by Jessica Kilpatrick, MA, LPC STARRY- Director of Training and Program Development
My daughter loves princesses. It started with Frozen and it’s been downhill from there. It’s not that I have any complaints about Disney or any conspiracy theories about what television is doing to my child, it’s that I want her to aspire to be more than a pretty girl in a sparkly dress. In my head, I was going to have this daughter who was smart and strong and who thought that life was more than these women designed to sell products and the idea that women need to be rescued by a handsome man. She loves these women so much that she has them plastered on her wall in colorful decals that I have to look at every night as I tuck her into bed.
Earlier this week I thought that I had a brilliant idea. I decided to print out real leaders and inspirational people and add them to her wall. I printed out photos of people like Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Jesus and Ann Frank. I was proud of my idea and I couldn’t wait to get home and put them up. That night I walked into her room with the photos and some tape and quietly posted them all on her wall next to the princesses while my husband read her bedtime stories. When she noticed what I was doing, she stopped the story and asked me with a puzzled expression, “Mom, why are you doing this?” I explained that these people were strong, smart, gentle, and kind. These people fought for what was right, discovered new ideas, pushed passed adversity, and treated people with respect. I laid in her bed and read her Maya Angelou quotes until she went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning to my daughter standing next to my bed. “I wanted to let you know that I took down all the people”, she said politely. I had to think on my feet. I was hurt, but I knew that wasn’t a reasonable response. “That’s okay” I said, “I would love to have them on my wall.” “Why?”, she asked. “Well, because they are my heroes”, I said as it hit me,
I can only lead by example.
I was the one who had something to learn. I took all of the photos into my room and taped them to my vanity mirror. She watched me as a put up each one and talked about their influence on our world.
I had another idea. I went downstairs and took a picture that I had of my daughter on the fridge and carried it upstairs. I walked into her room as she was getting ready for school and I told her that I had forgotten to put up a picture of a princess who was really brave and strong and kind. “Who?”, she asked. I pulled the picture out from behind my back and I taped it on the wall next to her heroes. “You are my favorite princess,” I said as I put her picture up on the wall next to Snow White. ” You are my favorite because you are beautiful on the inside and outside. You are kind, and gentle, and smart, and strong. You are everything I ever hoped for in a daughter.”
“Thank you, Mommy”, she said as she grinned sweetly.