It was my daughter’s fifth birthday this week, and she spent the day of her party running around dressed as a Viking. Astrid is as susceptible as any five-year-old girl to Disney princesses, and has plenty of pink princess outfits, pink high-heels with butterflies on, and pink strings of beads. The pinkalanche started early: she identifies strongly as a girl and is drawn to girly things. Being let loose in my make-up case is her idea of a perfect afternoon.
But it’s always been important to me and to her father to make sure that she’s given alternatives to that girliness. Pink high heels and make-up are fun, but they seem too often to encourage meekness, coquetry, submission, even stagnation (one can’t, after all, run very far in high heels). Early Disney princesses, for example, hope that “Some day my prince will come”; thank Walt for Rapunzel, who spends her movie barefoot and swinging around by her hair like an action hero.
From her earliest days on this planet, Vikings have been important to Astrid. Her name means, after all, “strength of the Aesir” (that’s right: nothing to do with stars; her name is Germanic, not Latin). When I was 33 weeks pregnant and nearly went into premature labour, I was given steroids to ensure her lungs developed quickly. Since birth, Astrid has always been fearsomely strong, making me to wonder on many occasions whether the steroids were responsible, rather like Obelix falling into the magic potion as an infant. Her early interest in Vikings—possibly because Mummy is interested in Vikings and has books lying about—was encouraged strongly. Playing Vikings gives her a way of letting out aggression (as she runs about the house with a plastic sword and a stuffed toy as a “war dog”); it gives her a type of female body to grow into (she’s going to be six feet one day by all estimations); it gives her a reason to see strength as desirable, rather than something to hide under her eyelashes (and, boy, does she have a lot of eyelashes!). Vikings let Astrid be fierce, and I love her fierceness, her brilliance, her fire.
Go out and conquer something for your birthday, my lovely girl. Forget about being a princess: become a queen.