During superhero day in my daughter’s class, it was time for my 4 year-old Spiderman to step into action. Of late, Spidey is her ultimate superhero.

Unfortunately, the instructor managed to deflate my daughter’s enthusiasm faster than Spiderman’s web shooters with the comment that another little girl did not like superheroes because she preferred “pretty, girly things like princesses.” The lovely looking cape should be reserved for her. Way to start stereotypes early!

That began a 1950’s whoosh moment for me. Where was I? Even more bizarre was the instructor’s age. She was much younger than me.


I have nothing against princesses. In fact, I’ve always been enamored with tales of prince charmings and happy-ever afters, because I grew up on Cinderella and Snow White.

However, as my daughter started approaching 3-years-old, I became concerned over the “princess phase” that my friends warned me was coming. Should I give my daughter a steady diet of the fairy tales that were part of my youth? Would they give her a “rescue me” complex? Would they instill a sense of helplessness in her?

I realized I couldn’t avoid princesses and part of me didn’t want to. I read her Cinderella and instantaneously, she was hooked. She requested more and more princess stuff. My husband, myself, and her very foreword thinking nana, knew we had to create a balance.

The key was to continue to expose her to a wide range of books, movie, TV shows and toys and allow her to be the guide. Fireman Sam was one of the first heroes she strongly identified with and in the end she created her own balance.

In her imaginative play, she takes on the roles of rescuer and rescued, superhero and villain; girly things and not-so-girly things—whatever that means anymore. After all, my daughter’s fourth birthday party theme was the brave combination of princesses and Spiderman!

About the Author

Caroline Presno Ed.D.

Caroline Presno, Ed.D., is the author of 1, 2, 3, 4: Nightmare No More, a freelance writer and mom of a 5-year-old girl.

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