Shortly before my son turned four, he decided that he wanted to wear dresses. He had seen his sister wearing dresses for two years and asked to wear a dress like her. So I pulled out a larger sized dress from the garage and put it on him. He wore it for an hour or two and then asked to take it off.
A few months later, he and his sister went to a Frozen themed birthday party and were requesting to watch the movie whenever they got screen time. My son asked to wear a dress so he and his sister could be Anna and Elsa. The two of them ran around in their dresses singing “Let It Go” for a good chunk of the morning. When it was time to go to school, he asked to take the dress with him so he could be Elsa with his friends. When he came home, he told me that his teacher wouldn’t let him wear the dress. That was my first glimpse into the fact that society hasn’t come as far as I had hoped in challenging traditional gender stereotypes.
My second glimpse took place last night at my parents’ house. My mom was talking about which dress she was going to wear to a party and my son said he wants to wear a dress too. My mom quickly responded with, “You can’t wear a dress. Boys don’t wear dresses,” knowing that that’s not what we believe in our family and not what we’re teaching our children. Thems were fightin’ words and I had to protect my son.
One of my core values and goals as a parent is to think critically about what I teach my children, not simply do things the way they’ve always been done, especially with beliefs and practices that do more harm than good.
My mom and I eventually hugged it out and I saw this as the beginning of a much longer conversation, a topic that will be revisited. I know that these deeply ingrained gender norms, toxic masculinity and fears of the feminine will take a lot of time and effort to dismantle. But the work needs to start somewhere.
5 Reasons Why I “Let” My Son Wear a Dress