Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Disney Princess Obsession

Lately my 5-year-old son has been asking us to get him books about princesses, particularly the Disney princesses. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the idea of overexposing my kids to the Disney Princess Marketing Machine, for all of the usual learned helplessness/lack of agency criticisms you so often hear. Yet, now that he's old enough to choose his own library books I feel like I just need to let him explore his own interests, and this is where he is. (I've offered him my own favorite awesome princess book ever, "The Paper Bag Princess" but sadly, he's not all that excited about it. Darn.)

He spent 2 hours the other day reading all about Beauty and the Beast, and asking tons of questions. Last night, he showed me a picture in an encyclopedia of Disney princesses and told me that Prince Eric is the one he really wants to marry someday, and that he predicts his little sister will marry Prince Naveen. (Does he finally know what the word "marry" means? Yes, we think so.)

Yes, I occasionally wonder about DS's sexual orientation. Whatever his eventual preferences may be, it really does not change anything about the way I choose to parent. "You kids can grow up and marry either a man or a woman-- whomever you like" is a constant refrain at Casa Hush. We're all about "free to be you and me" here. Yes, boys can play with dolls and princesses! Yes, girls can play with trucks and baseball bats! That's the beauty of having one kid of each sex - they get easy access to the full array of toys out there. They get to share and trade the various gender-stereotyped toys their great aunt sent them for Xmas.

It makes me a little sad that DS refuses to bring any of his beloved princess books into preschool - as if he clearly knows he could be teased for being seen with them. He knows his superhero books are the so-called "right" socially-appropriate ones for him to be seen with at school, and he brings those all the time. It breaks my heart that he doesn't feel safe to share his princess-loving side at school, even though the teachers would be beyond totally accepting of him. How quickly kids pick up on the unspoken, but very rigid social gender norms out there.

The kids have been begging us to rent some Disney princess movies. I give up. "The Princess and the Frog" is on the books for this weekend. At least Tiana seems like a princess with some entrepreneurial moxie.


Got It, Ma! said...

Good for him that he loves what he loves; and good for you that you're cool with it. I know exactly what you mean about feeling bad that he has sussed out the whole gender norm craziness that we live in and that he chooses not to share his princess love with his preschool friends.

But at the same time, the fact that he revels in it at home is such a great thing and says so much about your parenting. I don't often fly my freak flag out in the open, either. Give yourself a pat on the back for 1. making him feel safe to be himself and 2. helping him develop the emotional intelligence to know when to protect himself.

Seems to me that the most important thing is that he feel safe at home. We all present a somewhat censored version of ourselves to the outside world.

BTW, Tangled is my vote for the Disney Princess film fest. We love that movie. Yours are probably too young for Mirror, Mirror. But that was fun, too.

And I read Tuesdays at the Castle with the kids last summer. TONS of fun. Maybe a little old for your kids, but file it away for later. You'll love it.

Don't worry. You're doing a great job. Build him up, and when he's ready he'll find the way that's right for him to share himself with the world.

NoTrustFund said...

I find it fascinating that he's already picked up on a home vs school persona.

My 3 year old is obsessed with the book Cinderella and she wants to read it every night. I can't decide how I feel about it. For now I just go with it and am thankful we currently have a non-Disney version.

Clearly at some point I'm going to need to get up to speed on all these Disney princesses!

Cloud said...

When Pumpkin was ~4, we were constantly correcting the "Boys don't like pink" or "Girls don't like Batman" sort of statements she'd make. She is finally catching on that it is theoretically possible for a boy to like Hello Kitty (for instance), but she has yet to meet a boy who does- or at least she hasn't met one who admits it at school. I think it is a little easier to be a girl who likes "boy things" than vice versa, and even that is pretty heavily policed by the peers. I can't fix that. But I don't want my girls to be part of the police.

hush said...

@Got It, Ma! - Thanks, I will give myself a pat on the back, even though the EQ was something he was pretty much born with I'm more than happy to take the credit. lol Will check out Tangled!

@NoTrustFund - It is totally fascinating how soon they pick up on the rules and taboos in our society without ever really being told.

@Cloud - I think you're spot on with not wanting your kids to be "part of the police." Amen to that. Yes, I'd agree it's perhaps a bit easier to be more of a proverbial "tomboy" than a "sissy" - we got a Xmas card this year that mentioned a preschool-aged girl who is the youngest in a family of 4 girls who really likes Spiderman, proudly showing her in a Spidey shirt, but honestly, I cannot imagine anyone I happen to know being brave enough to publicly document the fact that their little boy loves Ariel, The Little Mermaid or what have you, and putting a picture of him in a pink shirt on the family Xmas card. Sad.