This is a guest post by Jesssica Braidwood Turner.
We knew our daughter was going to be a girl.
From the time we found out I vowed that she would not be shrouded in ‘the pink’ that has taken over the clothing, toy and life choices of baby girls. I was not a fan.
Let me also pause here and say I don’t hate pink. I myself own a pink shirt. But I grew up in an era that was not inundated with glitter and glam and sparkly things created for 4 year olds.
The glitter and glam era is now here.
I wasn’t opposed to ‘hints of pink’ amongst a plethora of colour for my girl. I just didn’t want her to swim in it. The proliferation of pink freaked me out (well, it still does) and felt like a slippery slope. Dress your baby girl in all pink and she one day will be pining for a man, waiting to be rescued. I wanted my daughter to be strong, independent and confident in her ability to take care of herself. She couldn’t start her life wearing all pink and become the woman I hoped she would be. Or so I thought.
Then she was born. And as planned, she wore hints of pink along with a wide spectrum of other colours. We didn’t paint any walls pink (not that we ended up even using the nursery). We didn’t buy the pink version of toys.
Fast forward to when she was nearly three years old.
“Mama, guess what?”
“My favourite colour is light pink!”
Cue internal cringe.
“Is it? Why?”
“I don’t know. I just LOVE it!”
Where did this come from? How could this be? Why did it bother me so much?
We didn’t watch TV at the time, and we had stayed away from most advertising. I never walked down the pink aisle in the stores. She rarely wore pink. We coloured and painted with all colours.
She came by her love of pink at least somewhat naturally (although I’m sure there was some degree of incisive marketing involved).
And this was just the beginning. Soon she was drawn to the princess dress-up clothes at the drop-in play centre. She wanted sparkly shoes and big party dresses. She wanted to be a princess when she grew up.
I felt like I had failed. That the marketing engine pushed on North American little girls had won and all was lost. I felt like it was going to be all Disney and no dirt from that point on.
And then I realized something. If she had been a boy and had wanted to dress-up in party dresses and be a princess when he grew up I would have said, “Yes! How exciting for you!” What was different? Just because she was a 3 year old girl who “fit the stereotype,” I didn’t want to deny her the things that she enjoyed.
So I stopped. I stopped wishing she would pick trains over princesses. I let her be her. I bought the princess costumes and sparkly shoes and party dresses. I bought nail polish and painted her toe nails. We started reading fairy tales — the real ones though. (Yes, the little mermaid dies in the real story).
We watched Frozen and Brave. (I still can’t bring myself to introduce the other Disney princesses. I have my limits).
And she loved it all.
I realized that princess doesn’t have to mean passive. We role played strong princesses who go on great adventures. We read books about princesses who do amazing things. We stay away from the princesses who can’t look after themselves and the 25,000 products that are pushed on us around every corner at every department store.
She is four now and she still loves princesses and sparkly shoes. She also loves riding her bike and her scooter. And bouncing on trampolines. And reading books. And working in the garden. And cooking. Building with Lego. Dinosaurs. Playing doctor. Finding shapes in the clouds. Painting. Singing. Dancing.
She is FULL of so many interests and passions already. I’m so excited to see the 5 year old she grows into and the 10 year old and the 20 year old.
Being a parent is about respecting our kids as WHOLE people from the time they are born. Supporting them. Helping them. Respecting them. Understanding that they have wants, desires and needs that do not always align with our own.
This is not to say I do not think we need to put thought and energy into the messages we send our girls. I firmly believe that how we speak to our kids and the stories we share with them have an effect on who they become. The Disney Princess mega-marketing machine is more than a little troubling. The messages that reach my daughter’s ears are something I think about a lot. And we have a LONG way to go in providing our kids with the messages they should be hearing.
But the decision to support her love of pink and enjoyment of princesses was simpler than all of that for me. It was about supporting her – the person she is today.
Today she told me she is going to be an astronaut when she grows up. She told me she wishes she had magical powers to freeze things like Elsa. That she wants to wear a twirly dress tomorrow and spin around 1000 times. And that she wants to write a card to her best friend and tell her she loves her.
She is so much more than one thing.
She is everything.
Jessica Braidwood Turner lives in Victoria, British Columbia with her husband and two children. She writes about attachment parenting and finding the village families need to be successful.