At the end of this month, all of big daughter’s exams will be over and she will be looking forward to the next event on her calendar – her school Prom.
I have to say, I’ve been a bit cynical about this whole Prom thing. My school never had anything like a Prom (or even a disco, come to that), and as far as I’ve always been able to see, it’s something brought over from America in another attempt to turn a simple leavers’ disco into a commercial event. What do they need a Prom for anyway? Big daughter has listened patiently to my mutterings, reminded me on a regular basis that we need to buy a dress (politely declining my offer to make one!) and squabbled with friends at school over how they’re going arrive at the venue in suitable style (a limo is required, apparently).
I resisted dress-shopping for as long as I could until finally, in February, I thought we’d better go and take a look. And just in time, it turns out. Wow! The Prom dress business is big business, possibly even equal to the wedding dress business, and if you’re buying an off-the-peg dress and need it altering or making in a different size, you’ve got to get in early or there’s no choice or time to get it altered. Naturally, all of this confirmed my cynicism – and also changed my mind.
We were lucky – we found The Dress in the second shop we visited and watching big daughter trying it on and seeing her face change as she saw herself in the mirror brought home to me just what a milestone a Prom is for a teenage girl. I saw it again this week when we went back to the shop for a fitting; five other teenaged girls stood in their sparkling finery waiting patiently for the seamstress and although their dresses needed taking up here or taking in there, they clearly all felt like princesses.
And that, I realised, is the point. In this age where our children are encouraged to grow up too quickly, most girls want to play at being princesses for only a short time. Disney does its best to perpetuate the princess ideal, but by the time our girls are teenagers they are caught up with other distractions and princesses, like fairies and unicorns, are left far behind. From September, life will be different for big daughter. She’ll be off to sixth-form college, will make new friends and her next goals will be A levels and university. She will “put away childish things” as the Bible says, and there will be fewer moments to remember what it’s like to want to be a princess. It’s important that we all cherish those moments when we can, and for that reason, I take back all of my mutterings and wish that perhaps my school had had a Prom after all.