During the whole Frozen craze, my son, along with my younger daughter, caught the Frozen fever. Everyone in our family could recite every line, sing every song, and repeat every action from the movie. So it was not surprising to me when my son asked for his own Elsa costume.
I got on Amazon and when the dresses came, I watched his radiant joy in his eyes while reenacting his favorite scenes in the Elsa dress with his little sister.
Of course, a boy in a dress comes with all sorts of judgement from friends and family. My husband, himself, wasn’t crazy about the idea, hesitantly asking if I could get him into something else. “See if you can convince him to wear his Spider Man costume.”
But my son didn’t want to. He would cry and shout if we ever asked him to remove the dress.
During facetime sessions with my family back home, my relatives would tell him that “Boys don’t wear dresses.” Then he would run over to me, teary eyed and ask, “Why boys can’t wear dresses?” “Of course, they can! I don’t know why they said that,” I often reassured him. And when his friends came over for playdates, he would sometimes want to wear his dress. Some of the boys and girls would say, “But boys don’t do that. Only girls wear dresses. Are you a girl?”
Under the weight of all these comments, he began to hesitate before putting on the dress, but ultimately, his love for Elsa won over his fear for what others might think. And despite the comments we faced, I never stopped him from wearing his Elsa dress because I knew I would never stop my daughter from doing the same during a playdate.
At the same time, I understand that kids can be mean. And I would love to shield my kids from any teasing and suffering, of course. However, I also want them to stand up for themselves and not change who they are for others. And I felt this situation provided a great opportunity to show my son that he shouldn’t be afraid to be himself and that he will always, always have my support.
My eldest daughter, in contrast, loved wearing the Spider Man costume when she was younger. Yet, she never received anywhere near the same amount of judgement that I felt my son received from family and friends for wearing an Elsa dress. Not to say her choice went completely without judgement or ridicule—the girls in my daughter’s kindergarten class, too, did often tease her for her choice in costumes. And I always told her that if this was what she liked, she didn’t need to mind what others said. They were allowed to like what they liked as was she. I wanted to instill in her a sense of confidence and strength to stand up for herself and her choices, so long as it brings no harm to others.
And, naturally, I wanted my son to have this same confidence and strength. Many times, I did actually doubt my choices in allowing him to wear his dress. Others, in my close circle, would have me to believe that I failed as mother in this aspect by not creating certain boundaries for my son and daughter. Society doesn’t accept this and I wasn’t helping them fit in.
But ultimately, my doubts faded because I could see how happy my son was to be in the dress and belt out those songs we all know too well. I believe that children should be allowed to be children. And they should be allowed to use their imaginations and get involved in role-playing. And for about a year, my son’s favorite character was Elsa. So no matter how many times I doubted my choices, I ultimately was grateful that I never stopped him from his creative play and discovering his own interests.
In natural toddler fashion, he converted his love for Elsa to a love for Darth Vader one sudden day. But it wasn’t because of me. His new interest came from himself. And this is what kids do. One day they love something, the next something else. Everyone had placed so much judgement on such a simple thing… kids play and interests. Of course, his love for Darth Vader has been much better received by the family and friends, but my question is why? If you really want to direct a child’s interest to one thing over another, wouldn’t it be for the values? Elsa’s values are far kinder and more noble than Darth Vader’s. Yet, his love for Darth Vader is much better received. I know kids are just kids and these new interests come and go, and so I didn’t actually really read much more into his new found obsession but it is curious to see what is acceptable and what isn’t by societal standards. In a world where we so much progress made every day, why is this so taboo? For now, society is kinder in judging our children’s choices, but we really should stop defining what is acceptable simply based on a child’s gender.