I feel sorry for Boo’s teacher today. Male, childless and unused to teaching the younger end of the school he looked bewildered today to be confronted with a Disneyland parade’s worth of princesses for World Book Day. The corridor to the infant classrooms were awash with sparkle and glitter as girl after girl skipped through the door in impractical satin dresses.
I’m as guilty as the other parents for going for the easy option. With princess parties abound at the moment there’s barely a little girl in the area who doesn’t have a Disney creation in her dressing-up box. When the request comes through to send them in costume the ones already hanging in the wardrobe are the obvious options. Other years I’ve tried to be more creative. At nursery I spent an eternity making a little white apron to accompany a blue dress she had so she could be Alice (and then a friend suggested that I could have picked up an apron from Ann Summers – d’oh). For her first year at school she went as Lola from Charlie and Lola. But, actually, she just looked like herself. And last year she chose to go as a Rainbow Magic fairy. So, in my defence, it’s the first time we’ve gone for the laziest, easiest choice.
But it did make me wince at the dearth of influence on little girls. 100 years on from the suffrage movement our little girls still want to be princesses, wafting around in gowns, focusing on being pretty and waiting to be saved. Thanks, Disney!
In Disney’s defence, their most recent princesses have had more spirit. Rapunzel tamed a bad boy to help her discover the world (although us that really a better message to send out?) and Frozen was ultimately about the power of sisterhood rather than romance. And Mulan should be credited with being the first to show some spirit by sticking it to the Hun army.
And maybe I’m making too much out of it. Shouldn’t I be pleased that the girls are still allowed to be girls? That they can have an innocent view of the world and be allowed to appreciate pretty things without worrying about any agenda that might accompany it? Flowing gowns have got to be preferable to miniskirts and heels, haven’t they? And looking further into the school the princess thing doesn’t last long. The juniors were more awash with Wallys, Oompa-Loompas and Hermiones. Boo’s already decided that next year she wants to go as Dorothy (although I’m sure it’s not so much down to Dorothy’s ability to overcome the powers of evil as much as the ruby slippers).
It’s also not as though Boo’s literary preferences are stuck in the world of pink and girlie. For a while she was obsessed with the ghastly Rainbow Magic series. All credit to ‘Daisy Meadows’ for coming up with essentially the same story – fairies defeat evil Jack Frost with help from two human girls – a couple of hundred times over. And each one at £5 a pop! For about a year my heart sank every bedtime, every time we stepped into the children’s section of a bookshop. But Julia Donaldson now has Boo’s heart. Funny, creative, with real thought having gone into the words, we both love them. To be fair, I would have struggled to come up with a Stick Man costume.
So instead of fretting about the influence of fairytale princesses on my little girl’s sense of self, I shall breathe a sigh of relief that despite the pressures to grow up as fast as possible she and her girlfriends are still willing to immerse themselves in a world of pretend without self-consciousness.
I think I’d also better start planning Noodles’ first World Book Day costume as if things continue as they are now I’ll need to come up with a partying hippo costume from Sandra Boynton’s wonderful Hippos Go Beserk, a book he’s adored since he first set eyes on it. I bet I’ll be wishing for the chance to use a ready-made princess costume then!