“This one mommy!!!” Thea runs up to me with the frilliest, ruffliest princess dress I have ever seen. “Mommy, this one is beautiful…” and from then on, no matter how many other cool costumes I point out her heart is set; she will go as Rapunzel in her wedding dress no less for this year’s Halloween.
Part of me wants to say no, part of me wants to stomp my feet, shake my head, roll my eyes. Could Thea play more into our gender roles? Of course, she wants a princess dress this year. Of course, she will not even glance at Spiderman or even a witch. She wants to be the belle of the ball. Yet, I thought we had it beat. This is the kid that was Buzz Lightyear last year, the kid that loves to run, climb, and be rough. Granted she does it in full pink outfits, preferably with sparkles, but she isn’t afraid. So why am I bothered so much?
Someone told me they would never introduce princesses to their daughter, that they didn’t hold that value in esteem. We never introduced Thea to princesses either, we never told her to act like a girl, to twirl in big dresses or crave sparkly shoes. She did that herself. She found things that she thinks are beautiful and so is drawn to them. I don’t wear pink, I don’t wear sparkles, I am not really a girly girl, and yet she epitomizes the American girly girl. All by herself.
My husband hates all of the pink and does his best in trying to get her to wear other colors. He is worried what the pink may signify to her; the princess mentality it seems to symbolize. I, on the other hand, am not worried. Not that much anyway. I don’t think the dresses mean she thinks she is a princess who will not work for herself. The sparkly shoes does not mean she will be lazy or expect others to do all of the work, she just thinks they are beautiful.
I realize it is who she is, much like the students that show up in our classrooms already embracing their roles in school. And no matter how we try to point them in different directions, most of the time they are perfectly happy being the person they are. Most of the time they can’t help it. And we have to embrace that. We cannot turn a quiet kid into a loud one. We cannot turn an extrovert into an introvert. We cannot expect to either, but we can show other tenets of personality. We can help them develop their character and see the strength in their personality. We can give them a space in which they can fully embrace who they are, rather than face more judgment. As adults we tend to want to change things to make things easier, to have things work out the way we envision it, but we cannot do that with kids. We can try to guide them but we cannot push them into the mold we envision fit them best. So although we think we know best, sometimes we just have to step back, hold our breath and watch them develop. Even if that means pink, sparkles, and princess dresses every day.