The Princess Phase

Tara Jordan essays

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My four-year-old daughter wore pink bunny ears, a yellow princess gown and a red cape. My two-year-old son wore a tiara, a pink princess gown, monkey slippers, and his big sister’s purple backpack into which they had packed their plastic food supply. Perched on our mini-trampoline – their “boat” – the two princess sisters rowed with tennis rackets on a mission to capture a spider who was planning to eat the kids at a preschool.

I tried to capture the moment by snapping a photo. Even still, like the sleepless nights, the open mouthed kisses my son used to give, and my daughter’s insistence that umbrellas be called rainbrellas, the moment bloomed, then died.

My daughter is seven-years old now. We no longer own princess gowns and tiaras, which is what I recently told the concerned mother of twin girls who were going through a princess phase.

“Don’t give it too much power,” I told her. “Don’t purchase a bedazzled tiara-shaped headboard for their beds or insist they don glittered lipstick because that’s what proper princesses do. But, if your daughters are begging for a magic wand, don’t give them a football.”

In my humble, not-well-versed-in-feminist-theory opinion, banning all princesses could communicate that there’s something subpar about traditionally feminine qualities. I want my daughter and my son to be nurturing, empathetic, patient and kind. I also want both my children to possess the traditionally male qualities of independence, confidence, and strength.

To that end, wands and tiaras and footballs and trucks are all welcome in my home. If you don’t attach that whole damsel-in-distress meaning to the wands and tiaras or make the footballs and trucks symbols of rough-and-tumble behavior, then you are giving your children permission to be whatever quality the moment calls forth.

If you, the parent, can loosen your mental grip around a wand, then a wand can be a wand, a wand can be an oar, or a wand can be the sword my children used years ago to chop off each of the child-eating spider’s eight legs.

Neutralize the wand and give your child space to be traditionally princess-y in one moment or – like the princesses featured in the book Not All Princesses Dress in Pink who “wear their jewels while fixing things with power tools” – not so traditional in the next. Grant her the space to be empathetic when her brother cuts his chin, assertive when he takes her tiara, kind to a classmate, and brave enough to dive into the deep end for the first time.

When her body splashes beneath the surface, in one moment you’ll be proud of her and in the next you’ll feel nostalgic that a first time has come and gone. A few months later when she says she’s ready to donate her princess garb, you will once again feel that nostalgia because the princess phase has come and gone. You’ll already miss the belting of “Let it Go” and the polyester, ill-fitted gowns.

That’s what phases and moments do. They come. They go. All you can do is be an engaged witness as you let them.


About the Author

Tara Jordan

Tara is the mama of two city kids. A former English teacher, she writes about children's picture books and other tidbits that keep children and mamas connected and thriving. See her stuff at .

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