It was Monday afternoon and I was happily enjoying a glass of water and secretly watching Daughter play in the yard with three good friends. All of these friends are boys, and I was feeling all smug about how awesome Daughter is, “holding her own” with these boys who play at Minecraft and spies and secret forts and things. I was looking back on how I got criticized by people when she was little because I was letting her be too much of a princess. I was, you know. Actually criticized for allowing her to believe in magic and fairytales and pink and crowns and big puffy dresses.
If you’re a parent or who have close and honest friends who are parents you know one important truth: no one knows how to raise your own child better than everyone else you come in contact with ever, especially if they do not have their own kids. Reading this you understand it to be false, but the myriad of unsolicited advice a new parent receives is overwhelming. I will not bore you here with all that I was told, at least not today, but one particular set of words stuck with me because I was actually pretty worried by them. I had just taken Daughter to Disneyland for an amazing birthday surprise with Husband. It was our first vacation in which we did not go visit other family, and it was utterly magical. It was the whole Disney experience and we loved every single second. Daughter was a princess every day even if she didn’t look the part. She met so many of them, and they were all enraptured with each other. She developed the habit of folding her hands to the left of her chin, tilting her head, and sighing in that “only a princess” way. It was adorable. When we returned and were still in the enchanted fog, I was told by a colleague how I was damaging Daughter by allowing her to play into these horrible stereotypes of weak girls who need to be saved and married. Externally, I said, “I’m sure it will be fine.” Internally, I had a panicking moment. I was letting her be part of that. Oh no! I was certain that her only goal in life would be to climb into a tower and wait to be rescued.
I was sort of wrong.
I can’t say that the princess adoration was a phase because they are still pretty popular in the house; Daughter dresses up whenever she can in a gown and tiara. There are other things she dresses up as now, too. There are villains and heroes of various genders, species, and genres as well as building games completely of her own design. While I listened to her play at being the Scooby Doo gang with her male friends (she was Shaggy, I think) I thought to myself, “See so-and-so-from-work! She’s a tomboy! She’s holding her own with these boys.” Then the game shifted and she was pretending to be a mom staying at home taking care of her son… and that’s ok, too.
What I realized while I listened to her play is that she can be anything that she wants. She can pretend anything that she wants. If she wants to always pretend to be a princess in a dress waiting for her Prince Charming, who am I to say it’s not ok? She’s allowed to strike me down as Kylo Ren as often as she wants to. She can build Lego veterinary hospitals, castles, restaurants, space ships, doll strollers, whatever. She can be anything and she can be nothing and the more people tell her that something isn’t ok, the worse off she is. So I’m going to practice being happy for Daughter to be playing anything and everything, because she’s allowed to be and do whatever she wants in this world and it can only hurt her to say no.