BAD MOMMY BLOG: Princesses, part I


I confess. When I read to my child at night I sometimes try to skip ahead. She always catches me, but I persist, omitting adverbs (much too prevalent in children’s fiction) and dialogue tags.  Tip to writers: Don’t try to be creative—he exclaimed, she retorted, he cried, she responded.  Just say, “he said,” or “she said,” unless it’s obvious that he or she said it, then just don’t say anything.  Moving on.

I’m such an asshole for cutting her reading time short some nights.  I don’t cut her watching-the-Bachelor-with-mommy-time short, after all.  And, I just finished Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (brilliant book), which stresses the importance of practice, putting in the hours, and extra work. I know the magnitude of legacy so what gives?

Here’s what gives: children’s books.  Not all, of course, but many, especially the ones about Disney princesses.  One of last night’s stories was about Aurora and Prince Philip, a kind of part II to Sleeping beauty.  I hate fairy tale sequels. They give me violent thoughts. They’re vapid, lazy and should be banned by Obama. 

“Why do you like Aurora?” I asked.
”Um, um.” She covered her face, feeling the pressure. “I like her necklace and I want to be like her.”

“What?” I said. “Crazy. You know what’s weird–people want to be like you, too.”

My daughter beamed. In a writing class, Tobias Wolff told me to never use the expression, “she beamed,” but that’s what she did. “Isn’t that neat?” I said.

“But they can’t be like me ’cause only I’m me.”

“And you don’t want to be like Aurora because then you wouldn’t be you.” Ho snap–mommy just dropped some knowledge right there. 

“Fo shizzle,” she said.

“Sweetie, you need to stop saying that,” even though I love when she says it, but I have to draw the line somewhere since I get points docked for skipping ahead.

At the same time, I can also make the case for skipping.  For example, after a few readings I began to skip the part in Snow White that says, “When the dwarfs learned that Snow White could cook and clean, they invited her to stay.”

The first time I read that to my daughter I paused to say, “Are you fucking kidding me?  Fuck the dwarfs.  They’re dwarfs!”  No, I didn’t really say that, but I did say later, when Snow White got whisked off on the prince’s steed: “How does she know she’ll even like him? They never even spoke to each other.”

“Yeah!” Eleanor said.

“He could be a total loser. He could be like, ‘Hi Snow White, wanna’ ride my horse.’ I realized I was speaking in a retarded-sounding voice and stopped.  “Why would she go off with a stranger who did nothing more than kiss her? I mean, is he stable? Does he work or just live off his parents? What are his table manners like? His taste in music? Why must there be so many adverbs in these books?!”

“I just don’t know,” my daughter sighed.  Then she asked me to read Cinderella, then the Little Mermaid and finally, the token minority, Jasmine, from Aladdin.  I read.  I skipped, I omitted, I added on.  I’m just so sick of these bitches with their freakishly wide eyes, their shy laughter and porn bodies.  You can’t blame me when I do a little improv and after the line “When the dwarfs learned that Snow White could cook and clean, they invited her to stay,” I have Snow White say: “You’re closer to the floor, bitches.  Clean it your own damn self.”

I'm Kaui. Mother of one, author of House of Thieves, The Descendants and the blog, How to Party with an Infant. I live in Hawaii. I'm working on another novel and child. More from this author →