Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Princess Play: What Are We Telling Our Children?

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just saw this article at msnbc.com about princess fever and the conflicted messages we're sending girls.

I can see both sides of this story. I grew up with the fairy tales and the Cinderella stories. The wish for an escape from our mundane lives is nothing new. Still, even as I child I was troubled by the emphasis on physical beauty. The princess was ALWAYS drop-dead gorgeous, even if she was covered in muck from scrubbing the Evil Stepmother's kitchen floor all day. I was never a skinny child. I was very active (and more on that at the end), but I wasn't destined to have the princess body.

My fantasies quickly moved on to superheroes. Most of them had perfect bodies, too - except for Thing. But I was a huge fan of Spiderman - partly because the superhero was so misunderstood, but mostly because Peter Parker was such a nerd. There were no female equivalents. Wonder Woman was an Amazon princess, but talk about unrealistic body type expectations!

Fantasy play is important for kids, whether it's princess, Pokemon, superheroes, Dora the Explorer, or whatever. But what happens when it passes the stage of growing up and becomes a lifestyle? This is where the whole princess thing gets me. One of the concerns pointed out in the article is narcissism. I see that. Another is that some girls may be so immersed in the fantasy that adulthood is going to hit them like the proverbial ton of bricks. Truth be told, I've seen a lot of kdis so coddled by their parents that they can't handle the real world. Princess play isn't the only instigator here. It's the parents who envelop their kids in a cocoon and fail to give them real-world coping skills.

The article goes on to show some parents with clue. Princess play (or superhero play) by itself isn't a bad thing, especially when the parents keep the kids grounded in reality.

This brings me to the parenthetical point above. A sidebar linked to a video story about a weight limit for Boy Scouts. Of course, the headline doesn't tell it all. As is pointed out in passing, these restrictions have been in place for a long time, and they're not intended to keep boys out of Scouting. It's a restriction on certain high adventure activities, where medical help may be thirty minutes or more away. Chris was a Boy Scout, and I've seen the guidelines. They weren't onerous. They don't stop every overweight kid from participating. What the story didn't say is that they also don't allow seriously underweight kids to participate in certain high adventure activities as well. Chris nearly got hit with that a couple of times. I suspect they could have pointed out that being underweight is an issue as well, but I suppose that's not such hot button.

Ah, well. Time to get to work. It may be good to be the princess, but the queen has to work for a living.


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