“All Girls are Princesses”
By Steve and Claudia Goodman
When the orphanage director openly ridicules Sarah for claiming she is a princess in the movie “The Little Princess,” she responds, “I am a princess. All girls are-even if they live in tiny old attics, even if they aren’t pretty or smart or young. We’re still princesses, all of us. Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?” In today’s sophisticated, materialistic world, it is easy to lose sight of the divine calling of women and the respect that is due every daughter of God.
Recently our sixteen-year-old daughter had dates with two different LDS boys. On the first, the young man made it a point to tell us as parents when he would have our daughter home and what they were planning to do. He helped her into the car, complimented her on how beautiful she looked, and made sure she had an enjoyable evening. When the group began inventing nicknames for each other, someone suggested “airhead” for our daughter, but he quickly responded, “No, she’s not an airhead. She’s sweet.” He escorted her home afterward and left her feeling that she was very special.
The following week she went with the other young man. We almost had to pry out of him where they were going and when they would be back. One member of their group lit a breadstick on fire in the car as they sped through the neighborhood considerably over the speed limit. At her date’s home they pulled out a questionable movie, and when our daughter said she wasn’t allowed to watch it, they grumbled loudly and teased her about having to view a Disney movie instead. They egged on some drunks they encountered as they got into their car. She breathed a sigh of relief when she finally arrived home rattled but in one piece.
Both dates were supposedly with fine LDS boys. What was the difference? One of them had been taught to respect and safeguard womanhood and the other hadn’t. Unless we are diligent in teaching our children, they will fail to grasp that vision. The world certainly does not provide it. Our children’s examples must come primarily from the home.
Parents Teach By Example
It goes without saying that example is the most powerful teaching tool to provide the image of what a woman should be. There’s a quote that says, “Children are great mimics. They follow the example of their parents, despite their best efforts to teach them otherwise.” Patterns are set when children are very young. If we do not provide the proper example for our children to safeguard womanhood, they will probably absorb their values from outside sources. We need only consider the attitude of the world for a moment to realize how detrimental that would be.
Fathers can set a powerful example for their children. Simple comments such as, “You look so pretty.” “I think you’re the best mom!” and “I just love being with you!” can make a woman’s day. Our son-in-law Slate used to always say, “Thank you for this lovely dinner,” at the end of each meal. Now his children say it before he has a chance. What a great tradition to pass on to them.
Simple actions can convey a world of meaning. As our children grew up, my husband not only gave me flowers for Valentine’s Day, but he also gave each of our seven girls a long stemmed rose in a small vase. It made them feel very special. He still opens the car door for me, and if he can’t for some reason, he asks one of our boys, “Will you please open the door for your mother?” thus teaching them that same respect. He has never allowed any of the children to speak disrespectfully to me or about me. One of our daughters mentioned that she has never once heard him raise his voice with me. There are so many ways to express love and respect, and each family will find its own unique ways to honor womanhood.
Teach Daughters to Value Femininity
Besides setting an example for our children, we can make a conscious effort to teach our daughters to treasure an almost forgotten quality-femininity. There is an irresistible charm when women possess it. Little girls are naturally feminine as they dance uninhibited around the room in frilly dresses, their curls flying, or gently sing their dolls to sleep. Their sweet tenderness and innocence is charming. Contrast their actions with the cold, calculating behavior of children seen on TV, who respond sarcastically with adult humor to every comment made to them. This stereotype is foreign to the way children naturally are.
I recently watched a young woman preparing to go to Prom. She said, “I want a Cinderella dress that twirls way out.” Since buying one was out of the question, financially her mother arranged to have someone make it. Her appearance, with her long hair curling in cascades and laced with flowers took everyone’s breath away. All night people interrupted their dancing to say, “Your date is the prettiest one here. She looks like Cinderella.” Everyone was captivated by her. Perhaps they didn’t realize, though, that the thing that truly made her beautiful was more than the dress or the hairdo. She would have been beautiful in blue jeans and a T-shirt-because she possessed true femininity. One observer described her thus: “There’s a glow about her I can’t describe.it’s a sweetness, an innocence. I know what it is. She is absolutely pure.” Girls need to understand that it’s okay for them to be sweet, tender, and beautiful. After all, they are princesses.
Teach Daughters the Ideals of Motherhood
In a world where the role of mother is scoffed at and even ridiculed, it is vital that we paint a bright picture of motherhood, not only for our daughters, but also for our sons. They need to understand what a privilege and joy it is to be a mother.
When our daughter Christy became pregnant with her first child, she notified the school where she was teaching that she would not return in the fall. The principal was appalled and commented, “That is such a waste of your talent to stay at home!”
Christy replied, “I’ll use it on our son.”
While there are definitely times when it is not only necessary, but right for a mother to work outside the home, it is so vital that we teach our children what a privilege it is to stay home and raise the children. When I was young, it was almost unheard-of for mothers to work. Now it is becoming almost unheard-of for them to stay at home. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that families just can’t make it unless both parents work.
One of our daughter’s friends grew up in a home where her mother had always worked, so she followed the pattern that was set for her. Then several months after her first baby was born, she lost her job. As she stayed home, her eyes were open to how critical it was for her to be there for her children. It had never occurred to her before that she could stay home. Together she and her husband trimmed back their expenses so they could make ends meet on his salary. They have never regretted their decision.
I have always told my daughters, “The most important day to be with your child is Day 1, and the second-most important day is Day 2, and so on.” How easy it is to rationalize that when the children are young they won’t miss us. We’ll quit work when they are a little older. That might be too late. So many ties are made, so many values shaped, so many beliefs formed when children are very tiny. Do we really want to miss being a part of molding a life?
Teaching children from birth about the importance of the mother being in the home helps shape their goals for the future. Our daughter Melissa tells her little children, “Some mommies do have to work, and that’s right for them. But I’m so lucky I can stay home. It’s worth not buying so many things so that I am with you instead.” She further explains that when David grows up he is going to work like Daddy, so that his wife can stay home and tend the children. Little Bresciana wants to be an astronaut, but she plans to do that before she becomes a mom, so she can stay at home.
Yes, we understand that circumstances sometimes make it necessary for mothers to work outside the home, and in those cases we know that the Lord will bless them and meet every critical need. But in many cases, we can be home for our children if we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Sometimes the father can take an extra job or expenses can be cut.
We watched one of our daughters and her husband turn down a house that they qualified to buy, because they knew it would strap them a little. They finally found a more modest one in an older neighborhood that fit their budget better. How their love and closeness grew as they saved and worked together with their children to fix it up. There is such a beautiful spirit in their home. No one feels deprived because they live on one income. Our children really don’t want more things-they simply want more of us. The material blessings will wear our and be discarded, but the memories we make with our children will last forever. Let us firmly plant in the hearts of our daughters the ideals of motherhood and the indescribable joy it brings.
As we paint a beautiful picture of motherhood for our daughters from birth, they will come to value the things that are truly important, just as Sister Marjorie Hinckley did:
“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk’s lawn. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”
Teach Sons to Lighten the Load at Home
Boys are often made to feel that certain chores are “women’s work.” One of the most valuable things we can teach our children is to help out around the house, and that it is everyone’s responsibility, not just the girls’. It doesn’t matter so much what they do, as long as they do their part in their own way. For example, my husband has always vacuumed the floors and done the dishes for me without asking-just like his father did. It’s a happy day for us when our son-in-law Eric comes to town, because he fixes everything that is broken and adds improvements to the house. When Paul comes, all our computers run in tip top shape, and Aimee receives expert help on chemistry projects.
On the other side of things, many women tend to criticize their husbands and sons for not helping out, when in reality they are doing a lot to help-just in different areas than their wives expect. Some men may never change the baby’s diaper, yet they will spend hours taking a young son on a fishing trip. Before women become too critical, they might want to take a closer look at what their husbands are doing, instead of what they are not doing. They may decide they like their husband’s choices better than those they would have dictated.
Teach Sons to Protect and Respect Women
An unfolding rose is one of the most beautiful of all flowers, yet it is incredibly fragile. While wildflowers can survive for hours without water, a rose wilts in minutes. In order for it to achieve its fullest potential, it needs devoted attention and protection. A young girl is much the same. If she is to achieve the height of womanhood, she needs shelter from the harsh world around her.
The members of our daughter’s choir class were signing up for tickets to a play that contained some questionable dialog. Before she could say a word of protest, several of the boys insisted, “You can’t see that play. You’re not going.” Innately they sensed her need to be protected from anything the least bit unworthy.
Our sons can be taught politeness for women and girls from the time they are young. They can be trained to open the doors to cars and buildings and to let women enter first. They can be taught to stand when women enter the room. They can be taught to use respectful language in front of them. Girls should be taught to earn that respect, but boys can be trained to respect all women, young and old, simply because they are women.
Every woman needs a chance to blossom and become all she can be. President and Sister Hinckley are beautiful examples of what a woman can become with a man’s support. Sister Hinckley explained, “My husband always let me do my own thing. He never insisted that I do anything his way or any way for that matter. From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly.” Pres. Hinckley commented that he likes to “Get out of her way and marvel at what she does.” (Ensign, Oct. 2003, p.22, “At Home with the Hinckleys”) What a perfect pattern of freedom for all of us. We can all see the incredible result of this practice.
Remember, All Girls are Princesses
Women are daughters of a Heavenly King, and as such are entitled to royal treatment. As they are honored in a manner suited to their noble birthright, they will be given the best opportunity to blossom and fulfill their divine potential.