We have a handful of books of classic fairy tales, and quite a few of them have “princess” stories. We read them here and there, but the girls much prefer tales about cats and dogs and trains and firemen.
I’ve made a very conscious effort to avoid character marketing. The girls are huge Curious George fans, for example, based on the many books we have. While I think they would love their very own plush Curious George, or a Curious George shirt or backpack, I’m holding out to the evils of marketing for as long as I can.
I have completely and deliberately avoided the “princess” marketing. While the media seems to lead us to believe it’s a natural part of childhood, I don’t remember playing “princess” as a kid (in the late 70’s / early 80’s), and I don’t think I’ve suffered any ill effects. The stereotypical idea of a princess makes me think of “entitlement”, and I don’t want my ladies growing up thinking they’re entitled to anything. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Hard work, my friends!
The question of princesses has only recently come up. I know the girls have heard it from a friend or two, and now maybe also from school. They’ve asked several times, “Mommy, what is a princess?”
We’ve been talking a little bit about government (as best I can on a three-year old level, anyway). I’ve explained that some countries have a different government, with a king, a queen, a prince, and a princess. So now, if you were to ask my girls about a princess, they would likely say something about the “British royal government”.
I’ve also shown them pictures of Princess Diana. My hope is that they would answer the question, “Who is your favorite princess?” by saying, “Diana”.
I have told the girls what a beautiful mother Lady Di was to her boys. I’ve shown them pictures of some of her humanitarian missions, and talked about how she helped less fortunate people all over the world.
I’ve approached the subject each time very matter-of-factly. Princesses are real people. One of the most well-known princesses is Princess Diana, and here’s what we can learn from her.
I know I can’t avoid the “princess craze” in its entirety, but I at least hope I can put what I think is a more positive spin on an often pink-tulle-and-rhinestone-encrusted subject.
[I don't mean to pass judgment on princesses, or Dora, or Mickey Mouse...whatever. While I didn't grow up with princesses, I was a huge fan of Sesame Street, the Smurfs, and Strawberry Shortcake. I don't think I was scarred by that, either! That's just not something I've felt missing from our day-to-day interactions. I'm sure there will be a time and a place for that as the girls grow older. And I may even be willing to let them put up a movie poster in their room one day. HA!]