In the last couple weeks, as I've spent my free time (haha!) browsing my facebook and twitter feeds, I've come across the same conversation several times. And it's a conversation I'm sure you've heard before.
Does the media force gender stereotypes on children?
Yep, I'm opening that box.
Really, I'm opening it because it's something we confront in our house, and you probably do in yours, or will at some point in the future. People can get very riled up about this. The reality is, children have their own interests, and they'll share them with you. You don't have to push them one way or the other. They'll let you know what they like. It's our job as parents to expose them to new ideas and adventures, but they show their own preferences at a very young age.
I have a 4 year old. She, like many other girls her age, has a princess obsession. Yes, that includes the Disney variety. And yes, I'm okay with that. She loves dress up and sparkles, and tiaras. But anybody who knows my daughter in real life, will also testify to the fact that she is fiercely independent, and strong-willed. No shrinking violet or wimpy princess here.
So for my slightly unconventional princess, here are some slightly unconventional princess stories:
The Monster Princess
written by D.J. MacHale, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Talk about unconventional! Here's a monster who longs to be a castle-dwelling princess, until she learns that true princesses come in all forms.
The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas
written by Tony Wilson, illustrated by Sue deGennaro
After seeing his brother paired off with an over-demanding princess, thanks to their mother's crafty test, Prince Henrik decides that what he needs is a princess who is the exact opposite of what a "true princess" should be. He devises a test of his own, one that will determine his choice for an unconventional princess.
And on the complete opposite end from princesses...she also regularly "steals" a book I bought her brother for Valentine's Day:
How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies?
written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague
Because it's about cookies! And it has scratch-and-sniff. And it has DINOSAURS! And it belongs to her brother, so naturally it's her favorite.
Oh, her brother. Yes, let's talk about him. My 16 month old boy's favorite book right now?
written and illustrated by Karen Katz
What's not to love? It has bright colors, sparkly fabric, and smiling faces throughout. He will go over to the book basket, dig this one out, and bring it to me to read. And then he will get off my lap, meander off to the toy box, select a car, and proceed to drive it off the table approximately 1,578 times, shouting, "CRASH!" each time.
They're still young. I know that there will be other outside influences that will act upon them as they grow. I know we have to shield them from some things, and make decisions as parents that will help them grow into secure adults. In the meantime, we're letting them be who they are: a girl who loves princesses and dinosaurs, and a boy who loves tutus and racecars.