It was at my baby shower that I received my daughter’s first princess tiara. It was a gift from a family friend and it was truly beautiful. Radiantly adorned with Swarovski crystals and perfectly sized to fit atop a tiny toddler’s head. I remember my mom gushing over it when I unwrapped the box after the party was over.
I scowled at it. “She will not wear that thing,” I said.
My mom looked confused. “But she’s going to be a little girl. Of course she will want to wear it!” she said.
“My daughter will never be called a princess. End of story.”
As a kid, I loved making mud pies in the backyard and riding bikes and playing baseball with the boys next door. I never cared for fairy tales, can’t remember the plot of most Disney movies from my childhood. I never played dress-up, I never owned a Barbie, and I certainly never wore a princess tiara. Once I entered adulthood, I developed a misconceived notion that the term “princess” was synonymous with weak, shallow, and co-dependent. I was not a princess, and my child wouldn’t be one either.
Fast forward years later and I now have a daughter who is in awe of Queen Elsa, knows every word that comes out of Princess Anna’s mouth, pretends to sail the seas like Moana, and squeals with delight when Belle starts singing. She beams when she sees sparkly shoes, twirls in circles upon wearing a new dress, and stares at me with complete adoration when I put my makeup on and fix my hair in the morning.
She is everything I was not. She is everything I never really understood.
She also gets sad when others are sad. When anyone gets hurt, she comforts them by singing a traditional Spanish song that we taught her (“Sana, sana, colita de rana…”). She is compassionate, she is strong-willed, she is intelligent, and she is independent. She is fearless and she is brave.
She is everything I ever hoped she would be.
The other night, we were quickly approaching an epic toddler meltdown and I needed something to distract her. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something shimmer. There it was. That beautiful princess tiara. Someone had moved it out of its hiding spot and back into my mind. I picked it up, and she saw it for the first time ever. Her eyes lit up like it was Christmas Day.
“This, Mommy! I want this!” she exclaimed, pointing to the tiara.
I gently slid it into her hair. The meltdown was averted and her smile was contagious. She was the happiest two-year-old that ever lived at that moment in time. She was proud and unapologetic. She was her.
It was time for me to defy the stereotype. The word “stereotype” is rooted in Greek: stereos meaning “firm and solid,” and typos meaning “impression.” Put together, the word literally translates to a solid impression. It was time for me to break the impression that I had solidified around a persona that I was so judgmental of.
We read our nighttime books and headed to bed. As I reached to remove the tiara, she stopped my hand and whispered, “No, Mommy. I want this.” “Ok,” I said. “You can wear it to sleep. Sweet dreams, my love. I love you.”
“I love you, mommy.”
After she fell asleep I went back into her bedroom to quietly remove the tiara from her crib. When I looked into her crib I saw that the tiara had been taken off. She was holding it against her chest as she peacefully slept. It was hers. It was her.
We do not have children in order to raise them to be like us. We have children in order to raise them to become who they were meant to be. There are girls who love princesses. There are girls who love monster trucks. There are boys who could collect toy trains until the end of time, and there are boys who could collect baby dolls for years to come. They are all who they were meant to be, and it is our job to accept them as who they are.
Let’s work to defy the stereotype. Let’s work to let them be who they were destined to be.