I swear I had great plans for being a mom. When I was pregnant for the first time, we lived in the hip, progressive Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. Babies wore organic cotton clothes and played with handmade toys. Families were like a Todd Parr book – all different colors and shapes and orientations. In this cocoon of alternative lifestyle acceptance, I created a platform that, as a mom, I vowed that my kids would not be force-fed the commercialization of conservative, rigid values. I vowed that I would never let my daughter engage in media that perpetuated male domination of women, or force-fed the unrealistic expectations of a society that had no room for exceptions to bygone rules.
Cut to my daughter’s fourth birthday – I’m standing 6 parents-deep jockeying for a great photo and jumping up and down yelling “Look at Sleeping Beauty!!! Look!!! It’s SNOW WHITE, OH MY GOD,” from our seats at Disneyland’s Holiday Parade. And that night I am actually brought to tears by seeing my precious little monkey girl absolutely stoked beyond words when actresses dressed up like Disney princesses make their way to our table (at the famed Ariel’s Grotto), introducing themselves in character. Her little face is enraptured. It’s a joy that transcends every intention I have ever had, every vow I had ever made to myself.
Somewhere in these four years I’m wondering if I’ve sold out.
Let me begin with saying that I have serious issues with the fantasy that Disney* perpetuates. As an independent women with family and friends who are all different colors and sexual orientation, I watch the princess movies now and want to cringe. So I tried to keep her away from its influence for as long as I could. I’m actually not really sure where and when she was first introduced to the Disney Princess phenomenon…but it was about a year ago and it was ALL Snow White ALL the time. My best friend, her godmother, was right there to pile on the costumes and my mom followed suit with the videos – it was like the flood gates opened. I fought it at first, tried to hide some of it, forced my kid to wear her androgynous Lucky Brand outfits that she now hated, and then realized that I was being really, really, LAME.
She loves princesses. They make her happy. So I can build a wall in between me and her or I can get down on my knees and play with her deep in her world. I realized that the lesson here is that she is going to dig on stuff that I will not really know, understand or agree with to become the person that she is going to become whether I like it or not. And while I specifically hate the politics Disney represents, that is really my agenda. They don’t have anything to do with the joy it brings to my kid. I think that maybe my job as her mom is to learn it or try to understand whatever it is that fires her up – because if I don’t, I am only going to alienate her.
So I sold out and I’m kind of loving it. That’s right. I even dressed up like Sleeping Beauty for Halloween – which I didn’t love at first because I looked ridiculous – until she saw me and was so happy that I forgot about how dorky I looked. We read all the princess stories (with Todd Parr still sprinkled in!), sing the princess songs (with a little Lady GaGa sprinkled in), and make up all kinds of princess stories (including ones where princesses grow up and fall in love with other princesses). And there is a lot more harmony in our home.
I know that she will move on to the next thing. Bugs. Chemistry. Reaganomics. Some I will be comfortable with and some I won’t. Some will make me angry, I’m sure. But what I know is that I will try very, very hard to overcome my own agenda, perceptions and emotions, to make room for myself to get educated on whatever it is that fires her up. And play in her world.
*I want to note that Disney as a company is actually pretty awesome. As an employer, they were one of the first to offer benefits to same-sex partners and openly embraced employees regardless of their sexual orientation. And, we are pretty excited to check out “Princess and the Frog!”