At some point in the life of ALMOST every little girl, she dreams of being a princess.
I said almost because I know that there are some girls who really don’t care and that’s fine. If you’re not into fairy tales and fantasies, you can stop reading this right now. I’m here for the tea, tiaras, the sugar and spice, cos that’s what little girls are made of, right?
I was 8 years old in 1981, when Diana Spencer married Charles, the Prince of Wales and became a real life princess. I remember it as if it were yesterday. My mother, sisters and I were on summer holidays in New York City. It was my father’s birthday, July 29th and he was still home in Jamaica because he had work. I remember not understanding his nonchalance when I excitedly recounted my tv experience of the wedding when we spoke on the phone that evening. I don’t think he could have cared less, and while this should have been a clue into the average male perspective on pomp and pageantry, his lack of excitement did very little to dampen my royal spirit that day.
I was glued to the television for what I recall being forever. Diana’s dress, the parades, the flowers, the adoring fans… In my 8-year-old mind, it was magical. And I wanted to experience that kind of magic. The story from one of my beloved childhood books was happening right before my eyes. I was intrigued by her gentile spirit and over the years, I watched from afar as Diana lived, loved and then died.
During those years, I saw a young lady who seemingly had it all. She was beautiful, money was no object and her little family was as picture perfect as it could get. Who wouldn’t want a fairy tale wedding and a life cushioned with regal trimmings and accessories.
But Diana’s life would play out a different narrative, hinged on genuine emotions and cold harsh reality. The beautiful princess would eventually show the world that while dreams do come true, the best moments in life come when we seek and live with authenticity. That’s where true magic lies.
May 19, 2018 was a magical day for my daughter. Magical, yet real. We baked blueberry scones and banana bread the night before the royal wedding. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were getting married and after hearing my stories of me watching Di and Charles, we simply had to have our own little shindig! We had watched Lifetime TV’s biopic A Royal Romance twice already that week and other than covering her eyes in shame each time they kissed, she never took her eyes off the screen. She was completely enthralled.
As was I.
We planned our breakfast menu two weeks in advance. I think we both knew that neither of us was going to eat at 4 o’clock in the morning Jamaica time, but it was cute and we were going all out! We planned our outfits – pajamas and tiaras, and made sure we had all the tea we’d need that day! My precious, innocent 10-year-old baby girl had so many royal questions. Where would they live? Will she still be an actress? “Oh Mummy! Wow. She was divorced, and then she married a prince.”
We watched a simple and homely, mixed-race, divorced young woman with a dysfunctional and fractured family, turn the world upside down with a paradigm shift like no other.
When Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir leaned in tandem during an emotional rendition of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, Britain’s monarchy wasn’t sure what to do. And when officiating American Episcopalian Bishop Michael Curry threw a little bit of fire and brimstone, the earth opened and swallowed up centuries of medieval customs.
Times have and still are changing. And I’m happy to be a part of a generation that is not just raising our children, but we’re growing along with them. We’ve taken notes over the years and I believe that while we’re trying to right some of the wrongs with modern applications, we’re still wise enough to hold on to some of the traditions that form such an integral part of who we are and who we will become.
Today, I want my daughter to know that she is a princess, whether or not she chooses to wear the store-bought tiara I got her. She is a princess whether she is short or tall, or fat or slim. Whether her hair is long and straight or short and ‘picky picky’. If she gets an A in class or a C, she is still a princess. (Sidenote: C’s aren’t allowed, ok Amanda?) And most importantly, she is a princess whether or not she finds a prince. We’ve grown up in a world where the story books and the movies tell us that a princess needs a prince. Don’t get me wrong because I’m an advocate for marriage, but I need her to know that if she does find and marry her prince, she will still be a princess if their fairytale marriage doesn’t work out.
I want her to know that there are some things in life that will always be more important than others. I watched Meghan as the centre of attention for millions across the world who marveled at her. Yet I can’t help wonder if her beautiful smile was hiding the ache and reality of loneliness that can sometimes beset us. Our relationships with family and friends are important. They are never perfect, but they are important enough that we must look beyond squabbles and disagreements as we seek to build and maintain those bonds.
Hugs and kisses and touches are important. They speak volumes when our words fail us as they do from time to time, when ego gets in the way.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a princess as the daughter of a monarch. I want her to know that she is a princess not just because her mother is a Queen, (yes, I’m a Queen!) but she’s a princess because she puts the needs of others above her own. Because she will always try to help someone who can’t help themselves. Because she doesn’t judge people based on how they look or speak or where they live. My daughter is a princess because when things get too hard for her, she still tries. Sometimes she may cry, but then she tries. “Straighten your crown kiddo, and get back in the game!” And until she can fully fend for herself, I’m the Queen Bitch who has her back.
As parents, we think long-term for our children. (Or so we should). We have the savings plans and the college funds. We don’t miss the medical check-ups and organized playdates. We enroll them in more extra-curricular activities than they can handle, but we do all this because we are concerned about their future. We want to make sure that we give them all the tools to survive and thrive when they’re eventually on their own.
I challenge myself to be concerned about the princess (and prince) I am raising to possibly someday, be someone else’s princess and prince. I want my daughter to be the kind of princess that I want to be and I want my son to be the kind of prince that I want for me. Open-minded, thoughtful, kind, considerate, compassionate, relentless, patient. None of these qualities is male or female – they’re simply royal. My daughter is a princess and I can’t wait for the day that she discovers just how regal she really is.
Jamaica has more female babies registered and nicknamed ‘Princess’, than any other nation on earth.