I am filled to bursting with conflicted emotions these days. And frankly, there’s really no end in sight for those feelings. Which is not awesome but reality. The feelings? I have the whole spectrum and some extra helpings to boot. It doesn’t help that I had to say goodbye to our “princess” this week.
Because she probably never was really our princess and we are finally all accepting that. Middlest in her princess form is gone and in her place is just Middlest, as she’s always been.
Let me back up a bit. I am not a fan of the “princess” approach to little girls. Some of it simply happens, little words slip out of our mouths when we least expect them and it’s too late to retract the “you look so cute!” or “your dress is so pretty!” All we can do is try to do better next time if our goal is to raise girls who see all aspects of their little selves as amazing and brilliant and wonderful and beautiful regardless of what the package looks like. In other words, I’m the kind of parent who knows the slipperiness of life’s slope and I want my daughter to see herself as a whole person and not just as a girl. Ultimately I want her to be able to save herself from any situation but still find her prince charming (or princess for that matter).
So when I was pregnant with Middlest, I painted the room yellow. I didn’t know her gender until she was born but I wouldn’t have painted the room pink if I had. I was happy to dress my newborn in sunny yellows and sage greens and gender-neutral-ish hand-me-downs from her brother. But then the gifts started arriving and they were almost all pink.
And so it began, the pinkifying of Middlest. And, in fact, she loved pink. If there were two shirt options, I knew to buy her the pink option and she’d be thrilled. Ultimately that little baby girl grew into a toddler and then preschooler and she taught me all along the way to embrace pink and all the “pinkness” of little girls. I found thinking of her as the family’s princess didn’t mean anything more than she was our adored little girl.
But she still had a gender-neutral bedroom and longed for a more “girly” bedroom. Finally, I capitulated and a gallon of pink paint made its way into our home. I painted her room and created a veritable “princess” room for her.
This was her room in 2008. There were Disney princess posters on the other walls and her pink dollhouse was tucked into the corner. It was the room where she grew from a preschooler into a girl on the cusp of being a young lady. It was the location of many a sleep-over with friends as well as her little brother who’d happily play house as long as there could be light sabers and dangerous things as well. It was a good room for our little princess.
She loved it. Friends who saw it posted on Facebook loved it. It was the perfect little princess pink room for my girl.
And within six months she wanted me to paint the room blue.
Along the way, none of us noticed that she had outgrown being just our little princess. We chalked up new color preferences with the same explanations for the end of ballet lessons: her tastes had changed. But now I wonder how much her tastes changed and how much she found her older, more rounded self.
Don’t get me wrong, she still likes pink. But she doesn’t love it, and she’s not our little princess playing with dollhouses anymore. Now she’s nine and loves horses and reads books about far away places.
Goodbye little Princess. You were fun and I adored you but I’m loving this new little girl who picks blue and purple over pink every time.
Here’s Middlest’s new room. I surprised her and redid it for her for her birthday. It seemed the thing to do since two items on her birthday wish list were “paint my room” and “get rid of the swirly things on my bed frame”.
The white wall by window? Whiteboard paint. It’ll be ready to write on by tomorrow. Perfect canvas for her favorite activity – doodling. But first I’m sneaking in and writing her a little “love you” note to remind her that no matter how big she gets, she’ll always be my sweet baby girl, regardless of what colors she wears or paints her room.