“Brave” — the quest for a backpack, a lunch box and a strong Disney princess

imagebot (1)Okay, I’ll admit it. I spent all week chasing a princess. For my daughter. Oh God, it sounds so much worse than it is! Let me tell you the story. My daughter starts kindergarten next month and we’ve been buying school supplies. The school sent me a long, specific list of required items and I’ve been chasing them down ever since.

One of the items is a backpack, so she can carry her creations back and forth to school. She didn’t carry a backpack in preschool. It’s a good add. I’m hoping that between the backpack and the “no toys” rule, come September, my minivan will be a much cleaner place. So we were at the mall and for once, I had money to spend so I didn’t have to say, “We can go into the Disney store, but we can’t buy anything.” Not that my big goal in life is to buy stuff at the Disney store. It is most certainly not, but having money made me generous and I thought “What the hell?”

The first things I saw in that Disney store were backpacks and matching lunch boxes. And they were on sale. Always practical, I steered my daughter over to the display. “I want Merida!” she said, pointing to the “Brave” backpacks. But there was a problem.

“Grandma wants to buy you your backpack and lunch box, so do you want me to tell her you want this one?”

“Nooo, why can’t we get it?” she whined.

“Well, Sweetie, it means a lot to Grandma that she buys your backpack for school. I can tell her you want this one and she’ll buy it.”

“Nooo, why can’t we get it now?” she stomped her foot.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie, I wish I could buy it for you, but you don’t want to hurt Grandma’s feelings, do you?”

“No,” she said, glum. Then she perked up, “Can I get something else?”

Right then, I should have bought the backpack, Grandma be damned, but I didn’t. Instead, giddy with more than $5 in checking, I said, “Okay, Sweetie, one thing.”

She headed straight for the dress-up shoes and proceeded to show me three pairs. “No.” I said. “You always want to wear them outside the house.” Those freakin’ shoes are a death trap. They’re plastic with little heels and most of them are slides, so she’s got even more chance of falling down the stairs or spraining her ankle. In fact, once I’m done writing this, I’m gonna raid her dress-up chest and throw them all out.

As we toured the store, she presented several more items for my review, and we finally settled on a Rapunzel doll. We bought that and an “Iron Man” lunch box for my three-year-old, and we were out of there.

That night, I emailed Grandma to tell her about the “Brave” backpack. But when we talked to her the next day, she told us she’d been very busy and did not have time to shop for the kids. I looked up the backpacks online. Disney.com was sold out. Other stores had different “Brave” designs, but few of them had matching lunch boxes and Disney’s really was the nicest one. I took the kids back to the mall the next day (A week’s record for me. I hate the mall.) and all the “Brave” backpacks and lunch boxes were gone. My daughter pouted.

“Why did we have to ask Grandma? Now they don’t have it anymore!”

I was almost as disappointed as she was. “I know, Sweetie. If I had known, I’d have bought them yesterday.” We talked to the store manager and she offered to order online, but the warehouse was sold out. They were getting a shipment Tuesday, she said. She’d take my name and number and set the backpack and lunch box aside if they got them in. I figured it was back-to-school, and Disney knew its business, so they’d likely get more. I agreed.

Tuesday came, and the backpacks did not come with it. I told my daughter we’d done everything we could, she’d have to choose another design. I pulled up the other “Brave” designs on the computer, and she said, “Rapunzel!” Well, shit, they had Rapunzel at the store. Wish I’d known that. She’d have the backpack already. Knowing the turnover at the store, I bit the bullet and ordered the Rapunzel backpack, lunch box, and, having visions of a cleaner car, an “Iron Man” backpack for my son. I paid $8 for shipping, dammit.

Why did I go through all that trouble to get the Brave backpack? It was not because my daughter is spoiled and I’d like to keep her that way. (She is. I just don’t want to keep her that way.) It was because she chose “Brave’s” Merida, Disney’s strongest heroine yet. (And I’ll add here that Merida’s Pixar, a subsidiary of Disney.) I love Merida. She took the initiative to change her fate, and when her plan backfired, she fought to make everything right again. And she didn’t need a man. In fact, she rejected three. They WERE dorks, and Disney’s got to work on that, but she was clearly NOT looking for a prince. Now THAT’s a strong heroine.

I want my daughter to identify with strong heroines. She loooves Disney princesses – Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty – all the helpless bitches who wait for Prince Charming to make everything all right. Once when she was three, we were playing and making up a story and she said, “Where’s the guy?”

I said, “What guy?”

She said, “The guy who comes in to save everything!”

And that’s when I knew I’d failed. As a mother and a woman. My daughter was hooked on those helpless Disney bitches. There wasn’t much I could do at the time. I didn’t yet know about Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog” – plus the voodoo guy would have given her nightmares for months. Disney hadn’t released “Tangled,” where Rapunzel saves her hapless guy’s ass several times – a true heroine. And I failed to find appealing strong heroines outside of Disney. I had nothing.

“Tangled” was the first movie my daughter saw in the theater. She was just four years old, and she wasn’t heavy enough to keep the seat from folding up on her. As the lights went down, she whispered, “Can we go now?” I had just spent $35 on tickets and popcorn and there was no way. She sat on my lap the whole time, and she loooved the movie. I loved the movie too. Finally, a strong Disney heroine!

So I encouraged my daughter’s love of Rapunzel, and when we saw “Brave,” I encouraged her love of Merida. To a point. My daughter always asks for the quiver of arrows toy when we visit the Disney store, and, as visions of her brother with only one eye march through my head, I always say no. But everything else is fair game. Except the shoes. I hate the damn shoes. So when she wanted the backpack, I was all for it. I want my daughter to think of Merida every day. I want her to emulate her. I want her to have the backpack. But that was not to be. Still, her second choice was Rapunzel, another strong heroine — smarter, slier and scrappier than her man – and I can live with that. Maybe, just maybe, I am doing something right.