I Want to Raise an Unconventional Princess

I Want to Raise an Unconventional Princess

by -

A Little Princess

Every night before bed I go to each of the kids’ rooms. I check on the boys first. I go into their bedroom, with their cribs six feet apart, and stare at them long enough to confirm that I see their chests moving. I don’t doubt they are breathing, but I appreciate visual validation. I don’t stay for too long because, while they can sleep through each other’s screaming, they tend to wake at the scent of my desperation for peace and quiet.

Then I go to Eva’s room, my only daughter and oldest. She sleeps in a pile of blankets and pillows on the floor, next to her toddler bed. Since we moved into our house nine months ago, she has refused to sleep in her bed. However, she won’t get rid of it, even though it appears to only be good for holding all of her stuff, which will someday be featured on a show I hope to produce called Toddlers and Hoarders.

Sometimes, after I locate her in her nest of stuffed animals and quilts, I walk over and kiss her forehead. The other night, I stayed in the doorway. I thought, she is such a big girl, in such a big girl’s room.

She is sleeping on a pink rug, Tinker Bell decorations hang from her ceiling, and a tiara and wand litter her dresser. A little over a year ago, I wrote an essay called Mom-Mom, The Princess, and the Hypocrite where I discussed my distaste for Disney princesses and stereotypical expectations based on gender. I vowed to never allow a tiara to grace the head of any of my children, unless it was on a son. I swore off Barbie. And I refused to buy frilly clothing.

And here I am now, tasting the hypocrisy of my words. If they could have flavor, they would be bubblegum and if they could have color, they would be pink and purple. Despite my attempts to keep over commercialized “girl” stuff away from my daughter, she seems to have a sampling of all of it. My attempts were based on the simple fact that I wanted her to be exposed to all toys, ideas, and colors a child should get to experience and not only the ones that society thinks she should have based on her gender.

But about six months ago, she developed a very strong desire to wear pink, princess stuff, and learn all of the names of the Disney Princesses. I don’t know all of their names, so one is called Pouchy. Don’t ask. She wanted pretty dress-up dresses from Santa and last month she wanted a Tinker Bell birthday cake. Her newest infatuation is the princess underwear she picked out at Costco. They also have Hello Kitty and Super Heroes if anyone is wondering.


I could have said no to all of it. But I didn’t. Why? Because she doesn’t ask for much. Because all of it makes her happy—I have never seen a kid so excited about underwear. And because on any given day she will want to wear her Wonder Woman costume instead of her princess dress.

While she has a fondness for stories and characters I can’t stand, she also loves my old Berenstain Bear books and building with blocks and Legos. She is creative and funny. She is a well-adjusted kid and turning into a solid little person.

I will credit this to nature, nurture, and my resistance to handing her gender biased things.

The other night while she was brushing her teeth, she looked at me and said, “Mama, am I pretty?”

After my heart broke a little bit, and after I fought the urge to do my best Aibileen impression and say, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important,” I quickly told her yes. Yes, she is pretty. And kind. And smart. And important. Seriously—if you haven’t read The Help, do it.

I don’t know where she got the notion to ask that question or what her definition of pretty is, but I don’t want it to be based on the packaged crap that is shoved in our daughters’ faces in commercials, books, and magazines.

Yes, I worry too much about this. But I believe it is worth worrying about. I realize that she is only three, but if I can provide a solid foundation of confidence and limitless possibilities, I will. And yes, I believe moderation and limitations to packaged girlhood is one way to do that.

I will say that having only one Barbie or one Tinker Bell makes Eva covet, if not appreciate, her contraband.  At all times we know exactly where those things are and they are never taken for granted.

This subject is not the only one that has bent or broken my moral code and it won’t be the last. Parenting makes you do things you don’t always want to do and it forces you to compromise. It also gives you the opportunity to communicate through words and actions. I will continue to read her Disney stories about mermaids and princesses and I will continue to tell her she is beautiful, whether she is wearing a dress, a Super Hero costume, or nothing at all.

Superhero Mom



  1. “I don’t stay for too long because, while they can sleep through each other’s screaming, they tend to wake at the scent of my desperation for peace and quiet.”
    Yes. Yes. Yes. I swear my youngest daughter, who I affectionately refer to as “The Warden,” could hear the sound of my yoga mat unfurling from one floor above with the door shut.

    I can relate to so much of this post. My 8 year old recently cut her hair very short, a bold move in a world filled with long, straight ponytails, and has been told by her friends that she isn’t very pretty anymore. She takes it like a champ. I’m the one that suffers and wrings my hands with worry, about what, I’m not exactly sure. But I know it’s out there, and it’s pervasive. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Betsy! The Warden, that’s great! Please let your daughter know I am super excited to have another short-haired beauty in the world. She is awesome. And so are you.

  2. YES! Such a great post! No matter how much I try to avoid the Disney princess they are creeping in. But along with them we/she plays Dr, and super hero, and so many more great things.

    • Thank you, Honi. I was told I wouldn’t be able to avoid the princess stage. I’ve realized I am okay with it if she is balanced with all of the other cool things girls can be. Until one of those princesses marries another princess, I am skeptical. :-)

  3. Thank you for your post. I have a daughter who is not quite two and this is a constant thought for me. My son is three and we had all “boy” and gender neutral toys for the longest time. I then found out at day care she was playing with dolls and purses all the time and realized maybe we should have some toys like that at home. I want both of my children to know how to be gentle with babies, but also to not be scared of playing with trucks. Both my children know how to use a stethoscope and I cannot wait to give them their first microscopes or to build rockets with them. I want them to be well rounded no matter their gender. I tell them both they are pretty and handsome, but also that they are funny and smart and that is what matters most. I worry that my own “issues” come out, but I try to be the best mom I can be. I guess in the end that is all we can do. Thank you again for sharing.

    • Thank you Samantha. I agree. I want all three of my kids to have the toughness and sensitivity of a well-rounded person, no matter their gender. Once we realized she was wearing the school’s princess dress up gear every day and a towel around her waist at home, I gave in. My own issues were getting in the way of her innocent desire to wear something shiny.

  4. Twins! And your daughter is three! How wonderful:) you were in my childbirth education class 3+ years ago (probably one of the first ones I taught solo) and you were the only one ever to offer to stay with me after class so that I wouldn’t leave the building alone in the dark. You are a super hero and your kids will without any doubt take after you :)

    • Hi Genie! I remember you very fondly. Thank you for your kind words. And, yes, twins. Amy was the real super hero with that one.

  5. We are going through all of this right now! My daughter and Eva are the same age and apparently have the same taste. She, too has been bringing up “beautiful” lately and it breaks my heart. They are so kind an innocent and to worry about this at such a young age. I say the same thing…kind, smart, and funny is beautiful. We just have to keep doing our best! Hope to see you around Burnham Library soon. Camille misses Eva!

    • Hi Melissa! We have been doing basketball on Saturday mornings, but that ends this weekend. We will venture back to Burnham soon. I hear they are renovating the kids’ section! Can’t wait to see it.

  6. I’m glad someone else is going through this as well. I vowed against all princess and pink frilly stuff and bought my daughter camo and legos. My mother told me, “Your kids are going to be who they want to be”. As I put my almost 3 year-old daughter to bed in her room with Cinderella stickers on the wall, pink sheets on her bed, and in a tiara, I realized Mom was right. I’ve come to realize all that doesn’t matter as long as they are happy.

  7. Kissing, licking and fondling with her thighs will turn her on big time
    since it is very close to her vagina. Sex isn’t just a
    one position activity in my opinion. The more you
    tease the more he will want it and when you finally
    give him a blow job it will be his best ever.

Leave a Reply