Independent Spunk Vs. Pretty Princess: A Dad's Lesson in Trusting Positive Parenting

Filed under: Gay Parenting, Opinions

When my daughter was not quite 3, she told my husband and me that she wanted to be a chicken for an upcoming costume party.

We thought this was hilarious and I found myself snootily proud of her choice. See, my kid's no joiner. Let every other girl be Cinderella; mine is going to be a chicken.

I did what any self-respecting gay dad would do next: I bought feathers -- lots of them -- and began sewing the bantam costume of her dreams. But then, the unthinkable happened: She came home the next day saying she wanted to be a princess, instead. How did this happen?!

She'd gotten the idea from day care, though it was never clear whether the mastermind had been a teacher or playmate -- toddlers can be so vague! Either way, I was outraged and disappointed that she'd been led away from her perfectly original first idea and steered down the conformist path. So, as excited as she was about her new choice, I didn't exactly run to a fabric store to make her a fabulous ball gown.

We live in the liberal Northeast and move in circles where princess culture is viewed with deep suspicion, as the embodiment of old school sexism mixed with naked consumerism. My husband and I boasted that our daughter wouldn't be the princess type -- we were raising a strong girl with independence and spunk, not a damsel in distress waiting to be saved.

So, I put off her costume request, hoping it would go the way of the chicken, soon replaced by something else. Instead, she dug in deeper -- and so did I.

My husband broke the stalemate. He pointed out that if we'd had a son who wanted to dress like a princess, we'd have said yes in a heartbeat, proud of ourselves for supporting his self-expression. Yet, we had trouble supporting a girl who wanted the very same thing. What sense did it make for gay dads to tell their daughter she couldn't be whatever she wanted?

When I was her age, I hated being told what toys I should play with. I waged a two-year battle to get a baby doll before my religious grandmother finally, reluctantly, gave in. The year I wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween, that wish was granted, too, but only after days of heated arguments and compromise from all sides.

Though I outgrew dolls, and drag never became a hobby, I still classify those childhood moments as victories -- times when my family accepted me as the child I was, not the child they wished for.

Resisting my daughter's princess wish would have been just as closed-minded as my grandmother's battle to butch up her grandson. I decided to trust that, as long we keep offering positive messages about strong women for balance, a little tulle and glitter won't forever ruin our daughter's future.

I put the feathers away and switched over to sequins -- I was thrilled when she announced she wanted her dress to be blue, not pink. The unexpected color seemed like a subtly rebellious choice to me, at least until she tried it on and sighed, "Oh, Papa, now I look like Cinderella!"

I bit my lip to keep from starting a lecture, and just let her have her moment -- swirling around the living room -- totally a princess.

Veronica Rhodes and David Valdes Greenwood alternate weeks writing the Family Gaytriarchs. Look for them on ParentDish every Wednesday.

David Valdes Greenwood has written about marriage and parenting for the Boston Globe and in his first book "Homo Domesticus: Notes from a Same-Sex Marriage." The author of three nonfiction books and the creator of the blog "Diva Has Two Daddies," he also finds time to be a kindergarten room parent and Barbie pretend play expert. Read his blog on Red Room.

Want to get the latest ParentDish news and advice? Sign up for our newsletter!

ReaderComments (Page 2 of 4)

FollowUs

Flickr RSS

TheTalkies

AskAdviceMama

AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.