When I was pregnant with Maile, I carefully curated a long list of 'won't's. We won't let her watch TV until she's at least four years old. I won't ever yell at her. We won't even introduce her to Disney ...
I don't know why I fixated on Disney as a negative entity. I did, though. Maybe it was all the uber-natural, and attachment parenting websites I was drawn to. Maybe it was the fact that all the super-cool, trendy moms I followed in the blogging world probably balk at their child being seen in a character tee. ::gasp:: Maybe it was all of my grad school classmates who bragged about not having a television. Whatever it was, I decided Disney was bad for my daughter.
Then, Maile arrived. We hadn't a clue what to do with her six pounds of gorgeousness, but we managed ... We managed to keep the TV and computer screens off when she was awake. We managed to not buy any Disney books, or plush toys, or clothing. We managed to play classical music for her, and read to her every single day. Our babysitter taught Maile sign language, and we managed to be pretty dang proud.
I'm racking my brain, trying to remember when Maile was first exposed to Disney, but I can't recall the moment, or item, or whatever it was ... I clearly remember that we tried desperately to get Maile attached to a lovey, without success. I wore carefully selected stuffed animals around in my shirt for days, because I read that my 'scent' would make her love them more; she didn't take to any of them for more than a week. Then, one day, shortly before her first birthday, Tim grabbed a Mickey from a shelf at Target, and handed it to Maile. Click. Love. What is it about that mouse, who looks very little like a mouse?
When I realized that Mickey wasn't going anywhere, I carefully wrote Maile's name on his tag (in red Sharpie, to match his iconic red shorts), and nostalgically, scenes from the Toy Story movies flashed through my brain. I love those movies -- their imagination ... but most of all, their hope.
More than a few strangers told us that Maile looked like Boo, from Monsters, Inc., and Sulley found his way into her collection. Dear friends bought her a Disney princess anthology for her first birthday; we read from it to our darling girl. She watched an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; a plush Donald Duck joined the family. One night, one of our dogs decided Mickey's nose looked appetizing, and Tim's mom performed minor surgery to fix Mickey's "ouch!" Shortly before Maile's second birthday, Tim DVR'd the Sofia the First movie; he was so excited about our first movie night with Maile. And yes, Sofia was pretty cool, but Maile really loved the scene with Cinderella.
All of these things brought to mind my own Disney memories. My first movie theater experience was Beauty and the Beast on the big screen; I remember my parents picking me up from kindergarten one day, with the VHS in hand. When Snow White was re-released in theaters, my mom let me and my younger sister play hooky, and drove us to the 'big city' for the show. I still dream of seeing The Lion King on Broadway, someday. And yes, when I'm sick, Beauty and the Beast is one of my go-to comfort movies (along with 'big girl' fairy tales, like Sabrina, and Ever After).
I've come across so many blog posts, opinion pieces, even articles, about how Disney is doing girls wrong. Do I agree with all of Disney's decisions? Certainly not. Do I push princesses and pink and all things girly on Maile? If you believe that, you don't know me at all. But even the ditziest of Disney princesses (I can't decide if that award goes to Ariel, or Snow White) has something to teach my daughter. Following her dreams, for example. Being gracious and kind, even to those who wish you ill. Learning to step out into the world, even when you're afraid. That it's okay to be bookish. And someday, I hope she'll see that maybe it's the prince who needs rescuing. ;)
Maile clack, clack, clacks around the house in her Ariel dress-up shoes, wearing the mermaid costume my parents gave her. She sings as she lovingly gives her toys check-ups, which almost always end in declarations that they need stitches. She wears her Minnie nightgown outside, in the mornings, insisting on sharing her toast with "Maile's birdies." (Yes, seriously.) She twirls around me as she does my hair, "just like Rapunzel, Mama! You're beautiful!"
She loves planes -- especially fighter jets. She stages elaborate train crashes, with major sound effects. She wants to ride a dragon someday, and asks why we can't see dinosaurs at the zoo. If you ask her, she'll tell you her favorite color is blue. She's a downright rabid baseball fan.
All the little boys I know are obsessed with construction equipment; I've never heard, "Aren't you afraid so-and-so will grow up to be ... blue collar?!" Bring a Disney princess into the mix, and suddenly you're part of the 'system,' so obviously rigged against girls. "Girls can be anything!" Except princesses, it would seem.
Okay, so Jasmine's proportions are wildly unrealistic. A prince probably won't sweep Maile off her feet and marry her (though it did happen to Grace Kelly, and Queen Noor ... just saying). Maile can't talk to animals, and songbirds wearing hats aren't going to help her with her chores.
Until the cynicism of adulthood too-quickly descends on our sweet girl, though, we will let her be little. Let her imagination take her to wonderful, far-off places. Let her sing and dance, and wear mermaid fins to dinner. Let her be a princess.
And, occasionally, buy her character t-shirts.
Maile's headband c/o Bizzy B Crafts.
Speaking of pink, our current giveaway -- sponsored by All That Glitters -- ends Friday. Enter here!