I recently began writing a coming of age short story, one in which I encompass experiences from my childhood, and it got me thinking. Actually, that isn’t strictly true. The point that I am going to bring up today has bothered me for most of the year, writing about childhood merely brought the issue to the forefront of my mind, where it remains, nagging until I voice my concerns.
I cannot begin to count the amount of Frozen birthday parties that my daughter has attended this year. It would be easier to say that all the birthday parties that my daughter has attended this year have been Frozen parties. And that disturbs me. If me daughter were to have a party, I’d go out of my way to make sure it wasn’t Frozen themed, nor would it be themed around the latest must see movie (Star Wars, I’m looking at you.)
I realise that children’s movies/toys are big business and that in this day and age, where advertising and merchandising is king (though this also saddens me, that is a topic for another day,) that escape is futile. To deny our children exposure to the trends that are sweeping the playground could be seen as cruel. I try not to shield my children from anything, but also attempt to keep a healthy balance. For instance, I try to show them that there is more to life than Disney.
I worry that our children are all going to grow up having identikit, Copy n’ Paste childhoods because, as parents, we latch onto whatever the marketing people tell us too. Yes, many of us lead busy lives, but I will wager that there is a degree of laziness on our part to if we refuse to entertain any other idea than the one plastered all over our TV screens/ Lunchboxes/Toilet Rolls. Pirates, Fairies, Spacemen, etc. are all great play themes ripe for exploration that kids find fun…and get this, Disney didn’t invent any of them! Hell, you can even save yourself a buck or too by NOT buying into the Official Merchandise too! Pressure to buy all of that can be ignored. A Pirate themed party NOT based on Peter Pan will be no less fun. Trust me.
OK, perhaps you may feel this is a blog where I just rant at Disney. That’s not the case, at least, that’s not what I intend this blog entry to be about. I’m saying that yes, Frozen is a film about Princesses that little kids love and Star Wars is a movie about space that little kids love, but there is so much more out there in the world that we can share with our children. Don’t just go for whatever flashes up most often on Television, don’t just do what every other parent is doing. The parties that I took my daughter to were full of little girls all wearing the same Frozen type dress, it was like an army of clones and frankly it saddened me. I’m sure Disney execs would be smiling with glee at the sight, but as a writer and firm believer that we should keep our imaginations alive and kicking well into adulthood, it left me feeling despondent.
Childhood comes and goes so quickly these days. We are in such a hurry for our children to grow up that we owe it to them to pack as much magic, variety and excitement into those short years, as possible. Don’t just reach for the first shiny thing on the shelf.