I was a tomboy as a kid. I liked my Hot Wheels and Legos, and cringed when I had to play Barbies with my sister. As an adult, I was afraid I would grow up, get married, have a baby girl and have no idea how to play with her. I did get married, but I didn't just have a little girl; I had two. YIKES. Initially I was determined they would not have anything princess related, because all that teaches them is that women can't be happy on their own, and they need a knight in shining armor to rescue them. What a load of crap. Not to mention it just contributes to the Barbie ideal of beauty. I was convinced that a lot of the reason girls have that type of personality is a reflection of the kinds of toys/games/media kids are exposed to so I decided shielding her from that for as long as possible would keep her from being sucked into that mindset.
The first couple of years with S went fine. She got a lot of hand-me-downs with princesses on them, and a dress-up gown, but it didn't really seem to be something that caught her attention. (Another lesson that in nature vs. nurture, nature is often in the lead.) She has very well-rounded interests - Legos, books, babies, trains, singing, Hot Wheels, playing on her swing set, painting, dancing, playing with her mower and her wagon. She loves Hello Kitty and playing with her purse and jewelry, but also Curious George, Sid the Science Kid and Shrek. She has sports paraphernalia for soccer, baseball and golf. Then she started daycare with a sweet little girl who is very girly. You know, the kind who always shows up in adorable outfits with her hair in braids and bows. I'm lucky if I can get S there with clothes on at all, much less matching ones since I let her choose what she wants to wear. And I had to cut her hair into a bob because she won't let me brush it. Her little friend is all about princess stuff. She had a princess-themed bday party in the spring. I thought my fears of S being corrupted were being confirmed when I asked her what kind of party she wanted to have this summer, and she said "Princesses!" My heart sank. But when I asked her who she wanted to have on her cake, she said, "Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover...." Whew!
Of course I want her to be friends with kids who have other interests, and her friend is such a sweet girl. She is very blessed to have met her. And after having read other blogs about this type of thing, I've decided that if DD goes through an obsession with princesses, it will be ok. Because I will do what a lot of the other posters have suggested - focus on the positive aspects of their characters and let her know that a real princess doesn't need to be rescued by a knight - she can be successful on her own. Fiona in Shrek is a good example. Though she is initially rescued, her fairy-tale idea of being kissed by her savior when he arrives is shattered by the reality of Shrek shaking her awake and telling her to get up. Then when she's abducted by Robin Hood and his thieves, she does some Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon/Matrix/Charlie's Angels moves to save herself. And of course the big moral of the story is not to judge a book by its cover. I love how at the end her true self is an ogre which shows that you don't have to have a certain look to be a princess.
I have learned a lot through this experience. Faced some previously unknown prejudices and grown as a person. It still amazes me how much trying to teach my own kids teaches me!