I was on Space Mountain when my wife took our middle daughter, Norah, to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique near Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. No one would ride on Space Mountain with me so I went alone, and once I made it back across the park to find out that Norah was getting a makeover at Disneyland, something that in my mind sounded astronomically expensive, I felt as though I’d been bamboozled. It all seemed like some bait-and-switch sort of thing that was part of a larger plan laid out to distract me while my wife pampered our daughter.
At the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, little girls get to pick what princess they’d like to be for the day (my daughter picked Aurora), and then they get made-up, head to toe, to look like that princess. Fancy hairdo, glitter, tiara, the works. It also includes a photo shoot, a Disney princess meet and greet, and the parents being called king and queen (that really is more of a side benefit). I’m not going to justify the cost of all this, and please don’t ask how much we paid. I say “we” because it was a combination gift from my in-laws and me and my wife.
There are a few reasons that I was opposed to Norah getting a Princess makeover outside of the cost alone. The first thing I ever published in The Huffington Post was titled “My Daughter Is Not a Princess.” This was about three years ago, when Norah was 4, and just starting to become infatuated with princesses. It was about how “I want her to grow up to be a well-rounded woman, who values people for their qualities, not their possessions. […] I want her to love someone, not because they own a castle or a nice horse, but because they are a good person with values and virtues. Someone who will not treat her like a princess, but treat her like a partner.”
I have mixed feelings about Norah’s love for princesses, and I wondered what impact giving her a full-on princess makeover would have on her as a person, but what I didn’t anticipate was how much it would impact me as a father.
I sat next to my wife, Mel, on a bench in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique gazing at my 7-year-old little girl. She was in a barber’s chair, one woman doing her nails and another working on her hair, both dressed like secondary characters in a princess movie.
Norah was in a pink gown, a smile across her face, her small pink and white sneakers bouncing up and down, and I could see that whatever she was feeling was from her smile down to her toes. And once they placed a crown on her head, they turned her around, her back to Mel and me, to face blue curtains with little plastic birds attached. They asked Norah if she was ready, and she couldn’t seem to formulate the word “yes,” so she just nodded, excitedly. The birds chirped and the curtains parted, revealing a gold-framed mirror.
Norah’s life basically peaked in that moment. I’ve never seen her glow so brightly.
And then something happened. The second she saw herself, I melted, from my head to my toes. I felt warmth in my heart. I felt a sense of wonder that, as a man, I have a difficult time defining or describing, but if I were going to try to give it a name, it would be a mix of pride and love. My eyes grew moist, not tears exactly, but something close. At the time, I didn’t know what all this meant. It felt like I was in a new landscape of emotions, one that, as a man, I’d avoided until this point.
I don’t really know what all of it meant, but what I do know is that my daughter felt incredibly special. And I think what I was feeling was confirmation. It’s difficult for a girl to feel special. There’s so much wrapped up in it in our society, from looks, to personality, to popularity and everything in between.
As a father, I know, without a doubt that Norah is one of a kind. I know that she is caring and tender. I know that she is strong-willed and intelligent. I know that she has the capability to do so many wonderful things in this world, and I want to give her every opportunity I can to accomplish her dreams. But honestly, I don’t know if she understands how special she is. Perhaps this is a father’s love talking, but sometimes it feels like there’s a gap between what I see in Norah and what she can see in herself.
But something crazy happened in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. The way I felt about her could be seen in every inch of her smile. It felt like, just for a moment, that gap was filled. I’m not going to say that getting my daughter a princess makeover 100% changed the way she viewed herself. And I’m not going to say that I can now take my hands off the wheel when it comes to helping my daughter develop into a strong-willed and confident woman. I’m not even saying that we’d ever visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique again.
But what I will say is that in that moment, my heart leapt, and I know that Norah’s did too. Norah saw something in herself that I don’t believe she’d ever seen, and that I’d known about since the moment I first cradled her in my arms. And for that reason alone, I don’t regret paying for my daughter’s (very expensive) princess makeover.