Inside Out

This Halloween was special. We could really convince DD to be Jhansi Lakshmi Bai for Halloween – the Indian warrior princess who fought against the British for our country’s freedom.  And she was excited about being the princess and shared the story with everyone. She was not just another Disney princess. And we were glad - even if she chose the light saber with her costume. She still knows that Lakshmi Bai fought the British even as she was nursing her infant child.

It’s not that we hate Disney’s portrayal of princesses – maybe at a subconscious level, we do. But, our concern is more with what our child takes away from it. The color coordinated attire, the perfect bun on the princess’s head, the shining tiara and the sparkling castle. She hasn’t yet realized who a ‘Prince in Shining Armor’ is – because she’s obsessing over the dresses the princesses wear. Maybe she’ll notice the guy in a few years. But now, she’s just about the glitter and the shiny things. It’d be a parental achievement if we could help her be self- sufficient, independent and courageous to take care of herself, and not wait for some ridiculous knight to save her.

So when Ady decided to have the talk with her, I agreed. There’s never a perfect time. We need to start it somewhere and sometime. And if she could understand that a princess, like Lakshmi Bai, who did not wear long flowing gowns, was respected for her courage and bravery, not just beauty, maybe she was ready for the discussion.
Parenting is all trial and error. So if this is too soon, we’ll know. And it’ll also help us in our strategy, in bringing up topics for her.

We shared stories about the Ugly Duckling, some Indian stories where a kind hearted king or a strong-willed queen made the biggest contributions to their kingdoms.

We shared stories of Gandhi and his rebellion against the clothes from the British.
Ady and I did a lot of research. We searched out movies and books that could help us. In all fairness, our intention was not to force her to stop talking about princesses and fairies and be thoroughly fascinated by them. Not at all; she’s a child, she deserves exposure to a fantasy land and it’s a part of her childhood here in the US. Our attempt was just to introduce her to real life heroes and help her look beyond the obvious.  And in the process, she was also learning about our culture and heritage.

She was fascinated by the stories of Gods and Goddesses, of Queens and Kings and normal denizens who did extraordinary things.
And then we thought it was time for the “What’s on the inside talk”.

I started, “You know honey, Rapunzel and Snow White look great on the outside. But do you know how they are on the inside?”
DD: “You mean, when they’re naked?”

Oh God!
Me: “No. In their heart. How kind they are, how friendly they are?”

DD: “ No”
DH: “Do you think everybody will love them if they’re rude and selfish?”

DD: “What is selfish?”
DH: “Selfish is when you think only about yourself and not of others”

DD: “You should care about others because that makes them happy that you love them and it makes you happy that your friends are happy”
Me: “Correct. And when you care about somebody, and when you are brave and friendly, you’re beautiful inside. Your clothes, your tiara don’t say that. A person needs to get to know you better, to know all that about you – that which is inside you in your heart.”

DD: “I think SnowWhite and Rapunzel are beautiful inside too”

Me: “I’m sure they are. But what we’re saying, is you should like a person more because of how they are on the inside”
DD: “Yes. They’re friendly and nice”
Me: “So that’s being beautiful on the inside”

DD: “Hey, wait a minute. I have something beautiful on the inside”
And she runs away to get something. DH and I exchange looks. What inside is outside?
She returns with her glittering pink shoes. “Look Mamma, Papa. Look inside”

And we follow her directions. “Look, there’s a picture of Snow White and Cinderella inside my sparkling shoes. I like these not just because they are beautiful outside, but because they’re beautiful inside too!”
Well, so much for that. At least she knows there is an ‘inside’ to beauty too.
And as she grows, so will our attempts.
Till then, stay wide-eyed and excited my darling. Stay innocent and happy.


  1. Ha, ha. Leave it to DD to bring in the comic relief. Hats off to you and Ady for the guidance you offer your little Third Culture girl.

  2. Aren't you a dear, Judith! We're just trying to stay afloat.:)