Kids were running around on the Bonanova plaza. “I am a princess, I am a princess,” shouted the girls. “Monster, monster,” cried my almost three-year-old son, and with his imaginary sword started to fight an imaginary monster. “I am a princess, and the cavalier is defending me,” said one of the girls. “You can’t be a princess, because I am a princess,” said the other girl. “No, no, I am a princess,” said the third one. “Then I will be a queen, and you will be the two princesses.” After a three minute argument it was decided that one of the girls would be a pink-dressed princess and another one would be a purple-dressed princess. “What are you going to be,” they asked my daughter. “I will be a horse,” and my daughter started to trot like a horse around the plaza not paying any attention to the princesses. “If my brother is a cavalier, then I will be his horse. A cavalier needs a horse. Can I be your horse?” she asked her brother. The little cavalier nodded without stopping his imaginary fight with the monster and told his sister that her name will be Titan. Titan is my son’s favorite pony, sometimes we take him back-riding in a local pony club and he always wants to ride Titan.
There we were, a group of parents watching our kids play on a sunny afternoon after school. My three-year-old imagining himself to be a cavalier and fighting imaginary monsters. My five-year-old trotting around the plaza like a horse and making all the adequate noises. She was totally absorbed by her horse character. And her five-year-old friends were grouped in the middle of the plaza discussing what kind of princesses they would be.
I am wondering if all the girls naturally want to be princesses or is it something that the society heavily pushes on them and their parents support? I honestly do not think that eighty percent of the girls prefer pink and purple to all other colors, and that they mainly want to play princesses. It is the media and the society that tells our daughters that this is what the girls should like and be like. And we as a parents are just lazy. We do not use our own judgment because it is always easier to go with the flow. Do not get me wrong, there is nothing bad in wanting to be a princess. But is it really pink that makes one?
I think that we greatly misunderstand what being a princess or a cavalier means. It is not about dresses, it is not about owing a spade or a knife, it is not about wearing pink. It is about patience, it is about education, it is about manners, it is about deep feelings, honesty and integrity. Occasionally I saw girls, that appeared to me real princesses. I saw them at the cafe or at a party. And by the way they hold their cup, by the way they wait their turn to speak, by they way they can ask you a question or give you a compliment, and be honest and fresh in their words, by all that they remained me of real princesses. And by their genuine and open smiles too. And I, like everybody else, felt lucky to be around them. I even stole some tips from those children, and tried to pass them to my own.
There is nothing wrong with wanting our sons to be cavaliers and our daughters to be princesses. Not in words or color of the dress though, but in the essence of the concept.
I often question myself how to teach our children to be patient, to use their own judgment and to be able to think for themselves. To meditate, and to stop and breath through difficult situations, and not to be guided only by their emotions. I wonder how to encourage in them the deep feelings and attachment towards others, towards the people that surround them. We read books that talk about honesty and beauty. I tell them stories and I talk to them about what surrounds us. Yes, I also try to teach them manners, to show them how to be genuinely interested in others. And, no, I do not think that manners are old-fashioned. I ask myself how to encourage them to learn to listen and to ask questions about others. To always look tidy and clean. To never say “I want” or “Buy me this”. And, finally, words do not matter that much. Kids learn from us, from how we behave, from what they are exposed to in their everyday life. And my yardstick as a parent is to watch myself more than I ever did before, to be a good example to them. To never be lazy. And, of course, to offer them all existent colors to dress in, to like and to play with.
And then, if my daughter decides that she prefers pink, I am fine with that.
Barcelona, January 31st 2013