A Question of Time

I'm sure that parents wonder when they will have to break the news to their children.  When will cruel obligation force them to tell their sons and daughters that their dearest beliefs are false?  The Easter Bunny does not assemble baskets of frothy pastels and sugar every Spring.  The Tooth Fairy does not slip a diaphanous arm beneath a child's pillow to exchange a silver coin for a bloody tooth.  Santa Claus does not visit deserving homes, leaving behind a sprinkling of gifts and snowflakes.

But do parents realize that it is also their happy responsibility to let their children know that some of their fond imaginings are true?

For example:  many times I've seen tiny girls dressed in pink gossamer dresses, sequins glinting under the artificial lights of supermarkets and department stores or under the more benign light of an afternoon in the park.  Following their parents, they are the princesses next in line, petticoats and skirts dragging beyond their ankles.  They wear plastic gold circlets on their heads and filmy veils tangle in their hair.  They exist in worlds of royalty and fancy: hoping to return to their pale castles before dinnertime and homework.  Every night they try to sleep on mattresses disrupted by a single pea.


But what if a particularly enterprising parent brought a history book to their whimsical girls and opened it to these sad, regal children?


Wouldn't it be a masterstroke to show their daughters that the princesses hitherto only seen in coloring books, or read about in fairy tales – or whose slippers they stepped into on Halloween – were real? 

It might not be what they imagined:  these princesses wore stiff, painfully embroidered gowns:  they couldn't run or play.  Their crowns were twisted from carats of gold - their heads ached terribly.  Their slippers were dirty from the filth of their cold, white-washed castles.  But they lived:  after the crayons were put away, when the storytellers were silent,  when the holidays were over.

And couldn't one look into the eyes of these princesses and read a wish:  that they could escape the onset of an early adulthood for just one hour of youthful freedom – that they could change places with that child who holds their story in her hands?

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12 responses to “A Question of Time

  1. So true. The thought of a corset fills me with claustrophobia. Those poor nedieval children – what use was their wealth, if it all the silks it bought were merely covers for whalebone cages?

  2. [this is excellent]

  3. I'm pleased for little kids that go ordinary places in costume these days. Today's parents seem much freer about individual expression than my middle-class upbringing. A kid could never be taken out to the grocery store in a fairy princess outfit — it would just have been too "weird".

  4. way back before we knew we did not want to have children we thought honesty would be the best policy, letting the children in on the pretend play, because it is fun to pretend the tooth fairy was real. I would have loved showing a daughter the real princesses, telling of the tragic tales, the rich uncomfortable lives. Truth sometimes is much better than fiction

  5. My head's about to explode from never having thought of it this way before…

  6. This is excellent Aubrey! I suspect I will tell my daughter when she is older.Lucy

  7. I, too, had not thought of the subject from this direction. How wonderful. I remember so clearly my little son, three years old. He had made a black cape and a mask in preschool and was Batman. He wore that mask and paper cape through the grocery store and was so proud he was practically prancing. He just knew that everyone in the store was looking at him in awe. He was a Superhero. And my heart broke for the beautiful pure innocence of his fantasy. His complete enjoyment unsullied by unbelief. And by the fact that all too soon the world would take that away from him.

  8. ….however, he is 25 now, and still a very happy guy. So, all's well.

  9. We hide our princesses better these days. I can assure you there are at least two still around, complaining of peas bestowing blessings on kittens.

  10. So true! I almost feel like I'm reading my own story. I never had much fantasy when I was a kid because my parents were really strict. I also had a very early adulthood – everything I did was planned out way before I understood my role in my own life, for other people. It would be really nice to hold a story book in my hands like a kid, but the stories weren't everything. Sadly many of us grew up beaten down and embittered. It would be really nice to have those imaginings once again, and believe that some of them could be true.

  11. Interesting post. I love reading about the history of royalty (eg, Allison Weir's books about British royalty) and you are so right. Those royal children (and women) were not to be envied at all. That story the Prince and the Pauper would be a good one to read I think (would have to refresh my own memory on it first though – a long time since I read it).

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