We talked about Catherine Elizabeth's fairy tale story ahead of time. My eleven year-old daughter's eyes widened more and more as she learned about lineage, "commoners" and the real-life fairy tale unfolding during her lifetime. She is almost the age I was when Lady Diana was the focus of every little girl I knew.
I let her watch clips from the wedding with me today. I saw a look of wonderment and enchantment in her eyes that was intense enough to scare me a little. "Aren't princess fantasies bad for little girls?" I wondered to myself. I don't want my daughter to wait around for a prince charming, or to need a castle. I want her life to be grounded, meaningful and, well, realistic.
Nevertheless she watched because I watched. Because I wanted to watch. Because even I, middle-aged Orthodox Jewish housewife in the suburbs of the US, enjoyed the thrill of the royal pomp and circumstance, the curtsy to the Queen and ahhhh, those horse-drawn carriages. So given that I was going to enjoy this with her no matter what, it became a useful teaching moment. At least I hope.
"Do you see her dress?" I asked. "She isn't being guided by our rules of religious modesty, but even so, at the end of the day when she wanted to be refined, regal and graceful, do you see what a modest dress she chose? She is the princess now, and she could have had anything she wanted. Doesn't she look like a real princess in such an elegant and understated gown?
When we stopped watching, I pulled her aside: "You know the new princess was just as common a woman as you or I. She didn't have any royal lineage at all. But you can tell that the way she walks and carries herself is like a true princess, right? So regal. She didn't get that way because she met a future king; she was able to date and marry a future king because she already knew how to act like a lady. And one doesn't achieve that after the fact, or once you are all grown-up and decide it would be nice... Those are the habits one develops over a lifetime. Like when Mommy makes you sit like a lady and you are only eleven years old and you think it is silly. A person has to grow up developing habits of elegance or grace. It doesn't depend on your genes, or whether you are related to important people. It's about developing those habits."
I know she heard me, because even as I spoke she subtly started to stand just a little bit straighter and taller.
Maybe there are certain aspects of the "princess fantasy" that aren't so bad to feed into after all.