Evangeline has decided to be Queen Elsa from the movie “Frozen” for Halloween. This came about after several weeks of planning to be a pirate, and then switching, suddenly and upsettingly, to Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” for a bit before settling once and for all on Elsa, although she did agree I made a very compelling case for Wendy from “Peter Pan.” It took a bit of discussion to understand why she came to Elsa so late in the game, but it sounds like she found out most of the girls in her class were planning on being princesses of one kind or another. She and I were having a chat about it her choice when she changed her mind from being a pirate.
“Well, I really want to be Elsa but Myra (a friend of hers at daycare) told me she is being Elsa so I had to choose another princess, so I chose Belle,” Evangeline told me. I can get almost any information I need to out of her when we have popsicles on the front porch swing together.
“Okay, but who or what do you want to be for Halloween?” I asked her. “Nobody else gets to make that decision for you – not even mommy.”
Evangeline considered. “Well, I really want to be Elsa,” she concluded. “She has magic powers. Pirates don’t have magic powers.”
“Then, you can be Elsa,” I said definitively, managing to keep my less charitable Myra-related thoughts to myself.
I’m actually relieved she chose Elsa as her costume, not only because it was easily purchasable but I was nervous she’d be really upset when she realized just how many little girls were dressing up as Elsa this year. I never felt comfortable offering it up as a choice for her but at the same time knew she could end up crushed, seeing all the other Elsas out in the world on the evening of Halloween. I’m glad she came to the decision by herself and that, while being just one of a million other Elsa’s, she’s standing up for herself in a way.
I read somewhere that Disney made a major miscalculation by believing girls would prefer Anna’s character over Elsa, assuming since Anna had the love interest AND performed an act of true love she would garner the favor of little girls everywhere. Instead, it was Elsa, with her magical powers, independent nature and easily identifiable theme song that drew children in and kept their attention rapt, and having listened to “Let it Go” belted out more times than I could possibly estimate, I think I understand why.
I have watched my three and a half year old daughter, clad in dress up shoes, various blankets and well-placed scarves, running from room to room in our house, belting the lyrics to this song. Her commitment is unquestionable, her passion all-consuming. And, after listening to the lyrics for the
hundredth thousandth time, I get it. I really do.
“Let it go” is the perfect anthem for all the little girls who are told to be nice, be good, act like little ladies, smile, be sweet, be kind. It’s the kind of messaging girls start receiving incredibly early on, and even as a woman who tries not to instill gendered expectations on my daughter , I find myself communicating those messages on occasion, snapping at E to “act like a lady” when she’s lifting her skirt over her head to show everyone her underwear or to calm down and be kind when a friend is upsetting her. I like to believe that I’ll pass the same messages on to Duncan – that we don’t walk around showing off our underwear, no matter how cool they are, or to always take a deep breath when someone is invading our personal space, but I know that one of the reasons I communicate with E the way I do is because she’s a girl.
I do cut myself slack for this as often as possible – I’ve seen so many of my friends tie themselves in knots over every parenting moment and that’s not how I want to live, but I am trying to be mindful of how I communicate with E and what expectations she might infer from me. And, no matter how tired I might be of the soundtrack, I am thankful to “Frozen,” for giving her lyrics that help her feel like she can break out of the “nice girl” narrative, run and stomp through the house with abandon and cry at the top of her lungs to let it go, let it go, let it go.