breathing dragon and his horrifying sidekicks.
But she does. She loves it. My Violet LOVES Godzilla.
So guess what? I kind of love the old lizard, too. And so a lot of evenings lately, I stand there while I’m making dinner as Violet navigates me away from asking her about school, over into Godzilla territory. And even though it does my head in sometimes, I just go with it. And I smile at her. And I make sure she SEES me smiling at her as I tell her, “No, kiddo, actually I don’t know how much a baby Godzilla egg weighs. How much does it weigh?!”
That’s how I roll, how we roll. I try to listen as much as I talk, and I try to let my daughter know, with subtle words at the end of every long day, that I’m really proud of the kid she has become. I tell her I’m happy to see her trying to be a good friend. I tell her it makes me smile to see her helping her little brother up when he falls down and bumps his butt. Here and there, in the car and in the supermarket, I try to remember to tell her a nice thing or two about herself that I’m noticing in the moment. Or that I’ve been recognizing for a while now. There’s never any overkill; there’s never any spoiling or head-feeding or anything like that. My praise, my affection, my words, I try to keep them as organic and as down-to-Earth as humanly possible.
And you want to know something?
That’s how I figure you end up creating a real princess. With kind words. With support. With listening. And then when you throw in the right mix of discipline and smiles and “Yes, you can!” along with a healthy dose of homework help (Common Core math! I’m not really helping!) and then you churn all that up with bedtime stories and trying to make her hair look pretty even though I suck at it, what you ultimately end up with is the only kind of princess any of us are ever really going to need in our lives.
The real kind, not the fairytale kind.
Because we all want daughters who will grow up to be strong, loving, caring, and passionate. We want little girls who grow up feeling confident and curious. No matter who we are, no matter what walk of life we walk out of, in the end we all want our daughters to feel as loved as any princess from any story or movie or castle anywhere in this great big world.
And I’m just one guy, one single dad trying my best to get things right. But if you ask me, raising a princess comes from one thing and one thing only — and that’s by slowly letting her realize that she is loved beyond her wildest dreams.
I don’t ever need to call her “Princess” to her face. I only need to quietly kiss that little word into her forehead every single night.
Right before she drifts off.
Right before she’s a princess talking to Godzilla in her dreams.
Watch this video to see how the dads of Disney encourage their daughters to be fearless, adventurous dreamers …More On