A Children's Story

Entry by: Alobear

5th August 2015
A Children’s Story

I took a deep breath. “Once upon a time, there was a princess…”

“That’s boring!” The perfect bow mouth pushed forwards into a pout. Small arms were crossed over a thin chest.

“How do you know it’s boring if I haven’t told you what kind of princess she was yet?” I wasn’t about to have my story dictated to by a six-year-old.

Defiance flashed in pale blue eyes. “Because princesses wear stupid pink dresses and live in stupid castles and have to be rescued by stupid princes – and it’s boring!”

It didn’t sound all that boring to me; I thought I’d actually quite like to be rescued by a prince, stupid or otherwise, but I didn’t say so.

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong,” I said instead, wracking my brain for a way to make my story more appealing. I supposed I should be glad my charge wanted more than the age-old fairytale cliché, but it did make babysitting her more challenging. “My princess has an army of flying robots and she defends her father’s kingdom by leading them into battle against its enemies.”

The pout retreated, but the crossed arms remained firmly locked, and defiance was replaced by scepticism.

“Princesses don’t lead armies.” The tone was almost hopeful, as if she wanted to believe they could.

Here was my chance to push that independent streak I’d noticed even further.

“Why shouldn’t they?” I asked. “Don’t you think girls should be able to do whatever boys do?”

The wide eyes were troubled. This was a complicated notion for a six-year-old, but she thought about it for a long moment.

“Boys are stupid,” she declared eventually. “But they’re better at fighting than girls.”

“Are they, though?” I wanted to see how far I could go with this. “They might sometimes be better at hitting people, because they’re generally bigger and stronger than girls, but leading armies is a whole different thing. You have to be clever and brave and inspire loyalty to lead an army. Wouldn’t a girl be able to do that?”

“What’s loy-al-ty?” She stumbled over the word a bit.

“It means that people will do what you ask of them because they love you and want you to love them back.” I wasn’t sure that was the best definition of loyalty, but I figured it would serve my purposes here. “I think a princess could do that – especially if she’s going to be queen one day. She’d need the loyalty of her people to rule the kingdom. And leading the army and beating all the enemies would make the people love her, wouldn’t it?”

She thought about that for a bit. “I guess so.”

Bedtime was turning into quite the intellectual exercise in gender equality and state leadership. I wondered what her parents would think of whatever new attitudes came out of it.

“So, you agree that a princess with an army of flying robots is not only a good subject for a story, but also not in the least bit boring?”

Her expression cleared, and she grinned up at me. “Yes!”

I loved the fact that the flying robots didn’t come under any scrutiny for believability, though it was a sad indication of the state of societal mores that the princess leading them had.

“Well then, why don’t I tell you all about how she stopped the evil Viscount of Westdoodleland from taking over the kingdom by getting the robots to dig under his castle walls and steal all his cookies?” I had no idea where that storyline had come from, but it sounded like it would be a rollicking tale.

The frown was back. “Why would not having any cookies stop him from attacking the kingdom?” she asked.

I had an answer ready for that one. “Wouldn’t it stop you, if your magic war machines only ran on cookie power?”

That would teach her to call my stories boring.