if your son wanted to be a princess?
That is the question that faced Cheryl Kilodavis about a year ago when her son Dyson came home from school wearing a red sequin dress and pink heels. She initially thought that the school just didn’t have any boy dress up options and proceeded to buy the school several different super hero and ninja costumes so that her son wouldn’t be forced to dress in drag. Well you can imagine her surprise when she realized that Dyson wasn’t being forced to wear a dress day after day, he insisted. A dress was just way more his style.
From the time he was 2 years old, Cheryl says that her 2nd son clearly identified with things that were more feminine. He chose to play tea party and house instead of taking interest in his trucks and sports. He liked colors associated more with girls than boys and would accessorize every outfit to death. He didn’t want to be called a girl, because he wasn’t a girl. He wanted to be a princess boy.
This story got me thinking, because while the world is a much more accepting place for men and women to live a different lifestyle and bend the gender norms of style as adults, children still very much seem to have to fit within the confines of gender normative society. I for one can remember on many occassions being scolded for wearing a dress and told very intently that boys “don’t do that”. I never realized I was doing something wrong until an issue was made of it. This redirection of what my preferences should be are some of my earliest memories and the ones that no doubt made me surpress much of who I am for many years. I can only imagine how different my life would have been had I been taught to be proud of my personal style, creativity and “flare”. I can imagine that my parents were nervous about what would happen to me at school and were concerned about bullying. This seems like a valid concern, but the more I watch my 6 nieces and nephews the more I realize that kids don’t typically place negative judgment on things until they are told to do so. They certainly recognize differences in each other, but to them there is nothing more to it than that. Different is all good.
So the question is this. In a world where being unique and having a creative and confident sense of personal style is not only accepted but becoming more and more celebrated, how soon is too soon to encourage your children to just be themselves? If you are dealing with this situation with one of your children, I would love to hear your take. I can only imagine the myriad of feelings a parent might have about it. For those who find themselves “redirecting” their children toward more “acceptable” behavior like Cheryl first did, I challenge you to consider whether you are truly protecting your child or yourself?
For more on Cheryl’s story and her picture book about acceptance visit her site HERE. See the video below for their interview on Joy Behar.
Editors Note: I come from a very loving and supportive family that I think honestly had no idea that they had a gay son until much later in my life. My mother in particular was extremely supportive of my “creativity” and quirkiness in general and is a major reason behind my ability to be the proud and happy person I am today. The world was a very different place when I was seven and I think my parents were as accepting as was possible at that time – considering I kept coming home from the neighbors house in prairie dresses and rouge. lol.