This is a special “guest” post from my wife Michelle, a talented writer, wonderful mom and my pop culture partner-in-crime.  I wanted to call her Mama Nugget. She declined.

The conversation went soemthign like this: Nurse: Do you like Hannah Montana stickers? Maia: No. Who’s that? Me: She’s a girl on TV who sings and has concerts. Maia: Like Ashley, Mama? Me: Yes, like Ashley. Nurse (to me): She doesn’t know Hannah Montana? Good. Keep it that way. That Miley Cyrus with her YouTube videos and slutty clothes and makeup, she is headed for trouble. She’s no role model. Nurse (to Maia): Do you want princess stickers instead? Maia: YES!
At this doctor’s visit, the complicated issues surrounding providing good role models for our daughter presented themselves in full force. This concept of a role model is not something I think I fully prepared myself for when I first rejoiced over finding out I was having a baby girl, and it’s definitely something I’ll continue to wrestle with. Maia has become infected with the Princess bug, despite our initial struggle to keep her immune to it. And I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Sure, there’s plenty of research out there about the negative effects of the Princess Phenomenon. From the focus on beauty to the notion of the damsel in distress, the messages aren’t so hot for a young girl in a modern world. After meeting their prince only once, the princesses fall head over heels in love and want only to get married. No education, no career goals, no desire to do charity work or travel the globe. Yuck. And let me also add that Maia categorizes princess paraphenalia into “real princess stuff” (Disney) and “the fake ones” (sometimes equally beautiful books, crowns, etc.). And she usually only wants the real stuff. Go Disney.  But I am losing a battle, one which I’m not so sure I actually am even fighting very hard, or even want to call a battle at all. The smile that comes over my daughter’s face when she sees princess toothpaste or a box of princess raisins is one I’m not interested in squelching. I don’t know how or why this particular property thrills her in this way, but the bottom line is, it does, and I love seeing my daughter thrilled. Fairy tales have been around since the beginning of time, I think, and they’ve always told these stories. I heard them as a kid, and I still grew up to be a money-earning, home-owning, relatively confident woman who uses the hammer and screwdriver much more than my husband. The princess tales may infultrate her well-being to a certain extent, but all I can do as a mother is make sure I counteract any of that stereotypical girl stuff with other role models, giving Maia a wide variety of options. She will hopefully learn lessons about friendship and hope just as much as she learns any other negative lesson from the princess tales, and she won’t only have Ariel and Cinderella to look up to. Enter Ashley, mentioned above in the doctor’s office conversation. Ashley is Ashley Albert of the kids’ band The Jimmies, and she is Maia’s hero. She may be playing with princess dolls, but she is often making Belle sing and dance to songs like “It’s Cool to be Uncool” or “Bedhead.” And beyond that, when she talks about what she wants to wear, or who she wants to be like when she grows up, her answer is not “Cinderella,” it’s “Ashley.” She doesn’t see the Princesses she loves as real people, but she imitates the dance moves and even the expressions that she sees and hears on The Jimmies’ “Trying Funny Stuff” DVD – the first DVD from the kindie rock band, which features music videos, a live concert and a behind the scenes documentary. I catch her in the living room singing along with the concert, watching Ashley intently, flipping her hair and wiping the sweat off of her lip just like Ashley. She knows all the words, the order of the concert’s songs, and all the right moves. We even had to buy a new copy of the DVD, because Maia scratched it when she tried to shove it into the DVD player without opening the player first, because she wanted it to watch it and nobody was immediately there to help her put it in. I have a feeling that if Maia were to watch Hannah Montana, she’d like it. But the nurse was right – mainstream, tabloid-followed, trying to be cool, popular rich and famous kids might not be the best influences on Maia. Kids’ singers like Ashley Albert fly below the tabloid radar (though word is she’s getting a photo shoot for Women’s Day magazine!) but are still glamorous and amazingly cool to Maia. Maia has always had a love for music, and a talent for it too, I think, and I am nothing but happy that she wants to follow in the footsteps of someone like Ashley, who has fantastic talent and lots of wit too. She’s beautiful, without overdoing it. She wears fun, poofy dresses without the diamonds and crowns. And she puts herself out there, laughing at herself, being silly and having a great time while performing. The behind-the-scenes documentary really displays what a passionate, hard worker Ashley is, creating many of the sets and props for her amazingly elaborate music videos. It’s not meant to do that – it’s both a hysterical and honestly educational piece of the DVD that I love to watch – but it is teaching Maia some lessons about what it takes to be like Ashley while it makes her (and me) laugh. We did get to meet Ashley in person, though I fear that Maia was too young to remember it, even now. When we did, Maia was shy and didn’t want to get the photo opp Matt and I wanted, but in the end I think she was just in awe. She didn’t know what to do with herself once she actually met her idol in person, the way any of us might react. But as role models go, I’ll take Ashley any day.

The conversation went something like this:

Nurse: Do you like Hannah Montana stickers?
Maia: No. Who’s she?
Me: She’s a girl on TV who sings and has concerts.
Maia: Like Ashley, Mama?
Me: Yes, like Ashley.
Nurse (to me): She doesn’t know Hannah Montana? Good. Keep it that way. That Miley Cyrus with her YouTube videos and risque clothes and makeup, she is headed for trouble. She’s no role model.
Nurse (to Maia): Do you want princess stickers instead?
Maia: YES!

At this doctor’s visit, the complicated issues surrounding providing good role models for our daughter presented themselves in full force. This concept of a role model is not something I think I fully prepared myself for when I first rejoiced over finding out I was having a baby girl, and it’s definitely something with which I’ll continue to wrestle. Maia has become infected with the Princess bug, despite our initial struggle to keep her immune to it. And I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Sure, there’s plenty of research out there about the negative effects of the Princess Phenomenon. From the focus on beauty to the notion of the damsel in distress, the messages aren’t so hot for a young girl in a modern world. After meeting their prince only once, the princesses fall head over heels in love and want only to get married. No education, no career goals, no desire to do charity work or travel the globe. Yuck.

But I am losing a battle, one which I’m not so sure I actually am even fighting very hard, or even want to call a battle at all. The smile that comes over my daughter’s face when she sees Princess toothpaste or a box of Princess raisins is one I’m not interested in squelching. I don’t know how or why this particular property thrills her in this way, but the bottom line is, it does, and I love seeing my daughter thrilled. Fairy tales, whether told by Disney or not, have been around since the beginning of time, and they’ve lasted through the ages for some valid reason. I heard them as a kid, and I still grew up to be a money-earning, home-owning, confident woman who uses the hammer and screwdriver arguably more than my husband. The princess tales may infultrate her well-being to a certain extent, but all I can do as a mother is make sure I counteract any of that stereotypical girl stuff with other role models, giving Maia a wide variety of options. She will hopefully learn lessons about friendship, hope and generosity just as much as she learns any other negative lesson from the princess tales, and she won’t only have Ariel and Cinderella to look up to.

Ashley Albert and Punxsutawney Phil
Ashley Albert and Punxsutawney Phil

Which brings me back to Ashley, mentioned above in the doctor’s office conversation. Ashley is Ashley Albert of the kids’ band The Jimmies, and she is Maia’s true idol. She may be playing with princess dolls, but she is often making Belle sing and dance to songs like “It’s Cool to be Uncool” or “Bedhead.” And beyond that, when she talks about what she wants to wear, or who she wants to be like when she grows up, her answer is not “Cinderella,” it’s “Ashley.” She doesn’t see the Princesses she loves as real people, but she imitates the dance moves and even the expressions that she sees and hears on The Jimmies’ “Trying Funny Stuff” DVD – the first DVD from the kindie rock band, which features music videos, a live concert and a behind-the-scenes documentary. I catch her in the living room singing along with the concert, watching Ashley intently, flipping her hair and wiping the sweat off of her lip just like Ashley. She knows all the words, the order of the concert’s songs, and all the right moves. We even had to buy a new copy of the DVD after Maia decided she didn’t want to wait for mom or dad and tried to shove the disc into the player,  essentially runing it.

I have a feeling that if Maia were to watch a Hannah Montana performance, she’d like it. But the nurse was right – mainstream, tabloid-ready, rich and famous kids might not be the best influences on Maia. Kids’ singers like Ashley Albert fly below the tabloid radar but are still glamorous and amazingly cool to Maia. Maia has always had a love for music, and a talent for it too, I think, and I am nothing but happy that she wants to follow in the footsteps of someone like Ashley, who has fantastic talent and lots of wit too. She’s beautiful, without overdoing it. She wears fun, poofy dresses without the diamonds and crowns. And she puts herself out there, laughing at herself, being silly and having a great time while performing. The behind-the-scenes documentary really displays what a passionate, hard worker Ashley is, creating many of the sets and props for her amazingly elaborate music videos. It’s not meant to do that – it’s both a hysterical and honestly educational piece of the DVD that I love to watch – but it is teaching Maia some lessons about what it takes to be like Ashley while it makes her (and me) laugh.

As far as role models go, I’ll take Ashley any day. Ariel, Cinderella, Aurora and company may inspire her love for pink and storytelling, but role models like this unselfconscious musician teach a young girl to forget poise and posture and celebrate her beautiful, quirky, unique self.

All attention on her idol
All attention on her idol at live Jimmies event
Ashley & the Band
Ashley & the band
5 COMMENTS
Tino
August 26, 2009
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I know mean. When I first learned I’m going to have a daughter I don’t know what to do. With a boy I can relate better. But now she have taught me so much. Still wrestling but fun. And yes, she also caught the Disney Princess bug.

Tino
http://www.DisneyPrincessDoll.com

Jeff
August 26, 2009
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Awesome stuff. You’re right, it’s important that she sees Ashley as a real hard working person, in addition to a really talented one. That’s an awesome lesson. Last thing the world needs is another idol worshiper blinded by the glow of manufactured star power.

Re: Princesses. I hate the whole idea of ‘em but do allow the non-Disney variety inside our home. My girls are free to be frilly, pink, tiara wearing ladies being creative and silly WAY OUTSIDE the clutches the machine. Balancing that with great princess stories like Jane and the Dragon, Hullabaloo’s “Princess Bluejean” song and amazing books like “Dahlia” that show girls in a much different light than the bright-ass one that’s always shining down on us from Orlando and Madison Ave.

September 9, 2009
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Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

Sarah
January 26, 2010
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Just recently discovered The Jimmies and was just doing a little bit of research when I came across this post. So well said. I, for one, am so relieved to be able to offer my daughter such a positive role model in Ashley. She’s a great example of how fun and funny and cool women can be.

January 26, 2010
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She is also a great person, too!

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