Once upon a time in a land far far away lived my little princess by the name of Emily.
She was eight years old and fair of face, with hair as golden as morning sunshine, eyes as blue as an Arizona sky and lips the color of rose petals.
One night as I tucked her into bed, I asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A Princess,” she responded.
“Yes, but what career do you hope to have,” I persisted.
“Oh, I don’t need a career, my prince will come and take care of all my needs.”
What? A prince? I was raising a girl who expected a man to take care of all her needs? How could this be?
It’s those princess movies and fairy tales that she reads each night. Have you ever taken the time to really listen to the messages being taught by the Grimms brothers and Disney?
Take Snow White for example. The story consists of an evil stepmother, a non-existent father and a child who lets everyone walk all over her until the man of her dreams comes and fixes everything.
She scrubs and cleans and never complains. Okay, well, I like that message, but what’s up with the step mother being evil? Where is the strong, loving, positive mother role in any of the princess stories? What happened to the father influence?
Let’s follow Snow White through her tale. She is run off by the evil step mother and finds herself in a cottage with seven height challenged men. I wonder about the wisdom of this girl shacking up with these guys. Just because they are short doesn’t mean they lack hormones. Okay, so she moves in to cook and clean in exchange for a warm bed and roof over her head.
The first question I have is why can’t she work in the mine with the guys? She can’t swing an ax? Do they just assume she’s too delicate? The guys leave her to take care of the house and the first chance she gets, she opens the door to a stranger. Big mistake.
In the original Grimms Brother’s tale, she not only opens the door once, but three times. Each time the results are disastrous. Okay, this lets my daughter know that nothing good can come from opening the door when you are alone, but she doesn’t learn from her mistakes.
So she falls victim to the apple incident and then we wait for the prince – not height challenged – to come and save the day. Oh right, that’s what I want my daughter to do…wait for some man to make everything all right in her life. And what does she know about this guy other than the fact that he’s tall, cute and can sit a horse well? What does he do for a living, what are his morale beliefs, who did he vote for in the last election?
And why does he have to be a prince? What about a woodcutter or blacksmith? There are plenty of men out there without waiting for royalty. Let’s face it, if every single woman waited for a prince on a white horse, only a handful of marriages would take place each generation.
And Snow White lets him kiss her, on the first date, no less – and off she goes with barely a thank you to the short guys who have been watching over her unburied coffin for months on end. Right there is a message for the importance of proper grief counseling if you ask me.
I need to stop on the kiss for just a second. Sleeping Beauty had the same kiss twist in her story. So did the Frog Prince. Are we sending a message that we should expect a kiss to bring us back to life, change our inherent ordinary looks to model-beauty, ring chimes, bring us to our tip toes while kicking our left leg up behind us. Talk about pressure. I don’t know about you, but I was 15 when I received my first kiss and about the only thing I got was a case of nerves and chapped lips. Am I missing something?
I could go on with the princess lessons, but I think if you run through the stories in your mind you’ll see a pattern of child abuse, evil step mothers, and some guy fixing it all.
I wish I could avoid the princesses all together, but look at Popeye. As a child I was a faithful Popeye fan, but as I look back, I ask myself, why did only Popeye get the spinach? Why didn’t Olive Oil have the opportunity to eat her vegetables and save the day?
What’s a mother to do?
Frankly, I love the princess stories and Sleeping Beauty is my favorite. The idea of a guy on a horse so intrigued by the tale of my beauty hacking through the thicket surrounding my castle to run and save me with a single kiss is rather poetic.
But not realistic.
So I’ve taken to peppering my daughter’s reading with stories that provide different lessons.
The Bernstein Bears have wonderful stories that talk about too much birthday – throwing tantrums, cluttered bedrooms and the importance of not talking to strangers. Snow White might have benefited from the Bernstein Bears.
Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, is a great book to read when things don’t go the way you’d like. Alexander learns that not only does the chewing gum loose its flavor on the bed post over night, but it can also get stuck in your hair. After a day of having everything go wrong, his mother – a loving, understanding mother, not an evil step mother type, lets him know that sometimes we have days that don’t go as we’d like. That’s just life. But after a good night’s sleep things look better.
I Like Me is a wonderful tale of a big fat pink pig who looks in the mirror and sees a big fat pink pig and likes herself for who she is, just exactly as she is. We could all use a dose of that story.
And finally, Dr. Suess, has a lesson for us all in Oh The Places We’ll Go. As we head off in a new direction things are going to be great and wonderful and perfect until they aren’t. And then we have to persevere and before you know it, the sun is shining again and things are on the mend.
Life is all about the journey – the ups and downs the good and bad. It isn’t about waiting beside the hearth for prince charming to happen by for a dipper of water from our well. It’s about seizing the moment, making things happen for ourselves, looking in the mirror and being proud of what we see, not asking for a fairy godmother to make it different.
I hope my daughter learns from her reading that she is in control of her destiny. And although someday the going may be tough, she has the strength and ability to survive and find that sunny day, with or without a prince by her side.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away lived a princess named Emily, who I hope will live happily ever after, every day.