My daughter was a princess fanatic. She wore her princess dress every day, rain or shine, winter or summer. Sometimes it was thrown over her soccer uniform, sometimes lime green leg-warmers peeked out from underneath. I would walk her to preschool, me in my power suit, she in fake tulle and little girl high heels that flapped from her feet as she teetered down West 72nd Street. I questioned just what I thought I was doing by allowing, maybe even encouraging her to aspire to this outdated, irrelevant role model. Born in a generation that invented "super-mom", was I just crazy for not putting a stop to this and buying her a chemistry set and some hockey skates? And then I would see the smile on her face as she would meet her other "princess" friends at the preschool gate.
They would curtsy, they would twirl, they would tap their make believe magic wands and pretend to be transported to wherever their imaginations wanted to take them. And I knew that nothing this joyful could be bad for her. That there was plenty else in her world of family and friends that would help her to understand the "real" world and with that guidance she would ultimately decide who she wanted to be and get there under her own steam. I tear up still when I recall the day she told me she was ready to give away her princess outfits to her younger cousin.
Clearly the fairytale world of princesses and royal kingdoms has occupied a large space in that kind of storytelling and in my own life, and yet I saw that it was missing in the current television landscape for preschoolers. And no one could tell those stories with more heart and magic than Disney.
Relating to someone at all ages is important. Five-year-olds will relate to five-year-olds. A teenager will listen to another teenager before their parents, and an adult finds it easier to level with other adults. It's called 'peer-to-peer' interaction. It's important that children also have peers they can aspire to be like, and learn from.
Kids learn from everything around them; parents, family, school, friends, and the media. It's so vital that key social issues are conceived appropriately. From an early age, youngsters need to be taught about social issues such as the best way to make friends, being honest and having grace. It's important that they are taught that it doesn't matter what they wear, but it's what is in the inside that makes them special.
Kids grow up so quickly, and it is important to ensure that whilst they are still developing they receive the right information and the right instructions about how to be a positive influence in society.
Disney has had enchanting princesses for years. This tradition continues on, but this time, she's younger, she's their age, and she's reliable. Sofia the First (premièring in December), is Disney's first princess who this year, kids can learn from, and grow up with. She's trying to figure out who she wants to be and how best to fit into a world that is sometimes puzzling, often surprising, and filled with daily challenges.
She wants what most little girls want - to be connected to her family, to make good friends, to be independent and courageous while also feeling safe and protected. There's no confusing Cinderella with Sofia. While Cinderella might be helpful to Sofia because she's been through some of what Sofia experiences, it is how Sofia looks at the world and her actions that make her uniquely her own person, and her own very special princess.
The feeling of wanting to be a princess never leaves, and it's a good thing, it teaches girls to be strong, and passionate about themselves, their family and their careers.