Enough with Princesses

I recently read a story in the Washington Post about a father in Virginia named Jeremiah Heaton who, upon hearing his daughter’s desire to become a “real” princess, planted a flag on an unclaimed plot of desert in Africa so as to make her dream a reality. He investigated the matter online, found an 800 square-foot plot of Earth somewhere near Egypt, flew to Africa, put a homemade flag in the ground, named the territory “The Kingdom of North Sudan,” declared himself the king, then flew home where he (I presume) high-fived his daughter, Princess Emily, and the rest of his now-royal family.

“I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes come true,” he said.

planting flagwith daughter

This guy’s daughter isn’t dying of cancer or anything horrible like that (thank God). She is, by all accounts, a healthy, typically-developing seven year old kid. I’m sure she is adorable, and I don’t question for a moment that this dad loves her like crazy, but wow. Can we talk about this?

While the case can be made (and, in fact, is made ad nauseum) that the “princess” fire burning in the hearts of so many little girls is not worth fueling – that a woman who carries such a title is defined as such strictly because of her relationship to a man (i.e. her father, the king or her husband, the prince), and while I agree with that sentiment, I am not particularly interested in rehashing it. (And I am really not interested in talking about how it might appear to the rest of the world that a white American man is attempting to give his daughter a piece of Africa, finders/keepers-style, simply for her amusement.) I want to talk about wishes that come true and dreams that are realized.

I wish I were a published author. Trite as that may be, I will claim it as a dream. I would love to see it come to fruition. If my dad were responsible for it, though, if he did something over-the-top like pay for a full page ad in the New York Times and then run one of my stories in that widely-read newspaper in order to get my work before the masses, I would be mortified.

Central to our desires is the idea that we, by virtue of our talents and efforts, can make them come true. I think that is the case for me, anyway. When I consider the things in life which bring me fulfillment, when I reflect on the personal and professional dreams I’ve realized, I’m certain that my happiness is bolstered as much by my role in planning and taking my own journeys as it is by the pleasures I have met upon the respective arrivals.

Mr. Heaton, if you’re reading this, I have some advice. I say this not as a fellow parent standing in judgement, but as someone’s daughter – as a thirty-eight year old woman who, once upon a time, was a seven year old girl: Re-read your quote as it appeared in the Washington Post. Note the subject of each clause. The subject of your quote, the subject of this story, is you.

I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes come true.

This is a story about your wish to prove your love as a father in a grand way. And you’ve done it. God bless you for loving your kids.

Now that your own dream has come true, switch gears and make it about your kids. Really about your kids. Tell your daughter, tell all of your children, another glorious truth. Tell them that they, through hard work, discipline, God-given talents and compassion for others, can literally go to the ends of the earth to make their own wishes come true. Continue to talk with your kids about their dreams, and nurture the ones that will help them, and those around them, live happily ever after.

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11 Comments on “Enough with Princesses”

  1. Great post! You make some excellent pints about parenting. I had not seen this story. Despite the fact that this father, with no question, loves his daughter, it embarrasses me to see his story celebrated in the media. The first reaction may be “Oh, how cute,” but it’s quickly followed by a “Wait…what????”

  2. Standing ovation! As always, you make a brilliant point without being disrespectful. I love the balance you bring to things. I am learning more and more one of the best things I can do for my kids is teach them how to do things for themselves, not do things for them. That is true for something as little to clearing their plates from the table to making a passion come to fruition. Because like you said, it is the satisfaction we get knowing we are capable that fuels a happy life. I can completely understand wanting to give your kids the world…but I also understand how damaging that can be. I would go to the ends of the earth for my kids…but not to make their wishes come true. I would do it to be there for them, support them, lift them up when they need it, make sure they never feel alone. But not to hand them anything with a bow tied around it.

    Fantastic, fantastic post!!!

  3. Great article. I agree wholeheartedly with what you said re: the importance of making our own dreams come true as opposed to enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor. Maybe you’re right and this 800 square foot kingdom thing was more about the dad than the girl. Although, he still moved mountains to make his own fanciful dream come true! So technically, he followed the “dream rules” to the letter. The little girl however must find a new kingdom to rule, her OWN kingdom, if she truly wants to satisfy said dream code. She’s still got time, though.

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