Put a Bib on It

A Cake Is Just a Cake

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Happy-Birthday-EAt a recent doctor’s visit, the pediatrician asked Miss E how old she was going to be at her next birthday, and she explained that she’d just turned three.

“Was Elsa on your cake?”

The doctor’s tone was kind, but Miss E merely gave her a blank stare.

“Or Anna? Who was on your cake this year?”

Miss E looked at me for clarification, and I gently steered the question into more familiar territory.

“What kind of cake did you want for your birthday?”

Given when I’d asked her what she wanted for her birthday the nature of her cake had been her only response, this was an easy one.

“Chocolate cake. With sprinkles.”

The pediatrician smiled and continued with her examination, and I reflected on the brief exchange. Elsa and Anna are not fixtures in my house. This is a tremendous relief, and not just because I found the movie monumentally irritating. There’s not a Disney princess in sight in our house, and not much talk of them, either. While she’s just recently started to recognize Elsa thanks to attending preschool, I feel relatively confident she couldn’t pick Belle or Ariel or Aurora out of a lineup.

Who could she name if not the princesses? Han Solo. Princess Leia. R2-D2. Batgirl. Supergirl. Wonder Woman. The fact that these characters are increasingly beloved to her despite having very little exposure beyond thrifted t-shirts and my old action figures makes me think all the more that we really have some measure of control over what’s being fed into her brain. She loves what my husband and I love, what we choose to share with her, and that can be a lot of fun for us.

So while she wants to be Batgirl for Halloween this year and I think that’s pretty cool, ultimately I really just want her childhood to be about being a child, her play to just be play, her cakes to be cakes. I don’t want to buy all of the stuff and contend with all of the media exposure, because so far not doing those things has been really positive for us and for the way we choose to parent. I often joke that I want to give my girls an 80s childhood, which seems a whole lot less complicated than a 2010s childhood, more about getting messy and real and unplugged. More about just being a kid, and not being a character.

Maybe it’s just Miss E’s temperament and I’m in for a whole new world with Little Sister, but I just don’t know. Either way, I’m not going to be inviting Disney into our lives for awhile yet, if I can help it—and when I do, it will be something I won’t mind watching a thousand times, like Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Author: Jillian Kuhlmann

Mama. Nerd. Writer.

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