Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It was not my dream birthday, and that’s why it was perfect


It all started with this birthday banner we saw on the Internet for a kids party, “May the Fourth be with you!” For a couple of nerds with an affinity for puns, that did it for us. We quickly scrapped the Star Wars themed party idea for Little Miss’ third birthday and decided to save it for this year instead.

She was already a fan even before she saw the movies (thank you, ingenious Star Wars ABC books), and we thought we’d have the year to mold her into a nerd in our likeness. Except, something happened along the way.


The transformation was quick and insidious. My little girl, who could hum Darth Vader’s Imperial March, started to sing Disney songs from Beauty & the Beast and Little Mermaid. The girl who could tell the difference between an X-Wing and a TIE Fighter began asking for tiaras. I panicked, what is happening to my little girl??!

Well, I guess a little girl happened to my little girl.

I was just too proud of this girl who asked for a Darth Vader last Christmas to admit that her allegiance had changed. She had moved on from the Empire to the empire with a franchise on happily ever after.

I saw the transformation, and yet I was in denial when it came time to plan her fourth birthday party. Maybe, perhaps, hopefully, she’d still be excited for a Star Wars party. She could be Princess Leia! And My Guy and I convinced ourselves it could work.

The guests would be different characters in the movie, and we’d have a quest, with Leia leading the troop. Her little sister could be an Ewok; there’d be light sabers and a pretty impressive Storm Trooper, courtesy of Little Miss’ uncle’s incredible costume from this Halloween. It would be so cool. She would love it.

But as the day to her party neared, I found myself losing my conviction. Would she really? Then the details of Disney’s infiltration in our lives slowly came back to me.

The Pandora music party we had almost every day in the summer, where the girls and I danced to Disney tunes. The thing is, I knew the words and sang to most of them, and I still do when I put my girls to bed at night.

Little Miss would request, “Mommy, please sing Tale as Old as Time...” (from Beauty & the Beast).

And I gladly do, with 17-month-old Thumper in my arms, another Disney casualty, humming along. At the end of the song, where Mrs. Potts says, “Off to the cupboard now Chip” is what I say each time I lay Thumper in her crib. Even when I don’t sing that song. It has become our thing.

Then there were the Disney Princess movies that would enthrall Little Miss and the fairy tales she’d ask us to read her at bedtime. Over and over and over. Until she could recite the easier stories, word for word, from memory.

As someone who loathed the idea of a princess having to be beautiful just so she could be saved by a prince someday, I couldn’t stomach the idea of my daughter modeling after that. I am determined to raise strong, independent girls who use their talent and wit, not their beauty, to get ahead.

But when I overheard my little girl sadly admitting no to a friend who asked if she had any princess dress-up costumes for their play date, I knew this couldn’t just be about the woman Little Miss would someday become. This has to be about the little girl she is now. The one who was crestfallen she didn’t have the things she wanted the most because I was too stubborn to give in. The one who simply wished to emulate the beauty she admired - something most of us do on a regular basis. (People magazine, hello?)

That’s when I decided to snap out of it. There is certainly a time for Princess Leia and all that girl power stuff; this just wasn’t one of them.

Little Miss loves her pink and princesses. And that is what she had. With some purple, her second favorite color, thrown in for good measure. By the end of the party, I was dreaming in pink and purple. Or rather, lavender.


The funny thing was, I thought I’d dread the party-planning process, so opposed I was to the princessification of my daughter, but, much to my own surprise, I was wrong. That was the same time that I came across this quote on Lindsey Mead’s Facebook page, which, ironically (serendipitously?), was posted on the actual day of my daughter’s birthday:

“Joy is being willing for things to be as they are.”
― Charlotte Joko Beck

Suddenly, everything snapped into place. The party, the planning, and above all, my own pleasure in putting it all together. They all started to make perfect sense to me. It wasn’t just about celebrating my daughter’s age. It was about celebrating my daughter and every ounce of that little girl she was - Disney princess hopeful and all.

PrincessParadea parade of princesses

When I let go of my own expectations, I was finally able to delight in the process and create the same for her. And that’s how, between laboring over the right kind of pink and lavender cupcakes to match the balloons we strung up the night before the party, and the little prancing princess in one of her many new dress-up costumes, I had found my own joy.

BalloonsThe balloons are still up. Because it makes us all happy.