Ever since Christmas at her cousins’ house, Peeper has been wearing a single plastic Cinderella shoe. It’s clear and has a strand of fake pearls on the toe. She had worn it when she and her cousins showcased a Disney on Ice dance they created, and we couldn’t get it off her when we left. Welcome to the princess phase, I thought.
“Isn’t that uncomfortable?” Eric asked her.
She looked down.
“It’s not comfortable but it’s so pretty,” she replied.
Great. She’s 3 and already sacrificing comfort for a great shoe.
Catching the princess bug
Peeper has the princess bug bad. For a while I was all smug, thinking that my dirt-loving, stick-throwing preschooler would avoid the tiara phase.
Then she watched Cinderella as her first-ever movie. Since then her princess phase has become full-blown, and now she has princess underwear, a Cinderella doll and—yes—a bunch of tiaras.
There’s of course nothing wrong with princesses per se. But the similar storylines repeated in so many of the Disney princess movies—you know, damsel in distress falling in love with a tall and handsome stranger then getting rescued, usually from an evil older and jealous woman—make me ill.
So when Eric asked Peeper what she wanted to be the other day and she answered, “A princess!” I cringed.
She used to answer “a doctor” or even at one point “a nail polisher.” (I had just gone to get a pedicure.) Now she wants to be pretty royalty.
Letting my daughter hang onto her princess dreams
When she enthusiastically talks about becoming a princess, I have to hold my tongue. I want to say, “Are you sure you don’t want to be an engineer? A chef? A farmer? An inventor?”
I can think of so many other professions to aspire to, professions in which people actually do something beyond be gentle and attractive.
I think of that every time I hear the step clomp step clomp of her walking around in that one plastic Cinderella shoe.
But of course taking away her beloved princess attire will not make her switch allegiance to Team Computer Science. Forcing her into something that doesn’t match a 3-year-old’s interest will only make her resent and distrust me.
And I do not want to turn into an evil stepmother.
Embracing—or at least accepting—the princess phase
It is fun to dress up. It is fun to try on someone else’s identity.
I did it a ton when I was a kid, though I generally pretended to be an orphan who had to survive on her own in the woods, not a glass-slipper wearing princess.
So I understand Peeper’s impulse to make believe she is something different.
Still, I try to counteract the princess phase when I can. When we play Cinderella, I sometimes tell Peeper that the fairy godmother is out of town but princesses are perfectly capable of making their own dreams come true.
(She is never amused.)
When we packed up to go home from our visit to the Midwest, I had planned to accidentally-on-purpose forget the Cinderella slipper at my in-laws’ house. But Peeper spotted it the morning we left and made sure it fit in the suitcase alongside her new Cinderella doll and plastic tiaras.
So I’ll be hearing the step clomp of her one plastic shoe all over our house. I don’t know if the princess phase will last another day or a year. But I’m trying to keep in mind that it is as temporary as her other difficult stages—like the months she wouldn’t eat unless I was singing to her or the stretch she insisted on watching the same clownfish documentary whenever she sat on the potty.
At Peeper’s age, kids are trying on identities and interests like grown ups test out sunglasses at the store. There’s a lot of checking yourself out in the mirror, deciding if something is you or not.
Time will tell what Peeper decides to keep as a love and what she discards. But if she does continue this princess phase, you can bet I’ll be in the background, making sure she’s a feminist princess who gets shit done.