Raising the Princess of Wales

Mommas, be ready to have your babies grow up to be Princess of Wales.  How many British women of a certain age were consciously grooming their young daughters for eventual royalty?  Not many, I’d venture, though the pipe dreams of many may have included a brush with royalty.

Speaking of brushes with royalty, I had my own graze with Princess Diana in 1981, a month before her wedding.  Not only was I present when Diana stepped on my sister’s toe, but I also petted Diana’s childhood pony.  So I am qualified to speak on matters of royalty.

And what I’d like to say is that if I were parenting a young child in anticipation of their eventual royal status, here’s what I’d do:

  • Name her Catherine instead of Kate, so she wouldn’t have to get used to the new name at age 28
  • Be sure she didn’t bite her fingernails or pick at her cuticles as her fingers will be peripherally featured in photos for posterity
  • Take her out in all sorts of public places, having arranged beforehand to have people gawk, comment, critique and touch her
  • Raise her with a tight band around her head at all times so she would not balk at tight frou-frou hats in later life
  • Advise her that catwalk appearances are forever

These are the frivolous ones… but on a more serious note, as Miss Catherine (Kate) Middleton takes the world stage this week, whatever was trained and built into her in her early years is soon (and forever) to be revealed.

I wrote about this last week (Spam, Pop-Tarts and Mayo Sandwiches: An American Test of Mettle), and it’s still true a week later: whoever we are inside, beyond the pretty packaging, is shown when our mettle is tested.  What we are made of can’t be faked.  Our character will be revealed.  Our essence pours out in times of stress, regardless of the brand of anti-perspirant we use.

When the cameras train themselves on her, Kate/Catherine Middleton will be exposed.  Her parents’ influence will exert itself.  I’m expecting good things; no reason not to;  I have high hopes that Diana’s demise will lead to a change of some sort (or at least clearer expectations) for life in the fishbowl.  Yet my hopes are tinged with the reality of human nature and with the wish that the press would expect a normal human and not a paragon of perfection.

But as a mother, I face this story with the realization that we have no idea what we are preparing our children for when we are raising them.  A commoner may need to know how to mix with royalty.  A privileged kid may someday need the perseverance to handle a reversal of fortune.  We prepare our daughters and sons for fairy tale weddings but we don’t talk enough about the downhill part of “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”  Are we preparing them for the engagement, for their big day, or for a life of sacrificially hanging in there through thick and thin (royal or not).

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5: 3-4:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Challenges and suffering aren’t anathema to a beautiful life, though on one hand I’d love to avoid either for all the people I love.  On the other hand, I know that perseverance, character and hope are beautiful gifts.

I trust that Kate Middleton will be just fine and that her parents did a good job raising her to thrive in the world.

But perhaps they feel a bit as I did when my children left home to launch into the big world beyond my reach, and are saying, “But I wasn’t finished.  There was so much left to say.  I hope I did well enough.”

There’s grace beyond our limitations, and for that I am thankful.

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~ by Cary on November 17, 2010.

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