Self-sufficient, smart, daring, brave and bold–would you be okay if these were the adjectives that described your daughter?

Do you want to teach her how to overcome trials and tribulations, and that she can be triumphant over big AND small obstacles?

Then why do Princesses get so much flack?

Recently I’ve read a few posts that have just made my skin crawl with their animosity towards Disney, or the word “princess” in general. I am an Eighties Babe and I remember well the sing-along-songs like, “Tale as Old as Time….” that I hummed, all the while I was playing tractors and getting muddy with my older brother. I played dress-up for hours and there is a home video of me at two-years old exclaiming, “I’m GARGEOUS!” Should my parents have panicked that their toddler displayed some self-confidence, that I felt ‘pretty’ in pink tutus or high heeled shoes? I watched Beauty and the Beast on repeat. I found strength in Belle’s free-thinking character, her bravery that was nothing short of admirable, her courage that ultimately restored the Beast’s kingdom. I loved Disney princesses and WARNING: I still turned out okay.

Last Saturday we had morning cartoons on. I was cleaning up dishes and the kids were quietly playing with toys on the living room floor. The TV volume was turned down low, but suddenly I heard upbeat music bursting from the speakers. I tiptoed to where they stood; my son and daughter were swaying back and forth and exclaimed, “Ooohhhh I like this one!” Before my eyes played a collection of Disney Princess movies, and the narrator saying: “For every girl who dreams BIG, there’s a Princess out there…” Across the screen rolled Rapunzel from Tangled and a young girl climbing a rope, Merida from Brave and a young girl shooting a bow and arrow, along with many other real-life Princess comparisons. The Script’s “You Can Be the Greatest” playing in the background made me tear up as I watched not only my daughter, but my son dance to the promise: “Be believers, be leaders, be astronauts, be champions…”

It ended and my toddlers clapped. My son went back to his Lego tower and my daughter continued to twirl around: “Dream big, Princess,” I laughed. A Princess isn’t weak! She doesn’t have to be a damsel in distress. She isn’t flighty or stupid. The word doesn’t have to be stereotyped with pink fluff and someone who stares at herself in a mirror all day long. It may have been a while since you’ve watched any Princess movies, maybe you haven’t seen any of them at all. Here’s a refresher:

Cinderella: she was treated like crud by a cruel and unloving stepmother. Her stepsisters were, um.. well, there’s a word for girls like that–YET, she maintained a seriously upbeat demeanor and spent her days choosing joy over sorrow.

Belle: you know I love her! She walks through town with her nose in a book and could care less about the fact that she is deemed ‘the prettiest girl in town.’ She has a love and adoration for her hardworking father, she is smart, witty and displays act after act of courage and bravery. She sacrifices her life to save her dad’s and because she never judged a book by its cover, she was able to fall in love with the man trapped under the Beast’s body.

Anna: my new favorite, was born into royalty, but this didn’t confine her to shallowness or arrogance. She sets out on a dangerous mission to save her sister and displays nothing but courage. She portrays an optimistic and determined mindset. At first she was desperate to be loved, but as the story continues, she matures and slowly began to understand how the world worked. I think Elsa is probably viewed as the main ‘Princess’ in this movie but Anna is by far the heroine.

Merida: first, holy awesome hair! But seriously, aside from beautiful, flaming locks, she has mad archery skills and is a headstrong teen with a royal upbringing. She is admired for her willpower, her sense of wild and she is a gal who independently problem solves. The plot does not involve a romantic love interest and while some may disagree, I think Merida is a teenager that twenty-first century girls can learn from.

Reese is a two-year old who excitedly shrieks when she sees a frilly dress. She is obsessed with her light pink, ballerina outfit and will grab it off the hanger in her closet, bring it to us pleading, “Put it on?? Put it on me, PLEASE?!” She sings Rachel Platten’s Fight Song on repeat. When I hear her little voice saying, “My power’s turned on, starting right now I’ll BE strong! I’ve got my fight songgggggg…” I hear the voice of a child who is being raised to believe she can choose the path ahead of her. She can wear the glass slipper but it doesn’t have to define who she is as a woman. She can be quiet or chatty, extroverted or meek. She can climb mountains on weekends or choose a desk job with average hours; heck, she can do both! She can dance or play softball, ride horses or raise pigs. She can love princesses and drive a race car.

Is there any cheesiness in most of the fairy tales we read or watch? Of course! But there is also some strength and dignity. And if these old (and new) favorites have taught me to do anything at all, it was to dream–and that is one attribute I pray never fades away.

To my children, I will be with you every SINGLE step of the way. When you fall, when you rise, when you laugh and when you cry. It’ll take you a while to figure out what you’ve been called to in this life and you’ll realize your Mama is still trying to figure it out, even as I age. But I promise– YOU being YOU is the most beautiful story that will ever be told in the pages of my book.

After you’ve read this, PLEASE click this link and watch the commercial that I refer to above: Dream Big Princess

Ashley Glass

Ashley is a blogger + photographer living in Kentucky with her husband of seven years and two toddlers. When she's not writing, snapping photos or chasing the kids around, you can find her baking something sweet while chugging re-heated coffee.