I went to a party for four year olds with my eldest daughter last week. There was a clown, which was great, but he was definitely not your average slapstick, red-nosed clown. He had an electronic keyboard driven by a laptop, which was all plugged into a microphone and a large and loud bank of speakers.
As I watched the four year olds dance to the Top 40 hits pumping out of his elaborate set-up, half of whom looked as if they weren’t sure whether to join in or run away, I noticed something missing. Where were all the party dresses?
Ruby has a couple of classic, little-girl party dresses that she loves to get out of the wardrobe and dress up in whenever there’s a party to go to. But there were only one or two girls, other than Ruby, wearing what I would call a party dress on this occasion. All the other girls were wearing leggings and yes, dresses, but dresses without swirly skirts and sashes and bows and all the other beautiful things that make life as a four year old going to a party feel so special. Most of the dresses were cotton, T-shirt style shift dresses – trendy yes, but fun – well not so much.
The abundance of dresses for four year olds which were clearly copied from the latest pre-teen trends, combined with the dance music and the decidedly techno-savvy clown made me a bit sad. If you don’t have the opportunity to wear a beautiful party dress when you’re four, then when do you ever have the chance?
An idea for my third book has been bubbling around in my brain for a while; I haven’t had the chance to write anything about it yet because I’d like to finish the second book before I start the third. But the idea is to do with the fast pace at which our little girls are almost forced to grow up these days, and the loss of a beautiful piece of their childhood in the face of fashion, media and technology. Clothes, music and even birthday parties all seem to be sending the message to our girls that being four is not cool, that we should put away childish things as soon as we can, that being older and sexier and same-ier is the thing. As I said in my blog last week, I think media and technology all have a place but so does letting a four year old be four years old. Which means there should be time for party dresses and nursery rhymes and old-fashioned clowns every now and again. Doesn’t it?