My kids are both home sick today, so my usual Monday morning routine has gone out the window. Instead of hitting Starbucks, Target, the health food store, the dry cleaner and the grocery store immediately after school drop-off, I'm still hanging out in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and The Today Show. (Aaahh. I'm not saying I'm glad my kids are sick or anything, but...) We may not have groceries or clean clothes, but I'll have put in my two cents on this topic.
As I stood in my kitchen, trying to avoid the giant bowl of Halloween candy sitting on my counter, I saw an adorable photo onscreen - the cutest little Daphne (from Scooby Doo) I've ever seen. I'm a sucker for cute kid pics, even when they're not my kids, so I turned up the volume and ignored the candy. Turns out the cute kid was a boy nicknamed Boo, who wanted to dress as Daphne for Halloween. His mom, Sarah, figured, "What's the harm?" and ordered the costume. She was shocked by the reactions of some people, however, who told her she was "making" her son gay. So Sarah decided to blog about her decision to allow her son to follow his heart and wear what made him happy. According to The Today Show, her post has received over 3 million hits and 10,000 responses. Some are supportive, some negative, but all this media attention landed Sarah on The Today Show to share her story.
Along with Sarah, there was another mom, Cheryl, whose 5-year-old son Dyson likes princess dresses and crowns when he plays dress up. Cheryl's written a book about her son, and she discussed how difficult it was for her to arrive at the place she is now: a place of acceptance and support for Dyson's fashion choices during play and pretend time. At first, she said, she went out and bought him "boy" dress up clothes, and told him, "Boys can't be princesses." To which this little guy said, "Then I'm a princess boy!" I'm with Dyson. Who wouldn't want to be a princess? All the beautiful clothes you want, no chores, people bowing and scraping and doing whatever you tell them? Sounds like a great job to me. Where do I sign up?
Both moms were surprised and dismayed by the reactions of some other parents. So am I. What is the big deal? Sarah said it well when she pointed out, "Halloween lets you be who you are not." I mean, I'm not worried that my neighbor's son Zack, who dressed up as Freddy, is going to become a dream-invading serial killer and chop me up in my sleep. A DEA agent friend of mine always dresses as a prisoner - get it? He's a cop dressed as a convicted felon. It's NOT REAL. My own 8-year-old? She's not REALLY a Gothic vampire. I'm pretty sure she's not going to suddenly develop a craving for human blood.
Besides, these kids don't have gender identity issues. They KNOW they're boys. They just think it's fun to pretend to be something they aren't. It's kind of like when I put on a really, really good bra and pretend that my boobs look JUST AS GOOD as they did before I had kids. I know they don't, I know they never will, but I enjoy the pretending immensely.
And what about girls wearing traditional "boy" costumes? My friend's first grade daughter wore an astronaut costume this year and was Spiderman last year. A neighbor's 6-year-old girl wore a Bob the Builder costume. My youngest, at age 3, was Curious George for Halloween - and many, many cold winter days after that. Yet I've never once heard any objection to girls wearing more "boyish" costumes for Halloween or dress up time. Is it somehow more "OK" for girls to dress as boys? And what does this say about our society's message to our kids?
As far as I'm concerned, kids can dress up and play pretend all they want. I see no harm in letting a little boy try on a pink feathered boa and Cinderella shoes, or giving a little girl a Spiderman costume. It's playtime! It's time to be anything you want to be! I mean, hey, Barbie can be a dolphin trainer, a vet, AND an Olympic swimmer, right? My friend Maria has two boys the same ages as my girls, and the four kids were inseparable during their preschool years. Her boys LOVED visiting our playroom, which was full of all kinds of "girly" stuff they didn't have: every princess dress and crown, lots of baby dolls and Polly Pockets, and Barbie's Dream House. I have the cutest picture of her youngest, at age 3, in a crown and tutu. In turn, my girls were in heaven in their playroom: a Thomas train table, tons of race cars, and ninja costumes. (An aside: my girls were given plenty of "boy" toys like cars, balls, etc. And Maria's boys were offered dolls and stuffed animals. But when you have all girls or all boys, your playroom will tend to look a little unbalanced. You get over it.)
Slacker Mom Says... relax. Let kids play act and dress up and try on different roles. Boys playing with dolls? They'll get some practice on how to be a good daddy one day. Girls wearing Storm Trooper costumes? They'll pretend to be strong warriors, which may help them stand up for themselves when it really counts. I mean, c'mon, I'm not a slutty nurse or a Wild West saloon girl, either, but I've got some pictures from the late 90s that would say otherwise. And as Cheryl said, "As parents, our job is to love and support our children." I think that about sums it up.