I want to raise a child with character. I want my child to lead a life of service. I want my child to be of substance, to make a difference, to resonate with humanity during her time on this earth.
Except my child is five.
She wants to play princesses. She wants to dress up. She’s curious about high heels and makeup. And she’s so worried about disappointing me. I can see it in her eyes as she waits to see how I will react to her admiring one of those princesses, the ones she knows mommy can’t stand. And so I catch her watching for my approval (or disapproval) and I catch myself trying to twist my face to hide my dismay, to act like I’m okay with the blonde busty princess with the big gown and tiara, the one who obsesses about finding herself a prince and not much else. Both of us doing this dance, for the sake of the other.
“My mommy doesn’t like princesses,” I overhear her telling a friend recently.
“Why?” my friend asks. My ears perk up.
“Because she thinks they’re vain and shallow.”
I groan inside. I’ve done it! I’ve ruined the magic of princesses for my five year old. I’ve screwed up her childhood. She will be on some therapist’s couch in twenty years.
Later that night, I tell her I don’t dislike all princesses. I like some of them, the ones who do things for others, who are kind, who try to do service. I make a big deal out of the new Disney princess. I highlight the fact that she works so hard, that she has character and stands on her principles. “See? Mommy likes some princesses.”
I’m struggling! I’m struggling with trying to balance the whimsy of childhood and the need to teach character and spiritual qualities early on. I’m afraid that if I wait too long, it will be too late. I look around and see cause for alarm. I see girls bombarded night and day with images of women as sexual objects. I see pre-teen girls wearing things I would expect to see on a thirty year old. I see women being rewarded for scandalous, immoral behavior. I see twelve and thirteen-year-olds whose milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. This makes me lose sleep.
I was no saint myself. I was no girl scout. But it seems like the situation has become dire for our little girls. They’re under assault, both explicitly and otherwise. They have become the playthings of the ignorant and they are cast in that role from an earlier and earlier age. And no matter how hard you work to stay on message, eventually they go to school. They make friends. Maybe some of those friends’ parents aren’t so bothered by the same things that bother you. Maybe during a play date, while you’re in the kitchen making lunch, you suddenly hear your daughter’s little friend teaching her some song about her “lovely lady lumps.” You feel a panic attack coming. You do your yoga breath to calm down.
And later that night you pray for guidance and wisdom … and balance.