Zach’s friend is in most ways a typical boy. He plays with cars and Legos, climbs trees, and fights with his sister. He also happens to have long hair, and likes to wear dresses, headbands, and sometimes a purse.
In the beginning, it was kind of a big deal. His mom would email a group of us moms who were getting together, warning us that he would be wearing a dress. We naturally wore skirts and dresses in solidarity. I worried that other people in the restaurant might make some offensive comment, but no one did.
Initially, Zach had questions. He wondered why his friend was wearing dresses and why other boys didn’t. I told him his friend simply liked to wear them, and that was okay. He said if his friend came over for a play date wearing a dress, then Zach wanted to wear one too. I said that was fine, but so far it hasn’t come up.
Nowadays, Zach’s friend comes to school in a dress. Sometimes kids will ridicule him saying, “You’re a girl! You’re wearing a dress!” His parents are working with him on how to respond in a way where he stands up for himself without resorting to physical retaliation.
Zach and Kaylee are pretty gender-stereotypical, although they do have their moments. Zach is really in to Slave Leia from “The Return of the Jedi.” When he watches it, he tends to want to dress like her for a few days. He used to take off his shirt and wrap a sweatshirt around his chest so that his belly and shoulders were exposed. Kaylee received a hand-me-down hula costume, and Zach was ecstatic to wear the coconut cup bikini top.
My husband and I neither encourage not discourage Zach’s clothing choices. We just follow his lead. He’s never dressed this way out of the house or when other kids are over for a play date.
Kaylee loves to wear princess dresses and dance around, but she’s not afraid to get dirty, and she loves going to the hardware store. Whenever my husband tries to repair something at home, Kaylee grabs the tools and tries to fix it herself.
I’m glad that my kids are not too far on either end of the masculinity-femininity spectrum. They’re young children, and part of defining who they are is trying out different things.
I admire how Zach’s friend’s family supports and accepts their son. Their journey is not an easy one. It’s so much more acceptable for a girl to throw up her dress and show off her Batman underwear or to run around in a rash guard and swim trunks covered in sharks or rockets than for a boy to wear a dress. It’s so ridiculous. In what possible way could he be a threat to anyone? He’s happy, he’s being himself, and isn’t that what we want for all children?
How do you support your kids when they behave differently from their peers?