By Kimberly Zapata
Of course, my immediate reaction was a worried one. I mean, what happened? I was there. Right beside her. What the heck had gone wrong? But then she continued, “Save me, prince. Save me from the monster.”
Oh, I thought, that again. We’re playing “rescue the princess from the monster.” Again.
Make no mistake, I obliged. I began running toward her — armed with a sword, a shield, and nerves of steel — but when I got to her side I yelled, “oh no, he’s got me. The monster’s got me. Princess, I need your help.”
At first, she was put off by my comment. “No,” she said, “I’m the princess. You have to save me” because that’s what most fairytales tell her. That’s what most movies teach her. But I remained firm. I remained resolute. I stood my ground — well, I actually I laid on it while asking for her help because I wanted her to realize princesses are more. I wanted her to realize princesses can be more, and I wanted her to know princesses are brave. Princesses are bold. Princesses can be badass, and princesses can fight.
They can kick monster butt, too.
And you know what? Before long, she was playing along, she was standing strong, and she was punching, kicking, and swinging the imaginary beasts beside me.
Make no mistake: I don’t normally interfere with her “play time.” I encourage creativity. I love it when she uses her imagination, and I have no problem indulging my daughter’s fancies and fantasies — i.e. I play cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, dress-up, dolls, and even prince and princess.
I do not have a problem with her playing prince and princess, but when every activity began to center around “true love’s kiss” or some damsel in distress storyline, I knew something needed to change.
I wanted her to know things could change because, as a girl (and soon-to-be woman), she is more than a pretty face. She has the power to become more than some prince’s prop.
Of course, playing princess — and being a princess — isn’t necessarily detrimental. I mean, two-dimensional as the princess archetype may seem, storybook princesses teach our children numerous lessons. Lessons in empathy and understanding. Of being compassionate, open-minded and kind, and many princesses teach us resiliency.
In the face of death and destruction, abandonment, and hardship they find a way to pull through. These “delicate” princesses buck up and keep moving forward. But it depends on the stories you read, the lessons you teach and your interpretation of what it means to “be a princess.”
And I am just making sure that, in my house, those lessons are thorough, well-rounded, and empowering. I am making sure that my princess knows there are more to princesses than castles, cute smiles, and pretty dresses, I am making sure my princess knows she is beautiful and brave. Sensitive and smart. Sweet, loving, generous, and strong. And while princesses can be saved, I am making sure — damn sure — my princess knows princesses can do the saving.
I want her to know she can protect herself, defend herself, and she can and should stand up for herself against bad guys, evil doers, monsters, and thieves. Against boys, girls, women, and men.
So stay strong, sweet one. Be brazen. Be brave. Be bold. And remember that it doesn’t matter if your feet are in sneakers or glass slippers, what matters is that they remain grounded. They remain firm, and that you remain strong.
What matters is that you always believe in yourself.
© 2017 Kimberly Zapata, as first published on Little Things