November 2010: Your kids


 Problem: Encouraging imagination while honoring a young girl’s taste

Stella Goldstein, 4, heads over to her vintage rack of dress-up clothes and pushes past the fairy wings and sparkly pink princess dresses before happily plucking her red cape off the hanger. “This is for super hero games that Max and me play,” she explains. Max, her 7-year-old brother, has run off to his room to put on his own cape.

Stella lives with her brother, mom and dad (Kim and Dave Goldstein) in a brightly painted two-story home in the Grady Avenue neighborhood of Charlottesville. The house is filled with artwork (Kim is an artist) and beautiful objects, from vintage clocks to pieces of old wooden molds. 

Not long ago, Stella told her mom that she wanted her room “to be different” than the rest of the house. She mentioned hearts, princesses, Barbie and, of course, pink—an aesthetic that Kim was apprehensive about. 

It’s a common concern among many mothers raising daughters in an age when Disney Princesses are all the rage. The overabundant pink palette, the dresses, even the plotlines can be anathema to parents who are trying to protect their daughters’ imaginations and self-image. Many parents find themselves in the tricky spot of honoring their girls’ tastes and preferences while encouraging individuality and free thinking. 

As Stella’s mom puts it, “I want to be supportive of typical girl fantasies while making it clear that females are strong and self-sufficient, not waiting around to be rescued…I want to encourage endless imagination in my children in every way possible.” 

To that end, mother and daughter reached a compromise. Stella’s walls are neutral but there is a hot pink Barbie tent in one corner and a pastel pink house-shaped bookshelf by the bed. The walls are also home to an ever-changing assortment of artwork and found objects. A sculptural collage of Kim’s featuring a toy lamb hangs where her daughter can touch and appreciate the textures and colors. Homemade stuffed jellyfish and tidy nooks full of treasures demonstrate care and attention as well as the expressive imagination of both mother and child. The decor feels at once precious and accessible, unique and timeless. 

By creating pockets of space, Kim has allowed Stella to explore the different aspects of her expanding personality. Stella points to the pink bookshelf and declares that it is her favorite item—“a thing to hold my books and buddies!” 

A small window looks out from Stella’s bed onto the tiny community garden across the street, like the view from a castle. But this princess wears a cape and is ready to explore the world, Prince Charming or no.—Christy Baker

Line of work

Create a special place for your child’s flurry of artwork and beloved photos by stringing up a simple clothesline, $2.99 from Meadowbrook Hardware (clothespins, $1.49, also from Meadowbrook). By using clips you can change the display to accommodate an ever-changing aesthetic. Or splurge on this reclaimed, painted-wood frame with built-in clips and wire from Sustain, $120—how unique!—C.B.