It’s no secret, if you know me or have been reading this blog for a while, that my husband and I detest the pink aisle and princess culture. We’ve asked all along for ‘no pink frilly princess-type things’ from the relatives, a request most people have followed. But we also agreed that once she was older and making her own choices, we wouldn’t try to stop her from liking the pink aisle if it turned out to be something she truly wanted.
Now that my daughter is old enough to be picking up princess culture at preschool (since there are definitely no princess things in our house, unless you count Leia), she is picking it up like crazy. Most of her pretend play these days involves her being a princess. Second choice? Ballerina. She also insists on wearing a skirt or dress to school every day, which gets difficult because we just don’t have many of them, and she freaks out when I haven’t washed her favorite skirt. And I’ll admit, I cringe every time she tells me she wants to be a princess.
She mixes it up, though. She reminds me daily that she is both her own person, and perfectly able to balance her multiple interests. The other day she decorated a cardboard box, and informed me it was her astronaut princess helmet. She wore it proudly around the house. For her Easter outfit, she picked an astronaut t-shirt, pink tutu, red leggings, and her red Chuck Taylors. She was equally excited over the new blue dinosaur and the hot pink bouncy ball found in some of her easter eggs.
I’m glad she’s still at the age where her favorite color changes every 20 minutes, because I’m dreading her settling on one. Even if it’s not pink, the riot of colors in her room shifting towards monochrome would be boring. I love that her enthusiasm is for things that are new and different.
The princess culture is impossible to avoid, even if it’s not ever-present in our house. Last Halloween, all but two of the girls in her preschool class were princesses. The outliers? My daughter’s Gir costume (she asked to be a robot so I went with the funniest one I know), and one other girl who was Cleopatra.
I have to remind myself every so often that in addition to trains and legos and books I also had Barbies. And My Little Ponies, Rainbow Brite, dolls, and all the girly trappings. I turned out ok. Well, other than some rather serious body image issues that I still struggle with. So maybe Barbie and teen magazines will stay out of the picture no matter how much my daughter may beg for them.
But I don’t think having girly stuff made me any less successful in life – I’m a real live rocket scientist now, after all. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, and have shifted much farther over on the feminist spectrum the older I get, but I clean up ok when I want to. So I try not to panic when she wants to play princess. After all, she has other interests as well.
For the last few months she’s wanted to be a firefighter, which I think is awesome. It gives us openings to talk about things she’d need to do to get there, like exercise (firefighters are strong!), study hard (fighting fires is a science, after all), and work well with others (firefighters are part of a team!). I know she’ll change her mind at least twelve hundred more times, but I’m glad she has big goals for herself already.
My goals? To do the best I can to help her navigate growing up in a country still rife with gender issues, inequality, double standards, pay gaps, and stereotypes. To balance what she wants with what we as her parents believe to be what she needs. To see her grow up to be a healthy, happy, productive member of society. To see her chasing dreams but also with her feet firmly on the ground. I want to manage the very delicate balancing act of raising a daughter in this crazy world without screwing any of it up too badly.