Thursday, February 17, 2011

Birthday Jealousy & Princesses

As each birthday approaches I totally forget about birthday jealousy.  Totally.  And I feel like somewhat of an idiot for forgetting about this phenomenon that plagues my children without fail.  In hindsight, I always think that if I had prepared them for it, things might go a little more smoothly when their sibling's birthday arrives.  Instead, I'm caught off guard and it's a bumpy, bumpy road of a day.

Sam and Sadie both had birthdays recently and while the birthday boy or girl enjoyed their birthdays to the fullest, the non-birthday girl or boy was filled with angst during certain portions of their sibling's special day (when the phone rang, when I brought in the mail, when the presents were given, etc.).  There were tears, turned down mouth corners and general sulking.

This is a prime opportunity to teach that all-important lesson that while, yes, they are very special and very loved, the world does not revolve around them and them only.  And, that we do not need to always be the center of attention and we must learn to be happy for others, to feel joy because others feel joy.

And that leads me to another issue I must get off my chest.

I would really like to write a letter (and maybe I will) to the Disney Company and all the other companies that make and sell princess paraphernalia.  I have a bone to pick with them.

For one, similar to the whole Barbie issue, these princesses (be it dolls, movie characters, what have you) all have perfect skin, perfect hair, tiny little waists and extravagant clothes.  What girl, young lady or woman can boast these traits at any point in their lives?  It is setting young girls up to be disappointed in themselves because, well, if a girl wants to be loved and adored like a princess, she must look the part.  If she doesn't, what is she?  Ordinary?  That is simply not good enough, but often the reality.

Appearances aside, princesses (at least the commercialization of their characters) always come out on top- adored, spinning and prancing around in a beautiful castle with a handsome prince on their arm with servants, helpers or talking tea pots at their every beck and call.  And this will happen during most women's lives at which point?  I guess I'm just not there yet.

We are doing a disservice to our daughters if we set them up to believe that the world revolves around them.  They will be in for a rude awakening when they enter any form of the real world and discover that as special as they are, they likely will not be the best and greatest at everything they attempt.  It's okay that they're not.  It's perfectly alright to not be the prettiest or the most popular and to have to work for their successes.  And, for their husband's sake, I certainly don't want my girls to enter their marriages under the impression that their husband's sole purpose is to take them dancing and lavish them with fine things.

Who really wants to marry a princess anyway?

Sadie loves princesses and this fact rocks my world.  As you can imagine, it is a little difficult for me to handle.  I enjoyed dolls and pretend play as a girl, but I played with Cabbage Patch Kids.  They were a little different.  So, we have conversations about the importance of inner beauty, showing kindness and putting others first.  For now, Sadie is, thankfully, mostly intrigued by their pretty dresses (we only have a few of the miniature dolls and have watched none of the movies).  I would love to think that this is all the farther their influence will go and we will do our best to ensure just that.

Some of you may think I'm taking this a little too far, that I'm reading too much into a girl's play things, but to me, this is serious business.  It's our job, as parents, to help our children build character.  Character that values the needs and well-being of others and that puts stock in how a person conducts themselves over how they look or what they have.  While some of the 'princess message' has evolved to include helping others, I can't help but wonder why we need all the princess fluff in order to teach that lesson.  Our girls are bright enough to learn those lessons without the up-dos, ball gowns and unnatural body proportions.

As girls and women, we do need to feel loved and special.  Sometimes I wonder, though, if God originally intended for us to feel this need so acutely.  There is a theory that The Fall may have played a role in all of this.  After Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and ate of the tree God told them not to eat from, there were consequences for each of their actions.  Here is the woman's portion of the punishment (Genesis 3:16, NIV, italics mine)...

To the woman he said,
   “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
   with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
   and he will rule over you.”

Pains during childbearing and painful labor.  Check.

Now, note that your desire for your husband is considered a punishment.  I don't think God was talking about loving your husband and finding him physically desirable- those are blessings, not punishments.  I think this has to do with an insatiable need to be adored.  Take Valentine's Day for an example.  As much as I couldn't ask for a better and more loving husband (seriously), I still find myself sucked into wanting to be lavished with gifts that really mean nothing in and of themselves. 

I think this is a character flaw that many of us women have to deal with without getting us started early with the help of the media and the toy conglomerates.

We need to teach our girls and remind ourselves that the only true and perfect love we will receive is God's love.  It's His affections that we need to concern ourselves with and, thankfully, He freely gives them.  He will never disappoint and He is the only One who has a steady stream of love to fill our bottomless love pits.  (Italics mine)

"Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." (Psalm 36:5)

"Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever." (Psalm 136:26)

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." (Jeremiah 31:3)

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)
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  1. Great post! I so totally agree about your dislike for the whole self-centered, outward flattering of our culture. Although I've never had to deal with is first hand (I have only boys), I totally agree and pray our future daughter-in-laws see the same importance in raising their children with godly character emphasized! Thanks! I enjoyed it.

  2. I was listening to NPR last week and a woman has recently written a book about the Disney princess phenom. Do a search and it should come up. I believe it was on the Diane Rheam (?) show, but it could have been Fresh Air. I really want to read this book now. It demonstrates the crazy marketing tactics of big business...Times like this I'm glad I have 2 boys and no girls :)

  3. Loved reading your thoughts today. Just wanted to say that I buy "The Paper Bag Princess" by Robert Munsch for each little girl in our family (and it happens to be my 6 yr old son's favorite book too). It is a wonderful tale that says a lot about a person's character, regardless of what they look like or have. I think you might like it.

  4. Ahhh the princess phase... it too shall pass :)

    My daughter had the dress up clothes and tiara's too... we didn't do Barbies either but every holiday the grandparents would send the movies... So she watched all of those too. She wore dresses every day up until about 1/2 way through first grade... then it was over... I think it's a normal... Sadie is normal :)

    Just don't go out and buy her frosted pink lipstick or anything... we don't want her turning into a OMG... That's sooo totally awesome ... Valley Girl or something...

  5. I agree with everything you've said, and could even expound upon it with my observations as an elementary school teacher, but I won't. ;-) Great post!

  6. I called this phenomenon "birthdayitis" I always complemented the birthday child when they DIDN't get "sick" with it! I'm totally with you on that princess thing too! :)

  7. My least favorite princess message is, "I want more." It goes completely against my efforts to teach my girls the secret of being content.

  8. I agree in large part. I remember writing a persuasive essay in college with many of these same points. The older princess movies really made the princesses subjects to the behavior of those around her--what a lie that we can't act for ourselves and get ourselves out of problems! What a lie that our happiness should be based on the adoration of others. I also agree that girls are bombarded right away with untruths that confuse them to sickness in many instances. (Read "Reviving Ophelia" by Mary Pipher for a really good illustration of that--well, for about thirty illustrations of that.)

    On the other hand, I think a GOOD story is a powerful tool. I confess, that I have taken a liking to a couple of the Disney movies where the princesses have strength and vitality that help them overcome big problems. I guess I'm a sucker for a story in which a girl has to make a really hard choice and she looks inward for her true identity to pull herself through. (Tangled really is good this way--I just saw it. Loved it. The surprise ending is so good.) And Newberry-winning Robin McKinley did a great re-telling of Beauty and the Beast entitled Beauty that I love.

    And yet, I still despise the Disney princess products, but that's just because I don't like that they are advertising for the Princess Myth.

  9. I agree. I'd like to send a letter to Disney too.

  10. Great post. It drives me nuts that my daughter thinks she needs to have everything with a princess on it.

  11. We tell the girls that they are princesses; of the King of Kings that is. {they also have real a royal linage on my Hubby's side}
    The girls favourite dolls by far are the American Girl dolls; they've had them around since they were born because of their big sister. I'm not sure how old your Sadie is, the recommended age is 8 for the 18" dolls, but the dolls with shorter hair styles work well for younger girls. The best way to combat the D-princess thing is not to purchase the products, and let family members know that those are not allowed in your home. A couple years ago, my Dad picked out a sleeping beauty doll for our youngest for Christmas, the doll sang a funny song; just this past December during a clean up our little one put the doll in the Sal Army- the doll was rather funny looking. We debated for a long time whether or not to visit the D-land; the last time our oldest was 11, we were a little more worldly then. We've made the decision to go, some time this year. Friends of ours just went {actually a Pastor's family} We feel our chldren are old enough 14, 14, 12 and 9.
    Our children are rather odd with the birthday jealeousy thing, we've never really had it! For one, my boys are twins, some how the girls picked up on the "twin" idea, so when one has a birthday, it's like the other is having one also!! Weird, I know.

  12. Glad to know we're not the only ones bucking the system and trying to raise our children differently than the way the world teaches us. I'm also uncomfortable with the princess craze and all that it teaches our girls and boys.

    Thanks again.

  13. Yes, yes, yes...I agree- write a letter to Disney! I would gladly co-sign it with you. The "princess phenomenon" is destructive and demoralizing not to mention counter to God's view of a woman- or young woman.
    Excellent post!

  14. Have you read George MacDonald's Princess books? There's the Princess and the Goblin, the Princess and Curdy, and then a separate book called the Light Princess. They're fairy tales, but focus on the hearts of the princesses. I have only boys, but they certainly challenge this "princess"!

  15. Great post. When we were at the point in raising our family that you are we couldn't keep far enough away from Barbie and Disney and all the other junk that's primarily on the marker for our children. You're not alone in how you're processing this. What does it mean to be "in the world and not of the world."


    Aunt V.

  16. In a study of David I'm leading we talked last night about David's multiple wives - culturally acceptable in that time but not acceptable to God. I see that same thing going on in different ways now - with women's dress being one of the major ways. What is not only socially acceptable but also socially encouraged is not necessarily acceptable to God. It's hard to raise little girls to understand and accept that when they are bombarded with so much "current" in the media. I loved this post and sympathize with your dilemma! blessings, marlene

  17. You are not overreacting, in my book!

    I already told my daughter that she will not be getting a Barbie until she is old enough to understand that beautiful women do not look like that, that beauty is on the inside. She can quote me now on this. I told her I was 11 before I got a Barbie and what I mainly liked to do was put her clothes on and off.

  18. When my children were young, I used to lay in bed with them and tell them made-up stories about "Princess Ashley", "Princess Melissa", and "Prince Ryan". In the stories, the "royalty" was a servant leader in every way, showing love and kindness to everyone. They also overcame obstacles and life problems that mirrored the same obstacles and problems they and their classmates were having in real life. It was a very special time in our family and I was sad when the stories slowly faded away as the children grew older. I'll always cherish those memories and my children still remember the stories.

  19. Being aware of the influences of any media or person in our childrens lives,... an endless task. One on which I have to strengthen my resolve.
    We deal with the Barbie/Princess details from a different angle. (2 boys here) There was a recent power rangers movie my boys saw, an OLD movie, not the new completely inappropriate movie. Anyway, I told the boys as innocent as the action was, the main nemesis character was dressed very inappropriately. She was immodestly & provocatively dressed~seriously endowed & displayed ~ while the words of her mouth and her actions were 'full of violence' & disgust. Nothing I wish for my boys to see. Period. Even in the roll of the evil nemesis.
    Female leads/role models in any media seem now to not have the innocence of gentle children. Thy are sassy, rude and way to sophisticated for my taste and moral standard. I was still enjoying the simplicity of Little House & Holly Hobbie @ their age. So what to do... We discuss, which means I have to improve my descriptive vocabulary, so they can see what I'm talking about. We've had some really good moments where even if it is still alluring, they understand why it is disappointing to me, and ultimately most importantly God. I probably digressed, but it's one I'm really challenged with as many we associate with don't share the same filters for what we collectively set before our eyes & hearts.

  20. Another thought, I have always thought the Genesis passage about a woman's desire for her husband, dealt with her insatiable desire to please & be adored by him. I think it is a handshake idea to what you think about it, but the expressions of love an adoration may be more related to our individual love languages. I do think it is very real, very deep, and only grows with length of marriage. A blessing & a curse maybe.


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