One of the things that has surprised me most about fathering little girls is the extent to which I enjoy Walt Disney World in sunny Orlando, Florida. This year will be our third trip in a handful of years. I love everything about that joint and when we go, we get after it and leave it all on the field. We open and close Magic Kingdom multiple days, which is something I think your family should do at least once per trip. When it is time for us to go home, we are exhausted because we have wrung every last drop of magic out of that mouse. It is a phenomenal place. Obviously with 3 little girls, our trips to the Disney campus take on a decidedly Princessy theme. This is my reality and we unashamedly dive head first into the Princess culture. We dress up. We meet and greet them all. We marinate and simmer in those stories in those settings with those characters and we pay good money for it (as anyone who has been there, well knows). Now, before I had daughters, I held strong opinions about a great many things. I knew for a fact that my children would never be allowed to disobey me in public. I knew they would sit quietly at restaurants and eat their food without making any messes. And I knew for certain that the Disney Princess universe was responsible for a lot of self-centered, overly dramatic behavior and that my children would never be involved in such things.
What a fool. As I write this, I marvel at just how much my thinking has been changed by these little ones. Like I have said a thousand times before: “There was a way I imagined my life turning out, but then I got daughtered and nothing has been the same.” My girls regularly disobey me in public, restaurant meals are a friggin circus, and those Princesses are a tremendous aid in the task of raising young girls. We embrace and encourage Disney Princess-ism for a host of reasons. And you should as well.
1. In parenting, and specifically within the realm of body image stemming from the overt media messaging that bombards girls from a young age, I will take help from allies wherever I find them. Sadly, today, the overwhelming tide of females in the public eye only gain traction or attention by relying heavily on their willingness to wear fewer and fewer clothes. It is not that we don’t have a great many wonderfully strong and brilliant women. We just don’t regularly spotlight them and that must be offensive to women and a disservice to girls. Parents who want to show their daughters great female role models have to go search them out and overwhelm their daughters’ ears with their inspiration in order to drown out the ocean of negativity that covertly and expressly tells her that her value is measured in her ability to turn heads with her body. For the engaged dad, the battle for his daughter’s eventual view of herself begins in her infancy. And he has to be relentless and willing to use every resource available. The princess characters throughout the compelling stories in the Disney vault universally value character over beauty which makes them a fantastic tool for parenting.
2. The Princesses exemplify certain traits that we highlight and exalt in our home. They give us specific, easy to understand examples to which we can point and say “Do you see this? This is how you are to act.” The best parents I’ve ever seen have this magical ability to make memorable lessons out of everything that interests their children and they do it in such a way that their kids don’t even recognize they are being taught. It is an amazing thing to behold and a talent I am trying to build in myself. So, when the girls are watching one of these movies, we are in constant communication. This is one thing I’ve learned about these little girls. Watching movies is an interactive experience for them. They ask questions so much that we can’t even hear the movie! “Daddy, did you see that?” “Daddy, are you stronger than Gaston?” “Have you ever eaten a grub?” “Why is the beast so mad all the time?” and on and on and on they go. For me, if I’m not careful, this is positively annoying. However, these times when they are engaged in these stories are custom made opportunities to infuse character training into their minds by calling attention to observable traits in these Princesses with whom they already identify.
“Girls, look at how Snow White is so kind to all those little guys even though she just met them.”
“Girls, did you see how Anna was willing to protect her sister even when she felt bad and needed to take care of herself?”
“Girls, do you see how focused and determined Mulan is?”
“Girls, do you see how Belle is so devoted to her father? Isn’t that awesome? You should all be like Belle”
Disney Princess-ism provides clear, and surprisingly rare, representations of many of the character traits we want to impress upon our daughters.
Most dads are not comfortable with the pomp and circumstance that comes with their daughters’ affinity for Disney Princesses. I know I wasn’t. And there are still days where all the different dresses and the glitter and the crowns and tiaras and the living room dramatic re-enactments and magic wands that play music are just too much. I understand. Believe me, I understand. But, dad, there is a great deal of value in your daughter’s fascination with those Princesses. Use it to your benefit and hers. You’ve been great today and you can be great again tomorrow.