I really thought that, having a boy, I would get to avoid the whole "princess" thing. I know it's heterosexist, but it's the truth. My thought process wasn't quite a conscious, "Yes! Princesses are for girls. This kid is a boy! Dodged that bullet!" but it was close.
No such luck on the bullet-dodging.
Every morning for the past some-number-of-days (it feels like forever, honestly), Rob has freed Westley from his pajamas and overnight diaper only to be met with the request, "Wet's put me in one of your shirts!" And as soon as it's on his body, that T-shirt is suddenly a dress, and Westley, inside it, is a princess.
Do not - I repeat, do not - attempt to address him as anything else. You will be sternly corrected:
Me: "Come here, please, Westley."
Him, sternly, prompting me: "Come here my wittle princess."
One morning when my mom was over, Westley explained the situation to her. "I decided I was a princess," he said.
My mom attempted to explain that princesses were girls, but you know what? You could be a prince!
Westley shot that down so fast, and with so much ferocity, you'd think she'd just tried to tell him that all the cookies on the planet had suddenly disappeared.
"NO!" he shouted. "I A PRINCESS!"
"It's all right," I assured him. "You can be anything you want to be."
But inside my head I was thinking, But why a princess, buddy?
It's not Westley's imagination that I have a problem with. I cannot express how much I love that his world is still so magical. All it takes for him to be transformed is one of his father's T-shirts. It doesn't even matter what T-shirt! It could have words or pictures or some work-promotional-material on it, but it's still a princess's dress to Westley.
The problem, for me, is semantic. I don't want to address my son as "princess." If I had a daughter, I wouldn't want to address her as "princess," either. I don't want to address anyone as "princess" unless she's an actual, honest-to-goodness princess. As in, that's her title. The thing that would be printed on her business cards, if, for some reason, she needed them.
The word rubs me completely the wrong way. It's my own narrowmindedness talking, but when I think "princess" (as in the "dress up and make-believe" kind of princess), I think of someone who waits for a prince. Someone passive. Someone whose job is to be beautiful and appealing to a prince.
Admittedly, Westley isn't primping in front of the mirror, warbling to his woodland creature BFFs about how some day his prince will come. He's tearing around the house in a ridiculously-too-big-on-him T-shirt, wanting me to call him "princess." And I want him to be who he really is, and play how he wants to play. And if he wants to do "girl things" instead of (or in addition to) "boy things," I think that's wonderful! I want Westley to do what he loves to do, now and in the future, regardless of gender roles. I don't want to interfere with his imagination. But something in me wants to crush the "let's call me a princess" thing, based solely on my associations with the word.
I realize that this is my problem to work on. I remind myself that it's just a word, that this is about me and my stuff, that Westley isn't playing princess on purpose to bother me. And I'm trying to enjoy the cute of all of it. How sweet and wonderful it is that Westley doesn't care what's "for boys" and what's "for girls." That he can play and do what he likes without thinking about what is and is not "acceptable" or "appropriate" according to his peers and society in general.
That to him, being a "princess" means wearing a floor-length dress and living in a cool-looking building called a castle - no handsome prince and "happily ever after" narrative required.