If you pay attention to the news cycle . . . it’s a rough time to be alive. At least according to our news sources, it’s a rough time to be alive. There is actually substantial evidence that things are getting much better as a whole, but that is not what this blog is about, so save your optimism for another time: let’s talk about princesses.
If you pay attention to the news there have been a few cycles recently that focused on the topic of princesses. Aside from the annual “do’s and don’ts” list for Halloween costumes that always include banning dressing up as cultural princess, there were a couple instances of famous Hollywood actresses refusing to allow their children to watch Cinderella, The Little Mermaid , and Snow White .
I am a parent of two young children and I can whole heartedly agree that there is plenty of content promoted under the shadow of that metaphorical Mickey Mouse umbrella that Disney labels “family friendly” to which I would disagree. I even think there is some merit to some of the objections offered up by Keira Knightly and Kristen Bell, although I’m sure they would not agree with all of my objections to Disney’s content choices . . . but once again, I digress.
For the most part, my home growing up was a boy’s house. We played rowdy, almost always had a room affectionately labeled “the gym,” and my older sister got married young leaving the three younger brothers to live largely unchecked by the tamer impulses of femininity. Then I grew up, got married, and had a daughter.
It was wave after wave of admittedly needed feminine touch on my life and to cap it all off my daughter loves princesses. Since before she could speak she loved princesses. She also loves dolls, dressing up, and most things that stereotypical little girls love but I have always gotten hung up a bit on the princesses. It’s been an odd thing for me to engage with being largely ignorant on the whole world of princess but I’ve learned and I’ve learned quickly.
Even as I have begun to engage in the princess mania I’ve always been on the fence about my daughter wanting to be a princess. This year for Halloween she is going as Dorothy—with her younger brother less enthusiastic about his portrayal of Todo—and, since my wife is from Kansas, Dorothy as a costume definitely fits for us, but it is right on the edge of the princess precipice and I’m just not sure I’m ready for her to think she is a princess.
Largely, I would guess that my hesitations are a result of the overly romantic nature of the princess stories: love at first sight, excessively posh clothing, and idealistic notions of the world bending to accommodate your every desire. It’s an ambiguous apprehension that I’ve never been able to fully nail down but somewhere in there is a legitimate concern about my little girl coming to the conclusion that having pretty clothes and finding a love interest is what makes life valuable.
Then a couple a days ago we were getting ready to leave our house and go to church. It was the usual chaos of finding shoes, making sure we grab everything we need, and three minute versions of a PhD thesis on reverse toddler psychology as it relates to clothing choices. I was running around the house pulling things together while my wife did my daughter’s hair—because she learned very early on that Dad cannot help with hair—and as my little girl watched herself in the mirror she asked quite innocently, “Am I going to be a princess?”
There it was. The ugly side of “princess on the mind” disease. For my daughter, getting her hair done was already enough for her to connect herself to being a princess. Whatever ambiguous fears I may have had were concretely confirmed by a two-year-old looking in the mirror. Then my wife gave one of the most beautiful answers I have ever heard:
“Yes Nora, you are a princess. But not because you have pretty hair. You are a princess because you are a daughter of the King.”
Now I should probably be writing a post about the importance of marrying a godly spouse because that is one amazing answer and my wife said it in such a matter of fact way that she hardly registered the profundity of her words. I can hardly write the sentence without tearing up. Marrying up is not my topic for this post but it is still worth noting and praising.
I’m not someone who changes my mind very easily; I’ve even been called stubborn on more than one occasion, but without trying to my wife changed my mind entirely on the princess question. The rot in the floor boards of princess culture is not the idea of being a princess, it’s, coincidentally, the Disney perversion of the word association that goes with princess.
A godly understanding of being a princess is not about flowy dresses or the wind constantly causing a slight ripple through long hair or proper etiquette during meals. A godly understanding of being a princess is rightly accepting a position as the daughter of God. A beloved creation of our perfect creator, someone who is bound up in his good purposes.
So I will take a 180 on my daughter being a princess; I say, dress your daughter up as a princess this Halloween. Encourage the excitement and lean into her being enthusiastic about wearing a fancy dress . . . and then, follow the words of Paul in II Cor. 10:5 and take captive the idea of “princess” to make it obedient to Christ. Guide her thoughts away from the Magic Kingdom and towards the Kingdom of God; away from pretty dresses and fancy hair and towards a loving Savior. Point the idea of princess towards God instead of towards Disney.
Remind her clearly and frequently that she is a princess because she is precious to the Most High God. The creator of the universe. The One who knows her fully and loves her fully.
A daughter of the King.