You know what’s tough about raising little girls? You want them to know they are beautiful on the inside and out, but at the same time, you want to teach them that looks aren’t important. You want them to feel like princesses, and yet you want them to know the value of hard work. Now, someone tell me…how in the world am I supposed to do that?
The other day, Claire was trying on her tutus while I was cleaning up the kitchen. As I loaded the dishwasher, she walked out and said, “Look at me! I’m a princess.” And then, she twirled around and around on her tippy toes while I told her that she is, indeed, a beautiful princess.
I want my daughter to know she is beautiful and that it’s okay to be beautiful. I want her to love herself and take care of herself. But most importantly, I want her to know that her light shines from the inside out.
And in the same breath, I want her to know that it really doesn’t matter what she looks like. That she needs to be kind to others and work hard. That nothing is more important than a loving heart and a strong work ethic.
I know what I want her to know, but what I don’t know is this: how do I teach her all of those things?
My kids love Sesame Street, and of course, Claire’s favorite is Abby (she’s a pink princessy-creature). There was an episode where Abby met Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Abby was explaining that when she grew up, she was going to be a princess. Sonia Sotomayor explained to Abby that being a princess is not a job, and that you cannot grow up and become a princess (unless you’re Kate Middleton, I suppose, but that’s neither here nor there!).
I was so grateful for this episode. Not because Claire is old enough to understand it, really, but because it reinforces the way I feel about the whole princess phenom. Princesses are fun, princesses are awesome, princesses are worth getting excited about (I love Disney princesses and can’t wait to watch all the movies with Claire). But in the end? Being a princess is just something we pretend.
Being a princess is not a job.
It’s important to work hard, to roll your sleeves up and get dirty, to have skills and be able to support yourself.
There are so many things we must teach our girls, and so many obstacles we must face as we take the road from toddler-spinning-around-the-room-in-a-tutu to well-adjusted-woman.
How do we teach them balance? How do we teach them that a princess needs to be able to get the job done? That a beautiful girl is nothing if she’s not beautiful on the inside? That everyone is beautiful, even if we don’t look like the sterotypical princesses we know and love?
I want Claire to know that being a girl is awesome. It’s fun. You get to wear strawberry-flavored lipgloss and sparkly shoes (and it’s cool if boys do those things, too – and it’s cool if girls don’t want to do those things – but I think you know what I mean).
Last week, Claire brought me some hairclips and asked me to put them in her hair. I clipped her bangs back, made a comment about how pretty they were, and asked if she’d like to see. As I held her in front of the mirror, she tilted her head first to the right, and then to the left, admiring the clips. She touched them both, lightly, and then turned her face towards mine and said, “I’m gorgeous!”
To which I replied, “Yes…you are gorgeous.”
That night in bed, I told her all of the things I love about her that don’t involve the way she looks. I told her about how I love how smart she is, and how she’s a great singer and dancer. I told her what a good builder she is and how I loved the creation she’d made with her blocks earlier that day. I told her how helpful she is when she picks up her messes and how she’s an amazing artist.
My daughter is a princess. All little girls are princesses. But at the same time? They are so, so much more.