The little girls in my extended family (ages almost two and almost 3) are getting princess dress-up outfits for Christmas this year. Before heading to the sewing room, I hesitated. Would I be contributing to the perpetuation of a myth that needs to go away?
Far too many little girls grow up believing in the myth that the handsome prince
will one day whisk them away to a happily ever after where he will provide for and protect her. One needs only to spend a few minutes looking at Pinterest to see dozens of wedding ideas posted to boards with labels like “My Dream Wedding” or “Fairy Tale Wedding”. My daughter had a college roommate who constantly spoke of wedding plans despite the fact she did not even have a boyfriend.
In the 1970s, I spent so much time wishing, hoping and dreaming I would one day meet Mr. Right that I did not realize the wonderful adventure I was having as a young, single woman. It was an exciting time. I regret that I did not appreciate it more.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad about dreaming; but we fall short when we teach children that the dream/myth is the only option in life.
There’s also nothing wrong with playing dress-up. Children learn much through role play. From the time my daughter was very small, I enjoyed making costumes for her as she identified with one movie/book character after another. She has never outgrown her love of dressing up in costumes. She became a musical theater actress. But she also has become a strong, independent-minded woman who thinks for herself. My husband and I cannot take full credit. It is thanks to many role models, real and fictional, that she received a balanced message. My daughter may have enjoyed the likes of Ariel and Cinderella, but she also became well-acquainted with Hermione Granger and Elizabeth Benet.
Those two little girls I mentioned? In addition to the dress-up outfits, they are getting copies of The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch with art by Michael Martchenko. The story is about a princess named Elizabeth who is supposed to marry a prince named Ronald. A dragon destroys her castle, burns up Elizabeth’s clothes and carries Ronald off to his cave. Elizabeth finds a paper bag to wear and defeats the dragon. Spoiler alert: Ronald does not appreciate Elizabeth’s bravery. He only wants her to clean up and dress like a “real princess”. Elizabeth dumps him.
I enjoyed sewing the costumes, and I hope the girls have fun with them. I hope they also take to heart the story of The Paper Bag Princess. Hmmm…Perhaps I should include a wearable paper bag with each gift.