Sunday, March 04, 2012

peace out, princesses. don't let the door hit ya'...


I've been struggling with and mulling over whether to tell you what I'm about to say, but I made a pledge to be more honest with you, Reader, and I am sticking to it. The thing is, I'm not quite sure what to say. I'll just get going with it then.

After Vivi and I returned from our lovely afternoon at a friend's house a few days ago, we had our nightly ritual where I lay in bed with her, and we exchange the favorite and least favorite parts of our day. We call it "talk about it" because that's what I called it when I was three years old. Aren't traditions great? Even when I'm feeling run down and annoyed that it's my night to do bedtime (and right now it's always my night), this ritual perks me up and reminds me of why I love being a mom. There are so many days where she says the sweetest, most thoughtful things.


This was not one of those days. After we'd each given our run-downs, we had the following conversation...

Vivi: Mommy, I need to tell you something that happened today. When I was playing princesses with T, we hid under the bed so that we didn't have to see the princess dying.

...My mouth lolled open for a minute...

Me: Uhhhhh. Ummmm. DYING?

Vivi: Yes, dying.

Me: Whose idea was this?

Vivi: It was my idea.

Me: Do you know what dying means?

Vivi: Yes, she was dying because the monster came and killed her. T didn't want to watch, so she asked me to hide under the bed with her.

Me (as calmly as I could muster): WHAT?! WHY WOULD YOU PLAY THAT GAME?!

Vivi: Sheesh, Mommy, I don't know! Anyway, we only did that for a minute and then we played nice princesses instead because T wanted to.

Did I mention this child is only three years old? I joke about raising a sociopath, but for reals, how much of these shenanigans can one parent take? At that moment, I was so effing mad at Disney and Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm, and at myself for allowing this nonsense in my house. I have had the conversation more times than I can count about how much I dislike the ridiculous princess drivel Disney drills into our daughters' heads from birth, and the other conversation about how unbelievably macabre the Andersen/Grimm stories are.

I suppose it's a glimmer of hope that she chose to tell me about the incident without being prompted. She clearly wanted to work through the event and T's skittish reaction. I don't think I handled my response very well; however, in my defense, going from "The favorite part of my day was when I ate peanut butter crackers" to "I saw a princess dying while hiding under the bed" was a bit more than my tired mommy brain could process.

If you're wondering about how the princess loot gets here, I do not have a good answer for you. This shit multiplies. One day she has a princess cup, and the next day I'm tripping over tiaras and stepping on a miniature Belle and putting her sandwich in a Tinkerbell lunch box. The real question becomes: WHY do I let it in my house?

This question brings me to why I didn't want to tell you this story. It isn't a nice story or a cute story, and it makes me feel I've failed Vivi in some small way. I am her mother, and I am the gateway by which she learns most of the information she knows, including the stories from which she pulls during her pretend play. I realize it's not the end of the world that this dying princess play event happened, and that I do have some parenting rules I'm proud of. For instance, I love the no TV rule, except for the rare occasional program, e.g. PBS' Nature, a library-rented movie, and Peep and The Big Wide World (I'm a sucker for that one). I just can't accurately tell you how much this princess business gets under my skin.



Therefore, rather than endure another single day of princess ballyhoo, I've decided to take action, effective immediately. I am getting a box out of the basement, and I am going to round up all the stories about dying princesses, the figurines, the princess panties, the cup, and the princess pencils and coloring books, and we are going to put them in the toy rotation. Vivi already understands this concept and is a willing and active participant in the great toy switcheroo. It is my hope that she will get so much joy out of the new imaginative stories I introduce, like Pippi Longstocking, Charlotte's Web, and the works of Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl, that she won't miss the morbid or banal happily-ever-after tales. But if she does ask for them, I suppose I'll consider bringing them up for a (brief) visit.

Tell me, Reader, what would YOU do? Do you limit the gruesome or overly advertised Trademark characters? Do you think I'm being too drastic? Not drastic enough? I would love to hear how you handle this issue if it happens in your home.

6 comments:

Jacqueline Pointer said...

Ha ! How 'bout vacuuming up all those little barbie parts too .

The Lone Home Ranger said...

Yes, that certainly left an impression on me! In a good way. As did letting me help pick out excess stuffed animals that we could give to the workers' families.

roving lemon said...

Regarding the trademark characters: they are, and always have been, severely limited in our house. No Mattel dolls, no princesses, no commercial TV (PBS all the way), no Disney movies other than Pixar and some of the older non-princess stuff. Stuff does find its way in, but I just try to pay as little attention to it as possible and sideline it quickly. I also, believe it or not, have consistently answered questions about princesses using dull, age-appropriate political terminology, stressing the inherent unfairness that supports their existence. How's *that* for drastic?

Regarding the focus on death: I think that this is typical developmentally, based on my unscientific observations. It's a big thing, it's all around us, and it's kind of taboo, and I think kids pick up on that from quite a young age, even if they only ever watch nature documentaries (which are often full of death). I have more than once reassured myself (possibly delusionally) that regular inquiries about death are indicative that my child feels safe and secure enough to risk probing into the darkness.

PS A couple of books that I thought did a great job of creatively subverting the princess myth: Princesses Are Not Quitters! (http://tinyurl.com/7ebjjl7) and Zog (http://tinyurl.com/767xnup)

The Lone Home Ranger said...

Thanks Lemon! I am happy to hear there's another un-princess crusader out there. I will definitely check out those books from the library. My favorite princess book is one from my childhood called Princess Smartypants. I wish I could say it was also V's favorite.

Emily Sefcik said...

Ugh. I've been working on a post about my distaste for all things Disney and Princess for a long time. I cringed when a waiter the other night asked if the little princess wanted some milk...I could go on. Have you read, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" by Peggy Orenstein? I read it when I felt like I was the only anti-princess person on the planet. We're currently battling an infestation at our house as the rest of the family seems to think if we won't buy pink princess stuff for our daughter they HAVE too. How dare we let her live without it? L. got "Beauty and the Beast" when she was just barely a year old. It has to be one of my least favorites. Against my better judgement I let her watch it one day and she asks for it all the time (she calls it "Beastie Beast")...

The Lone Home Ranger said...

"Beastie Beast" is pretty cute. That movie actually doesn't bother me because Belle is smart and sees the lovable kindness in the Beast as opposed to sticking with the arrogant Gaston. Also the Beast learns a valuable lesson not to judge people by their appearance...and to control his temper, I suppose? As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing valuable to be gained out of reading "Sleeping Beauty"...luckily Vivi hasn't seen the video, but it's currently her favorite princess story.

Share

Like what you see? Subscribe to the feed of these posts, follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, or friend me on Facebook to find out what's happening on the Range. Thanks!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...