Little girl dreams
Listen in on little girls playing and you will be eavesdropping on their big dreams for when they grow up: a ballerina, a mermaid, a princess, a fairy, a moonwalker, a lion tamer, a trainer of unicorns. And then, in the blink of an eye, they do grow up and find out that unicorns and mermaids don’t exist, Christmas trees are not so tall and being a princess means marrying a prince and it's not all it is cut out to be. (Well, that is certainly Meghan Markle's view).
At the heart of every little girl's hopeful aspirations is a belief system that they can be anything they want, dreams do come true and all you need to change the world is a fairy wand.
This idealistic innocence of little girl dreams slowly morphs into a realistic cynicism as they realise that the world is not made up of all that glitters and sparkles and - horror of horrors - fairy dust doesn’t really turn pumpkins into carriages! They don’t have to be taught these things.
Life lessons have a way of creeping up unannounced and gate crashing their little imaginations.
The problem with little girl dreams is that this delightful and imaginative idealism is formed in a vacuum. Missing from their wish lists are the steps, values, grit and determination to move them from childhood dreaming to nurturing activists; women equipped to actually change the world. This is not their fault.
But when you appropriately combine the charm of innocence with the reality that we live in a broken world, then change is possible.
Teaching little girls that they can be anything they want is self-destructive; but teaching them that they can be change-makers - in any situation - is flipping the script and moving the narrative from disappointment and victimhood to hope.
I am not suggesting crushing their little girl dreams. After all, “Every time someone says ‘I do not believe in fairies’, somewhere there’s a fairy that falls down dead.” (Thank you, Tinker Bell). Fairy tales also teach children that slaying dragons is possible, so we are going to keep reading them.
What I am suggesting, is that to inspire little girls to become adults who will take up the burden of their community, fight for the education of their children, protest for the life of the unborn child, treat the elderly with dignity, stand up for those who are bullied - and do so with unique feminine grace - means taking each little girl’s dreams and slowly nurturing and transforming them into a worldview that loves mercy, acts justly, values humility and speaks kindly.
This is in sharp contrast to an entitled, self-serving existence made up of TikTok videos, cropped tops, sassy attitudes and Instagram posts which will never result in the ‘influencer’ power that has any real or lasting difference. (Besides, the world doesn’t need any more flighty prima donnas with an ego that reaches to the moon and back).
Virtuous traits such as consideration, creativity, wisdom, strength, integrity, perseverance, consideration and grace need to be taught and modelled to young girls at every stage of growing up. These lessons happen incidentally in the midst of all the little messy moments of everyday life.
Little Miss Reality
Every dream should be balanced with a dose of reality, and Disney is not going to teach this. As childhood plays out, children have front row seats to divorce, economic hardship, social injustice and the reality of death. Gently giving little girls a framework that takes these hard realities into account in a positive way is fundamental to a worldview that believes change is possible, but where it may cost to have a voice. And it will take hard work to shift a faulty identity paradigm that being a victim of your circumstances is the end of your story.
Little Miss Wise
Peer pressure and groupthink are the opposite to wisdom and independent thinking. Following the crowd teaches little girls not to think for themselves and that challenging a status quo that idealises media agendas and political propaganda is not noble. For seeds of wisdom to be sown, we have to teach little girls to think, to question (with respect), to use their minds to discern between right and wrong and to know when to say “No” and when to say “Yes.” This will cost them, but it will also save them.
Little Miss Creativity
Little girl dreams are shrouded in imagination and creative thinking. When this creativity is nurtured and encouraged, the way is paved for poets, writers, artists, teachers, critical thinkers and problem solvers who not only see the world differently, but inspire the rest of us to think differently. Creativity sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Let’s not waste it.
"There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns." - Edward De Bono
Little Miss Strong
The beauty of strength of character is oftentimes witnessed in moments of weakness, when self control, patience and restraint of speech play the hero. These are little girls who have grown into women whose past insecurities, present obstacles or future fears do not paralyse them. Rather, an inner courage triumphs over the past defining her, and a positive resolve, rooted in truth and hope, trumps negative self-destructive emotions and actions.
Little Miss Consideration
“It’s mine'' and “me first” do not have to be taught to little girls; it is their natural default. A postmodern, post truth world reinforces and rationalises this behaviour at every level. Each milestone and interaction - from 'It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to' to sibling relationships and friendship interactions - sees selfishness and self-interest reigning. Looking to the interests of others and putting others first is as unnatural in childhood as it is in adulthood. So teaching and modelling consideration - at every opportunity - is a small start to making society a better place.
Little Miss Perseverance
You don’t have to teach little girls that life is unfair and hard; they will discover that at every turn. But we can teach them to persevere in the face of adversity.
When life throws them lemons, making lemonade is certainly an option and selling lemonade is an entrepreneurial one.
Perseverance grows among the weeds and it flourishes in the face of failure. It does not crumble at the first obstacle and it does not choose to give up. We all have perseverance stories. Our little girls need to hear them, read them, watch them and be inspired by them.
Little Miss Integrity
The beautiful essence of integrity is the quality or state of being complete, whole or undivided - in speech and action. This is honesty and truthfulness - pure and simple. There are so few examples where this is played out in the world around us; situational ethics blur principle and a little white lie is simply that - little. Being disingenuous and ‘twisting the truth’ are acceptable norms. And without integrity, people cannot be trusted. For little girls to grow into women who love truth and honesty and who will embrace integrity requires parents, guardians and care-givers to hold this virtue high, because no-one else will.
Little Miss Grace
Indoctrination slogans such as “Fight like a girl” and “Anything a man can do a woman can do better” have completely distorted a view of feminine grace and dignity. In fact, little girl dreams of becoming fairies, princesses, mommies or mermaids are politically incorrect and oppressive. And in our gender fluid, feminist context, it seems that these dreams must be stomped on and silenced. What a tragedy!
Where would the world be without women whose words are seasoned with grace and kindness; seeking to build up rather than tear down? Where would society end up with women who only demand to be heard and never seek to listen? What would define our communities without women who focus on the needs of others above their own? (in my opinion, it would be a world made up of the reality that dystopian novels unapologetically peddle).
But little girl dreams are not just for little girls. I’m going with C.S.Lewis on this: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
Grownup dreams may no longer involve mermaids or unicorns, but for women to be the nurturing activists society needs (and do what men cannot do), they need to keep dreaming.
As mothers, grandmothers. aunts, guardians and caregivers seek to inculcate the above ‘Little Miss’ values and character traits into the next generation of little girls, they will leave a unique legacy where the world is a better, more beautiful place. Passing the baton of responsibility onto their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and charges will hopefully result in a generation of little girls who will grow up to follow in the footsteps of these women who have faithfully and selflessly gone before. (May they do so with a big dose of 'Little Miss Positivity' because at their core, that is what little girl dreams are made of) .
And just because we still believe in fairies, I will give Tinker Bell the last word on the matter: “Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. Dreams are forever.”
Imagination, creative story telling, delightful characters and real life lessons - just a few reasons to expose your little ones to the the world or Roald Dahl
A personal reflection of one little girl whose childhood dreams were cut short, but whose life change my world forever.
Pop in at the Kiddies' playroom where delightful stories for little girls await: Mulberry bee | The Township Fairy | The Unicorn's Wish | Princess Carmen's Song