In light of recent global travesties and tragedies, I decided the timing was ripe to share a story. Take it as a message of hope that there can be change in the world, and it starts right here in our own homes, in our own communities, with our own attitudes and openness to heal ourselves and shift the collective consciousness. The choice to be a source of expansive light begins with one tiny flicker that strikes hot and glimmers brightly. Feel free to share, if it helps.
When my two-year-old son got dressed for play group one morning nine years ago, instead of choosing his usual pants-over-bulky-diapers look, he headed straight to his sister’s drawer (they shared a room back then) and pulled out a pink skirt. It was the beginning of something unexpected; something the parenting books failed to mention; the pediatricians neglected to chart on the yearly records; the mothers in the playground didn’t discuss. In fact, this was uncharted territory, period.
He looked rather pleased with his choice too—not in a funny “I’m going to wear dresses” kind of way, but in a “this is perfectly normal and what I feel like wearing” kind of way. Then he was ready to go. He popped his pacifier into his mouth, grabbed his lunch bag, and waited for one of us to make the short drive to playgroup where he would join the other eight or nine kids—most of them girls.
My husband and I looked at each other and didn’t let him see that we were smothering our giggles. It would have been counterproductive to show him that we found his choice of clothing comical, or it may have confused him into thinking we were making fun of him. No. We made an instant decision that we better keep our reactions to ourselves—whatever they may be. Why make a big deal when, to my little guy, wearing a dress felt as normal as putting on his shoes before going outside.
The truth is, we figured, his style choice could hardly be a surprise. This son is sandwiched between two girls. If pecking order dictates anything, then his older sibling would exert the most influence on him, in spite of having two older brothers who never donned a dress in their young lives. And my vibrant, outspoken daughter certainly knew how to establish the hierarchy.
My husband and I decided to allow his new style preferences to play out and see what would happen. We would take cues from him and let him inform us. Ultimately, we were clueless but attempting to act smart.
The next day, out came a skirt again. And then again, many times over the course of several months. Not once did we stop him. We never told him that skirts are for girls and pants are for boys. If it didn’t matter to him, then why should we impose a societally dictated dress code on him? The kids in play group didn’t notice either, and, bless her, the teacher accepted him as is too.
Around June, as the playgroup year was winding down, the teacher came over to me at drop off apologizing profusely. I asked her what was wrong—imagining all sorts of horrible scenarios. Instead she pulled out the class picture to show the very conspicuous image of my son seated among the other kids, wearing a bright pink bohemian skirt and sucking on his pacifier like Maggie Simpson.
Do you know what she told me? She confessed that when she took the photo, she didn’t even notice what he was wearing! His dress code had become such a normal part of their environment that his clothing didn’t make a difference. He was just being himself.
I wonder if today we could be as forgiving as that wee microcosmic playgroup. I envision a world where somebody’s preferences and non-injurious belief systems are his or her own to choose and do not affect us, threaten us, frighten us, or disturb us one bit. Judgement of our peers is not ours to pass, yet proactive peace is no longer a duty we can escape from. It is incumbent on us all.
You may be wondering, what my son wears now, and I’ll tell you honestly. After giving him permission to freely express himself through his style choices, he does prefer pants. Most of the time. And we love him just the same.
*I received permission from my wonderful son to write this post about him with the request that his name not be used. If you know him or if your kids know him, please be sensitive and do not share this article with them for a few years. Thank you.