for whom the princess dress twirls

I never owned a princess dress when I was little. Never had any desire to be a princess for Halloween or in my pretend play. I didn't care for any of the Disney Princess movies, preferring The Fox and the Hound, Aristocats... anything with dogs, cats, mice, horses. People were not my thing. Specifically the kind who wore crowns and dresses and long hair that tumbled down the sides of walls. Princess stories were horrifying to me. Princess stories made me want to be a boy. Or a dog. Or a horse.

That never really went away - my quiet disdain for all things pink and girly - of wedding dresses and diamonds and all the things that are supposed to be a "girl's best friend". I rebelled against "girliness" by buying skateboards with my allowance and wearing rats on my shoulders - tarantulas on my head in the play yard when everyone was scared of spiders. I dismantled my feminine name and wrote BEX on the top of my papers. Dressed up like boys for Halloween.

Fable's love of princesses has morphed into a love of weddings as well - something, once again, I can't relate to. And when she recently asked about my wedding dress and I explained to her that I didn't wear one she looked horrified.

"Some girls don't want to wear dresses when they get married. Some girls don't want to wear veils or feel like princesses."

"But dresses are THE PRETTIEST! Especially when they have tulle!"

"And some girls feel... less pretty when they wear those things."

"But you know what? Some boys wear dresses. Some boys wear princess dresses and veils."

"Totally. There are boys who want to be princesses and girls who don't want to be princesses and I was one of the girls who didn't want to be a princess and everyone gets to decide what feels right for them, you know?"

The princess dresses are fine. Awesome, even. I can totally back the princess costumes and the princess theme parties and the dolls with their crowns in their gowns and everything that lives comfortably on the periphery of "one day my prince will come happily ever after..."

It's the princess stories I struggle with. It's the movies and the books Fable wants wants read to her over and over - of princesses and their terrible sisters and vile (or dead) mothers and how the only person who could possibly save them is a man.

And I hate them. I really, truly do. I always have.

And yet.

Fable loves them. She adores them and when we go to the library she collects them and studies them and is absolutely fascinated and enamored and I'm like, "what about this wonderful book about spiders? Or this epic tale of a cloud who befriends the sun!" and then she turns to me with the biggest eyes of all time and says, "NO THANK YOU MOM I FOUND A BOOK ABOUT A PRINCESS WEDDING!" and then I ask her if she's sure and she tells me she is VERY sure and then I smile and hold her books for her and that is that. 
I have always believed that the most important thing I can do as a parent is allow my children to find themselves in the ways that feel right and true to them  - so that they can bring themselves joy. I'm not here to teach them what to love or what not to so I tend to stand back when it comes to their interests. When it comes to their clothes, their activities, book selections at the library...

Fable's joy is my joy and I don't want her to doubt that ever even for one tiny second. I want her to know that I support every twirl and every song and every picture she draws and every idea in her head, and every veil she makes out of the tulle from old dresses and the stories she tells about princesses and princes and the pictures she draws of herself and her friends wearing crowns.

Because "princesses make me feel happy and I love to wear pretty dresses."

And with her whole heart, she does. The princess lifestyle is a magical, exciting world for her - a wonderland of beautiful sparkly dressy-uppy things that she can't wait to wake up and explore and I'm not about to tamper with that. 
IMG_7709 How could I possibly? IMG_7712 No way. 
So when Fable pleaded with me to add "Cinderella" to the stack of books I planned to read to her school on Monday, I said okay.

Kind of.

"Are you sure you want me to read Cinderella? You have so many wonderful books here!"

"Yes but I LOVE Cinderella, mommy. Please please will you read it to my class please please?"

"Okay, but here's the deal. There are a lot of things in this book that make me feel uncomfortable so if I read this book, I'm going to make a few changes. Is that okay?"

Fable didn't care what changes I made to the story so long as Cinderella got to wear a "beautiful gown and glass slippers."


So? I read the modified version of Cinderella 2013 - the story of a girl who couldn't wait to go on adventures and pursue her dreams and do wonderful things for the world along side her like-minded partner who was just as stoked on adventures as she was. All while wearing a beautiful gown and amazing shoes.

In my version the sisters were "jealous but misunderstood" and the step mother was sad and lonely, rather than cruel. The Prince? He was just a dude looking for someone awesome to travel to amazing places with - see the world...

As I read the story, Fable beamed. In the "wink wink mommy" way she does when I come to her school and her friends ask me to swing them upside down.

She was proud of me. I could tell.

And maybe it had nothing to do with my changes (it didn't. She had no idea I edited anything, she later told me) but I left the school feeling like I did right by both of us. She was happy to hear about princesses and I was happy to do my part in redefining them.

Even if she didn't hear me.

Even if she never does.

It turns out it's just as important for me to be true to my self as it is to applaud Fable for being true to hers. I seem to have misplaced that truth over the last few months so afraid was I to rain on Fable's tulle parade.

(It turns out, that's not possible.)

There will be many moments in my tenure as a mother that will make me feel twitchy. There will be people who come in and out of my children's lives who I'll have a hard time loving, let alone relating to. There will be choices my kids make that will challenge me. That I'll feel are wrong. And there will be times when I'll have to stand back and let them go. But there will also be times when standing back is not an option. And on a small scale, even though it sounds kind of silly as I write this, this felt like one of those times.

Oh and PS? I totally like Cinderella now. This new 2.0 version we've been reading these last four days? She's my kind of chick.

"Mine too, Mommy. Her dress is so twirly."



Anonymous | 3:40 PM

I like Cinderella 2.0 too! Hopefully one day I'll have a daughter and can read that story to her :)