There is absolutely no getting away from Disney princesses. They are a marketing phenomenon and for the past four years in my house they have been a big fixture.
As soon as you walk through my front door it may seem obvious whether my children are boys or girls.
I have two daughters, aged four and five, who love to watch classic Disney movies featuring famous princess-type characters like Cinderella and Snow White. They also enjoy the modern films like the mega hit Frozen and its two main characters, Anna and Elsa.
But it doesn’t stop when the credits roll at the end, and I don’t mean because they want to watch the film all over again.
They also love to dress up as their favourite Disney princesses and after a day at work I’m often greeted by my two daughters dressed as their screen idols.
When they are feeling creative they might grab their crayons to colour in the pictures in their Disney colouring book. Before bed, they might take one of their Disney story books from the shelf to read until their eyes get too heavy and they drift off to the land of nod. I’m used to all of this because I’m the father of two girls. But what happens if you have a son and he wants to do all those things too?
Last week I was in the children’s section of a book shop looking for something to add to my daughters’ collections to give them something new to read because they have exhausted their current collection.
A mother and her son were standing next to me and I overheard her asking which book he’d like. He responded by asking if he could have the pink book with the princess on it. His mother immediately replied: ‘No, I don’t think daddy would be very happy about that.’
I started thinking that although we, as grown ups, tend to see things as gender specific, children do not. All they know is whether they like or don’t like doing certain activities.
In the modern world gender specific roles are becoming less of a factor in family life so shouldn’t this also be the case with our children?
Surely it’s good for my daughters to see me doing the washing up while their mother drills a hole in the wall to put up a picture?
In the same way, does it matter if a girl wants to play with toy cars and a young boy wants to play with a doll? My simple answer to that is: no, it doesn’t matter in the slightest.
As our children get older, if they are passionate about something, they will probably follow that passion whichever way they are directed by their parents.
In the book shop that young boy was given his first lesson in gender conformity when all he did was what was asked of him, to choose a book.