Monday, February 07, 2011

And then there were none??? Princesses, that is.

Really? Disney’s princess product line has reached over 26,000 items? Costumes, pj's, lamps, bedding, notebooks, clothing, jewelry, shoes, hairbands, bubblebath, toothbrushes...eek!

A multibillion-dollar business is toying with the developmental vulnerability of our young girls. That’s what author, Peggy Orenstein, has uncovered in her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Her fascinating, smart book high-heels its way into and through the psychological reasoning behind our contemporary princess phenomena, beckoning parents to join her in staging a coup.

“Just-say-no to the fancy princess props, the hype, the manipulation, counters my parental mind, but then again, this same mind also knows it’s personally involved in the biz. I have several (not-your-average) princess books on the market.

My four-year-old daughter, Annie, the inspiration behind my work, will be turning eighteen in three months. Albeit, there’s a whole new genre of social challenges facing our older girls, to-princess or not-to-princess seems rather mild at this point, but that’s another blog altogether.

Last night through the aid of home videos, we traveled back to Annie’s third birthday. Her gloriously chunky legs expertly commandeered her new blue trike. She coyly snickered as she intentionally blurted something buzz-worthy, just to get our reaction. At four, five, six, she was precocious, endearing, sly, adorable, rebellious, sweet, witty, and dressed in pink, with a sparkly purple tiara askew on her head.

Tread lightly. Being careful not to shame our pink, purple, and tiara-loving girls into submission is equally important. As parents, we could pull back the reigns in carefully diplomatic ways, couldn’t we? Perhaps parents could delay when their daughters are allowed to watch Disney princess movies until they are a little older, (or dare I say,) if at all? The deeply archetypal impulse behind princess play has developmental merit, especially if left to its more gentle and innocent unfoldment.

And yes, there are substitutes in this big wide world of full-on princess products that support our girls yearning for self-discovery. Most parents, by now, know that parenting a princess is not about the outfits or the perfectly coiffured hair... right? It’s about perception, moderation, and being okay with saying NO when things “feel” not quite right, not to mention, over-the-top.

A magical walk through the “kingdom,” suddenly becomes a lesson about nature. She might even find a pretend castle tucked away in the backyard bushes. We can offer proof to our girls that pink is the color of raspberry lemonade and cherry blossoms, flamingos and a fiery sunset. Reading alternative princess books to our children, or telling empowering stories about fearless, emboldened girls will strengthen their wants for adventure. They’ll soon discover that “princesses” can climb trees, play in the mud and wear pink or green, or black, if they so please.

Throughout the short video clips of my daughter’s little years, the one true thing that jumped out was not her princess trappings, but rather her self-confidence. (She knows what it’s like to get back up after falling on the ice again and again.) No matter how often an industry deploys its glittery wrappings and products into the marketplace, confidence is a commodity that simply cannot be packaged. And isn’t that cool...