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Dear daughter—here’s the truth about Disney princesses and fairy tales

I need to get something off my chest.

Dear daughter—here’s the truth about Disney princesses and fairy tales

My dear, darling daughter,

I owe you an explanation.


You’re really into princesses right now. Crowns, flouncy dresses and anything that sparkles or glitters. I used to pride myself on the relative gender-neutrality of your toy collection, but now, there’s no mistaking that a princess obsession has taken over our household, much to my dismay.

The thing is, I grew up with these stories. So I get it. I do. I loved them.

I knew (and still know) most of the words to the movies and feel nostalgic whenever I hear their soundtracks. But reading them to you was the first time I found myself asking, in horror, “Wait a second, what are these stories teaching little kids? How did I never see this?”

And so, dear daughter, instead of banning you from ever reading these stories again (à la King Triton), if we’re going to do this princess thing, I need to get a few things off my chest first.

1. You don’t have to change who you are to be loved.

Ariel traded in her mermaid tail for a pair of legs at the expense of her ability to properly communicate, in addition to her entire family and community. I mean, I know she loved Prince Eric, but I’d like to think that if it was love—real, honest-to-goodness love—surely Eric still would’ve loved her back, without her having to give up so very much of herself.

When you love someone, and indeed when someone loves you, that love needs to include what differentiates you, what makes you unique. I actually think that it’s through those differences, those challenges to our own characters or opinions, that we grow— individually and as a couple.

Take Princess Anna in Frozen, for example. She and Kristoff were polar opposites, in many ways. They came from different walks of life. They kinda irritated each other at the start, too, (and, spoiler alert—they’ll continue to irritate each other as their relationship blossoms) but she was the truest version of herself with him. He accepted and loved her as she was—I daresay because she was true to her authentic self.

2. On that note, ‘happily ever after’ is not really an ending.

Many of these stories end with a nice, neat “and they lived happily ever after” bow, like it’s all done and dusted. Again, spoiler alert: when you find your partner in life, and decide to commit to one another—honey, that is just the beginning.

Part of the beauty of falling in love is that actually, you get to fall in love with several versions of that person. We all grow and evolve over time. Our characters, beliefs and worldviews aren’t meant to be static. So we can’t expect the person we love to always remain who they were when our love first began.

It’s not always easy. They’re not always adorable. Some versions are harder to love than others. (Ask your father and he’ll gladly testify.) But through that evolution, together, you will find new and sometimes unexpected reasons to keep falling in love with each other. Those less than “happy” times are often the ones that bring you closer to each other, funnily enough.

3. If you keep on believing, your dreams—well, they might come true.

Look, this made for a great song in Cinderella. It sounds lovely. Just believe—and boom(!)—your dreams will come true. Okay. Yes. Believing in yourself and your aspirations is absolutely crucial.

But you also need to be proactive, take risks and make things happen.

You have to work really, really hard. Sometimes you have to fail once, twice, or 4,293 times until you get there. Sometimes, you have to change course completely because what you thought was your dream is actually a stepping stone that leads you elsewhere.

4. Have the courage to stand up for yourself because you are worthy of respect.

Belle and Cinderella are great examples of kindness, grace, compassion and selflessness—especially when faced with disrespect and cruelty from others.

But—I’m sorry—you need to demand more.

Yes, be kind. Yes, be compassionate. If someone treats you unkindly, while sometimes it’s okay to forgive them and move on, do not accept this as a pattern in any of your relationships—even, or maybe especially—if it is someone you love.

Don’t make excuses for their behavior. Call it when you see it. You have to dig deep, find that courage, and stand up for yourself.

In Brave, Merida showed courage in standing up to her mother about not wanting to get married. She decided that the best course of action was to turn her mother into a ravenous bear, so I hope we can avoid that route, because I promise to listen to you when what you want is different from what I want for you, no matter how hard that might be sometimes. Respect is a two-way street, and you deserve it from everyone, including me.

5. Golden hair, dainty feet, or “skin white as snow” is not what makes you beautiful.

When I was growing up, there wasn’t much variety in terms of how princesses looked. Jasmine, Mulan, or Pocahontas were as close as it got, and even then, they were essentially very slightly modified clones of every other Disney princess. In the more traditional stories, one of the princesses’ primary accomplishments is that she is “beautiful.” Kind, but also “beautiful.”

While I’m glad that nowadays you get to see some different representations of physical beauty in the newer Disney heroines, l want you to know that there’s one overarching thing that eclipses their skin color, hair, or body type.

Moana’s real beauty comes from things like her courage and determination. Princess Tiana’s beauty comes from her confidence and perseverance. Princess Elsa’s beauty comes from her loyalty and (eventual) wholehearted acceptance of who she really is.

Being physically beautiful means different things to different people, but the beauty of character, the more important, valuable and timeless beauty, is universal.

6. No one is inherently a “bad guy.”

Gaston, Cinderella’s stepmother, Mother Gothel, Maleficent, Jafar, Prince Hans—every story has a villain, right? The bad guy. But in the same way that I never tell you that you’re “bad” or “naughty,” these characters are not inherently bad or naughty, either.

We are all capable of making bad choices. We can all succumb to our lower nature and fail to rise up and better ourselves. And that applies to absolutely everyone.

No one is, by default, a “bad guy” or a “good guy.” It just doesn’t work that way. I know that these characters behaved in some reprehensible ways, but in real life, it’s just not that cut and dry. People change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Each person has their own journey and no one is entitled to judge another.

My sweet, dear daughter. I know this is a lot.

In fact, I could probably keep going, because there is just so much to say. I know that I’ve done some serious overthinking here, and it might be a while until we can have a thorough conversation about all of these things. But it’s my job to show you, as well as I can, the beauties and challenges of this world.

Fairy tales are all well and good, and I want you to enjoy them. I want to see that glint in your eye as you turn the page to the next part of the story. I love watching you twirl in your dress-up clothes.

But when you ask me questions about these stories and why the characters behaved as they did, I’m going to answer you with a dose of reality.

Now come over here, snuggle up to me and let’s read another story.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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