My daughter is going through a medieval phase. Her new favorite hairstyle is to french braid it the night before so that it gets all wavy and then wear it half down with two intertwining braids on the top half. She wears her hair like this with whatever shirt she can find with the puffiest cap sleeves. I think she's trying to channel her inner Gwinevere. The other day we were driving to her 6 month check-up for her ear tubes. Our ENT is over an hour drive away. Brooke talked about fairy tales the whole time.
She announced from the back seat,"When I grow up I am going to be a princess."
She said it just as certainly as if she had said, "I want to be a teacher" or "I want to be a veterinarian."
Boring, logistical grown-up that I am, I responded, "Oh really? Are you going to marry a prince or something?"
Boy, that put a burr under her saddle! "NO!!! I'm NOT going to marry a prince, Mom! I'm just going to grow up to be a princess. A SINGLE princess!" She sat there, arms folded, face scowling.
Perhaps it's the result of having three older brothers, but to Brooke, the mention of her getting married when she grows up always elicits anger. How dare mean mom mention that nasty word!
This all got me thinking about why my mind instantly goes to prince when I think of princess. Maybe my daughter had a good point. Why should she have to have a prince to make her a princess? Was I stereotyping? Being sexist? Why couldn't a girl consider herself a princess without a Prince Charming? After all, it's us princesses that have to kiss the frogs to turn them into princes. Not the other way around.
I realized that in my own (REAL) life, I often think that I need my husband to confirm that I am in fact his queen before I see myself that way. I wondered, "If it weren't for that confirmation, would I still feel worthy?" I thought of the many different ways that we women count on the men in our lives for validation. Would I bother dressing up if I didn't want him to tell me that he thinks I'm pretty? Would my goals be the same if I didn't always have it in the back of my mind that I am HALF of a couple? Where along the line did we decide that we needed someone to "complete" us? (Thanks Jerry McGuire!)
Just this last Valentine's Day, Dustin brought home a rose & a box of Sweethearts for Brooke. This bothered me at first because she was the only one out of our four kids that he brought something home for. When I told him that I was afraid that he would hurt the boys' feelings, he told me that they need to learn that Valentine's is about men pampering women. Just like Brooke needs to learn that as a female, she deserves to be treated a certain way. If little girls grow up to marry men like their daddies, then he wants to treat her like a princess & set the bar high.
As a woman, this made me feel both lucky to have a husband that values women and equally terrified that we would create a monster. I don't want my daughter to have entitlement issues or to just expect to always have a man to take care of her. After all, life is what happens while you're busy planning for other things (John Lennon). We have no idea how her story will play out. I desperately want her to be strong enough to handle whatever comes her way as a SINGLE princess (as she put it.) If she ends up with a fabulous prince charming, then that's just gravy.
Following this line of thought, I got scared that I had been a horrible role model to her. While I still solidly believe that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to truly love their mother, had I somehow (by being a stay-at-home mom that could possibly be a little spoiled by my husband) have communicated to my kids that women NEED to be spoiled? I suddenly felt the urge to prove to them all just how strong I really was. I wanted them to know once and for all that their daddy and I treat each other the way we do because we enjoy being nice to each other, not because we think the other person is weak or incapable of taking care of them self. Sure, I'd RATHER bake cookies while he changes the oil on the car, but do I really want my daughter to think that she doesn't need to know how to do "guy stuff" since her mom never did?
My mind went on like this for a while. Then, I realized something else. Dustin & I haven't always been this nice to each other. Even though we've been married for so long now that it seems like forever ago, the reality is that the first several years of our marriage were TOUGH and we had to learn to treat each other with love and respect. We got married when Dustin was 19 and I was 17. Nineteen year old boys aren't necessarily ready to be good husbands yet. Seventeen year old girls aren't mature enough to be great wives. Dustin doesn't go out of his way to take care of me because that's the way it's always been. It's a dynamic that we created & grew into. Suddenly, I didn't feel so worried anymore, because looking at it from that perspective, I felt more like I'd EARNED my crown as Queen.
Our relationship isn't a fairytale full of romance and white horses. It's maybe 20% romance and more like 80% action to keep the romance alive. I was scared that we were setting our kids up for disappointment by letting them think that there was such a thing as happily ever after in this modern day & age. I'm glad that what they're actually seeing is that you have to work REALLY hard at whatever you do, including love. And I'm okay with letting my daughter think that she can grow up to be a princess (as long as that means she believes that she deserves true happiness and understands that she has the power to slay whatever fire breathing dragons stand in her way by herself.)