by guest blogger Deanna Cogdon Miller
Leaving our doctor’s office a few weeks ago, my four year old daughter said to me, “Mom, I don’t think our doctor is really a doctor. I think she’s a princess pretending to be a doctor so that she can find her prince.”
Her comment struck a chord with me. Our doctor works with residents and our favourite resident, who we had just seen, is a wonderfully sweet, very pretty, very tiny, blond woman. The fact that my daughter would automatically equate her looks and personality with a princess and doubt her as a doctor surprised me. We got into a long conversation on the way home about all of the choices she has in her life and all of the wonderful things she can grow up to be.
As I was lying in bed that night, her comment came back to me and I started thinking about the incredible influence that “princesses” have on young girls. To be candid, I was never really a fan of the whole princess thing but in some cases, it truly is unavoidable. She and her friends at daycare all became interested in them a little over a year ago and despite my feelings, I have supported my daughter’s interest. Yes, we have the tickle trunk of dresses. Yes, we have the princess dolls. Yes, she was Ariel for Halloween. And yes, I even hosted a princess tea party for her and her friends last Valentine’s Day.
All of those things seemed harmless to me until her comment leaving the doctor’s office. I started questioning what I was teaching her by supporting her interest. Am I teaching her that physical appearances and being beautiful are important? Am I teaching her that whenever you get in trouble you need to wait around for a boy to come and fix it? Am I teaching her that her sole purpose in life is to wait for a man and get married?
After being alone with these thoughts for far too long, I came to the conclusion that I would continue to embrace her inner princess – the dress-up clothes, the imaginative play and the fun and discussion that comes with reading fairy tales. However, I decided that from that moment on, I would start to play up some of the other positive virtues of the various princesses. Take Ariel as an example – she loves discovering new things and trying to figure out what they are. Snow White is friends with everyone, no matter how different they are from her. Sleeping Beauty loves music and singing. And Belle, my personal favourite, loves to read.
Some may think I’m reading too much into a single comment but the princesses had been in our lives for over a year and this was the first glimpse I’d had into how they were influencing her thoughts. I believe in the magic and I believe in the imagination. I also believe in raising a little girl who understands that there is beauty in everyone, that inner beauty is what matters, who knows that she can be anything she wants to be and that the world is hers to explore.
And as far as waiting around for her prince to come? What parent doesn’t want their daughter to meet a dashing, polite young partner who treats her well? We’ll talk more about that one when she’s older!
Deanna lives in Dartmouth with her husband and three children. When she's not reading stories, dancing to ABBA or burping a baby, she works in communications for Bell Aliant.