Guest post by Whitney Gronski-Buffa
“Oh yeah, Frozen. She’s kinda just getting into that,” I sigh.
“Kinda? JUST? Wow…”
I am speaking to a bewildered father of a 3-year-old as we tread water in a camping ground pool and watch our kids play. His daughter needed the whole Frozen castle for Christmas and, as he put it, it was very “Ughmygaaahdd…”
My daughter, on the other hand, is semi-interested in Frozen after discovering it semi-recently. Yes, it’s 2016, and Frozen was released in 2013. Since then, Anna and Elsa have taken over every possible segment of the consumer goods marketplace and I agree. It is so ughmygaaahdd.
And somehow, we’ve avoided it until now. I know I’m supposed to tell you a secret trick here. “This Mom Missed Frozen Mania. Her One Weird Trick Will Blow Your Mind!”
I’m going to disappoint you. Ready?
We just never watched Frozen. We never discussed it. We never bought any Frozen merchandise. We did not listen to Idina Menzel’s insane vocal talents. We just skipped it.
I know. But how?
Part of it is the luck of the draw. My daughter was only a year old when Frozen was released and my kid just wasn’t interested. Not enough talking animals. No dinosaurs. Thumbs down!
Then I took a year off work to stay home with her, and we continued to ignore Frozen. Then I went back to work and she was babysat with two little boys who liked farm stuff, so they all ignored it together.
With the blessing of a child uninterested, I watched the insanity wash over many another small child. I gave Halloween candy to innumerable Elsas and Annas for a few years in a row. I side-eyed Frozen bandaids and training toilets. A not-small piece of me saw this and thought, simultaneously, “Thank God I’m not part of this” and “I will avoid this at all costs.”
With a kid uninterested and unexposed, it didn’t take much effort to keep Anna and Elsa out of my house. I just… didn’t let them in and no one missed them.
It sounds simplistic and sort of condescending, but it comes down to this: You’re the parent. You decide these things.
I wrote basically the same thing back in the day when I had a newspaper column about parenting, but I applied the idea to food. I didn’t want my kid to build her diet around processed, beige junk food, so I didn’t feed her chicken nuggets. I fed her what we ate, and now she eats everything.
This was a good strategy for three and a half years. Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them in.
Then we changed daycares, and my daughter’s new best friend loves princesses and magic and dresses that drag on the ground. So that’s what my daughter likes now too — not to the exclusion of dinosaurs or handling bugs with her hands, but enough that she began asking for Anna and Elsa dolls.
So I caved. I bought her a pretty legit Frozen toy set, and it’s been a very mild hit. I actually haven’t seen her touch it in a week, but I’m sure she sort of likes it maybe.
It’s not just Anna and Elsa making their way into our lives. It’s Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and Belle, too. It’s all happening. Ughmygaaahdd.
But why? Why, after years of successful crusade against Frozen, did I let my icy heart melt? To be honest, I’m not sure.
I’ve always had misgivings with the Disney Princess Industrial Complex. I worry about the way girls are socialized to be disempowered enough without the pressure to perform the princess trope. I was writing about my thoughts on that years ago, and new studies are confirming what I suspected all along. (Although apparently exposure to princesses is somewhat positive for boys? OK, fine.)
But here’s the ideas I’m trying to cling to now that the princess advent is upon me.
- This is just the beginning of peer influence. My daughter is three and she’ll start preschool in the fall. Two minutes later, she’ll be in high school. Rather than fight princesses and communicate to her that a) I don’t value her interests and b) she can’t talk to me about the stuff in her world, I’ll go with it and help her build a healthy fascination with the floof. Hopefully this builds a foundation for the bigger, more important topics we’ll undoubtedly cover in two minutes.
- Also, it’s important for kids to feel they fit in, if that’s what they want. I’m trying to keep in mind my own experiences from 7th grade (everyone had Nikes, I had Skechers) and 8th grade (everyone had Skechers, I finally got a pair of on sale Nikes).
- Even without peer influence, my kid gets to decide who she is. I can’t project my biases onto her. In fact, everyone I know whose parents tried to do so… they completely revolted. I’m not trying to manifest that destiny for myself as a mom.
- While the performance of and adherence to rigid gender roles isn’t my thing, femaleness is. Femininity is powerful and valid, and Elsa kinda proves that, right? She doesn’t even get a dude in the end! And there’s that “Get Elsa A Girlfriend” thing, which could be great. (I’m trying.)
- Honestly? I don’t have the energy for this anymore. There are too many other things to be mad at in the world. This doesn’t make the top 10 list anymore.
See? I’m learning to let it go.
Whitney Gronski-Buffa is a freelance reporter and stay-at-home mom. You can follow her on Twitter @whitneymae.