My husband calls our daughters princesses.
Not all the time and not in a sarcastic way, but every once in a while.
When Evie walks into the kitchen when he's making breakfast sometimes he'll greet her with a "What's up, beautiful princess?" Or when I'm holding Nora and he wants to take her off my hands for a bit, his eyes will light up and he'll beam at her and say something like, "Come here, little princess."
Sometimes he even calls me princess.
And sometimes I struggle with conflicting thoughts on how I feel about him using this word with us.
As a mom raising two daughters, I'm quite familiar with the "princess culture" and the varying opinions on whether this is healthy or not for little girls to fall into. Why is this such a debate? As with most things in this world, there is good and there is bad associated with the word princess. Why is it so important to many parents to avoid this word and all that comes with it? Because, as with most things in this world, the negative taints the positive.
Self-centered, superior, demanding, prissy, incapable, materialistic, dependent, snobby....some adjectives that cling to the word princess. Adjectives that prove difficult to shake off and that make it complicated for me to sort out exactly how I feel about this word.
After all, a lot of us have probably thrown the word "princess" around when referring to a girl, or woman, as high-maintenance. Men, at times, may chuck it at their girlfriend or wife when they are being difficult or hard to deal with or setting unreasonable standards. Being called spoiled and being called a princess can usually be spoken within the same sentence about the same person.
The word "princess" definitely takes its fair share of a beating in our culture.
And this makes me really sad. Because I believe this word is meant for so very much more.
When boys want to be princes or kings, we encourage it. Being a prince or a king brings with it the traits of bravery and courage and nobleness and fighting for what you believe in and protecting those who need protecting. It brings wisdom and strength and leadership with its title, and rightly so. I think it's great that boys have dreams of being someone who possesses these qualities because it preserves the hope that, one day, maybe they truly will. And this is a good thing. We need more little princes in our world who grow up to be kingly men.
I'm not sure what happened to the word princess. I'm not sure where or when it took a tumble into the mud. But I do know that there are little girls, mine probably will be among them one day, who are drawn to it and all that it represents. Because despite all this not so good, there is adventure and some wonder, too, hidden within this complicated word.
And so, I wonder, is there any hope for our little princesses?
I think so.
But it will take some lifting out of the murkiness and some scrubbing so that we can restore this word to what it should truly mean to us and to our daughters.
Instead of condemning and shunning from our households this word that has the potential to carry so much encouragement and bring with it so many opportunities to teach our girls what is truly important, perhaps we could work on changing the culture surrounding it. Let's rediscover who a princess truly is.
Could it be that being a princess means having courage and being brave enough to do the right thing, despite the consequences or despite what people may think? Could we teach our girls that a princess treats others with kindness and puts their needs above her own?
And maybe a princess would speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and defend those who are defenseless. Perhaps she carries with her confidence without arrogance and humility without shame. Perhaps she can exude beauty in herself by building up the beauty in others and the world around her. Perhaps she can give without expecting anything in return. And maybe a princess could be strong and wise, just like everyone already assumes a prince or a king naturally is.
And if a princess could be seen as all these things instead of all those other things, I think we as parents could celebrate that our daughters desire to be princesses. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing or such a confusing thing or a thing that we tread with such caution.
When my husband calls me and our girls princesses, he is showing how much he loves us, how much he treasures and values us. He uses this word to convey to us how much we mean to him.
And so maybe we, as a society, can begin to do that, too.
I think all of us, as women, have a yearning within us to be called beautiful and to be chosen and to be honored. And it begins when our hearts and our souls are still young, still willing and able to learn so very much. I would hate to miss out on such a profound way to teach my girls that true beauty comes from inside where your real character lives and that they have indeed been chosen to carry love and bring it to those who may not have much and that honor comes from doing the right thing with integrity.
And maybe a princess doesn't always wear a gown or have gorgeous hair or a sparkling tiara on her head. Maybe a true princess might have some sweat glistening on her brow from the hard, good work she is doing. Maybe she wears faded jeans and has some dirt under her finger nails and her hair just won't stay in her pony tail. But she hugs her friends and she tries new things even when she's afraid and she talks to the child no one else is talking to.
When we show our girls that this is what a princess can look like, I think we are bestowing on them a value and a treasure that is priceless.
We are giving them a crown that will shine so much more brightly than any made of gold or jewels.