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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Princesses, Innocence, and Osama

It's been hard for me to sit down and blog recently -- I've been composing entries in my head, but when I settle in to type them up the words won't come.

I was all set to write up something about The New Princess, as BB has been calling Kate Middleton. Let me say first off that I didn't watch the wedding, I had very little interest in any of the hoopla leading up to it, and in fact I'd rather decided to ignore the whole thing. Keep in mind that my daughter has replied, multiple times, when asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A pwincess!"

Cringing a little, I'd smile at her response and say something vanilla like, "Oh, really?" Or, "That sounds like it would be fun!" But it was so hard for me not to launch into a tirade of one flavor or another: Bitter Rant About Vacuous Princess Stereotypes, Sour Grapes Facts About Royal Lineage, Meaty Feminist Discourse On The Disneyfication Of Childhood....

Granted, she was more likely to say this a few months back. She has also said she might be a horse, so who am I to take this all so seriously? Or to stand in her way with a lot of rhetoric about The Way The Real World Works?

These days, she's talking about being a Mom or maybe even a scientist. (She said that once, obviously trying it on for size... heaven knows she hears enough about it from BJ to think it just might be interesting!)

So I try to be open and accepting (and I haven't yet read Cinderella Ate My Daughter, though it's on my list). I refuse to erode her innocence with ideological analysis that she would neither understand nor really care about. (I can, and do, provide the feminist counterweight when I can, in more subtle ways.)

But when Princess Fever seemed to be catching on with more than just the younger set, I'd made a conscious decision I wasn't going to bring it up with BB. Not that I planned to keep the royal wedding a secret, but I wasn't going to go out of my way to mention it. No sense feeding fuel to that fire, I thought.

But I forgot to tell S.

Not that he made a huge deal of it, but he did talk about The New Princess with BB. And now she's noticing her everywhere, even in The New Yorker.

And then, just about when I'd given up on the struggle with that latest example of How Much Should I Let The Real World Into My Child's Life.... all over the news, America's #1 Bad Guy. Dead.

S and I watched Obama's speech announcing the death of Osama, and while I felt a sense of relief, I was also deeply troubled -- about the possibilities of retaliation, about the "celebratory" response as reported on (and, seemingly, created) by the news, and by the question: should we tell the kids?

This time, S and I discussed it a bit. I didn't think we should. I think, left to his own inclinations, S would have said something. But so far, as far as I know, nothing has been said to the kids about it.

I don't plan to lie to them, and if they ask of course I'll be honest. But I have no intention of starting that conversation. I've deliberately stayed away from the media frenzy that has followed the announcement. Since we usually have the TV off and no longer get the newspaper, it hasn't been too difficult. Mostly a matter of staying off the computer or not clicking on links. Now that BJ is reading so well, I've been very careful about what's left up on the screen when he might be reading over my shoulder.

I know that someday they will learn about the horrors of 9/11, the violence and incomprehensible evils of the world. They will learn, and they will not be able to unlearn.

That time will come soon enough. For now, I will do what I can to protect them. Not because I'm naive or because I want them to be. Call it protecting their innocence, call it ostrich parenting (yes, I would prefer to keep my head in the sand in this case), call it what you will. It's what feels right to me.

I'm not one to advocate silence -- just knowing the right time to speak. Especially with children. And I believe that now is not the time to talk with them about this. A real woman growing up to become a princess? I'd rather not have that conversation just now, but it's clearly not a disaster for BB to know about. But Osama's death in Pakistan? That one needs to wait.

Someday, I'll talk with the kids about this. Maybe I'll even share this post with them, though even now, it isn't quite getting at what I'm really trying to say. But saying something is better than being utterly silent. And if I don't write something about all this, it will just fester, and keep me from writing about the fun family stuff that sustains me. So it will have to do.

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