Wednesday, September 28, 2011

in defense of boys who wear tutus

One of the things that I've learned in parenthood is that any time you make a decision regarding your children, someone is there to tell you one of two things:

1) You're doing it right!

Or ...

2) You're doing it wrong!

Sometimes, it's fun to give advice. And sometimes it's fun to receive advice. But it isn't much fun when you feel certain that you already know what you're doing.

I was recently stopped at a light and the car next to me had an infant carrier in the backseat, with an infant strapped in, and the carrying handle was up with dangling toys hanging down for the baby to see. Chances are, I wouldn't have said anything to the person in the car next to me if the carrier was devoid of markings, but there were very clear arrows illustrating that the handle needed to be moved to the down position when the carrier was installed. Clearly these people had no idea.

So what did I do?

I took it upon myself that this child's safety and ultimate survival depended upon me so I rolled down my window, got the driver's attention, and in my most unpatronizing tone possible, told them that they need to perhaps revisit the instruction manual on their child's car seat because it really looked like the handle should be moved down to ensure optimum safety of their baby. Then the light turned green and I smiled, waved and sped away before I felt like too much of a Meddling Mildred.

After having gone through a couple car seat safety seminars, one of the things that I learned (years and years ago) is that many/most infant carriers are equipped with carrying handles that should be moved in to the DOWN position, flush against the headrest, when the carrier is placed in to the car. The reason being: if there is an accident, the baby will fly up and HIT the carrying bar. So yes, many years have passed since I've had a car seat "professionally" installed, and undoubtedly safety advancements have been made in the field of carseat design and engineering, but it's still in my head that a car accident + handle up in a carrier that is designed to be in the DOWN position = fractured skull of baby in carrier.

(Here's a great link that covers the topic in more detail.)

Not long ago, I was walking with a friend who was lamenting that their child had to have four teeth extracted because they were so badly decayed. Instead of saying, "Newsflash! If you want to give your child a fruit serving, consider an apple instead of a Fruit Roll-Up everyday!" I just nodded and agreed that yes, perhaps it was genetics and they just had VERY soft teeth.

If I said something about the way I care for MY children's teeth, it would have undoubtedly put her on the defensive and why do that? Because really, what good would come from me telling this person, who has suggested that I'm overly hypersensitive to oral care considering I took my kids to a pediatric dentist when they were less than two and to this day, take them to the dentist every four months and I still floss and brush their teeth with a headlamp every single night and use a two-minute timer and have them rinse with fluoride ... that perhaps if she were a bit more hypersensitive to their child's oral care and brushed their child's teeth until such an age that their child was proficiently able to tie their own shoes, she wouldn't be forking over the equivalent of a mortgage payment in dental care for their eight-year-old.

My opinion might not go over too swell.

So, instead ... I Say Nothing.

(I picked that one up from my mother who notoriously "SAYS NOTHING. Except...".)

Because I know that the vast majority of parents are trying to do the best job that they can for their children, the opinions of others ~ particularly if they are in stark contrast to their own ~ can cause delirium. With that in mind, I'd like to offer the following information in response to a few comments (and e-mails) asking why I'd take my BOYS out in PUBLIC dressed like FAIRIES.

First. Consider: Our children have been exposed to several cancer fundraising events over the span of their lifetime and this is the third consecutive year that they have participated, in some capacity, with the 3Day walk. Because breast cancer is predominantly a disease that impacts women, the color of support is PINK in any and all shades. So for those not in the know, the 3Day is one huge pink party. All the participants, men - women - traffic control police officers - people lining the route - are typically wearing PINK. And it's not uncommon to see men wearing tutus and pink wigs as their show of support and good humor.

What is the less of two socially unacceptable evils?

Four and six-year-old boys in tutus, or pre-teen boys in bras?

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Or, what about a police officer in a pink thong with crotchless leather chaps?

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Dressing up for the 3Day event was most definitely our boys choice, because at least for William, he remembered years past and wanted to get in to "the spirit" of the occasion. This isn't a get-up he wears everyday, nor would he want to.

It gets cold in Virginia!

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Second. I'd never ask (or force) any of my children to do something that they didn't want to do. But when I took the children shopping last week, William asked for me to buy him a pair of wings when I bought the girls' because he wanted to match his sisters and I actually had to stop by the store (again) on the way to the walk on Sunday in order to buy ANOTHER pair of wings for Henry because he felt left out and the crying, crying, crying.

Maybe that was wrong?

I've had "static" about this issue for a loooooong time now so maybe I should have taken the advice of more conventional parents and discouraged my boys by saying, "You can't wear that! This is real life and not some FREAK SHOW. It's fundamentally wrong for a boy to dress like a girl and I don't want to contribute to your gender confusion!" Moreover, why should I spend MY HARD EARNED MONEY on items that are totally inappropriate for a BOY and will do nothing more than cause embarrassment and the potential for harassment and humiliation?

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I spend my hard earned money on things like this because: 1) all four of my children love dressing up and 2) in my opinion, any time kids start to worry at such a young age about being "too girly" or "too boyish" or what others might think of them, it's largely a result of outside influences. Thankfully, at this point in their young lives, our boys have a tremendous amount of self confidence and aren't influenced by what others think of them.

Isn't that how trend setters are created?

The boys enjoy dressing up, because it feeds in to some "imaginative" scenario that they have created. This past weekend, they were interested in dressing up specifically because of the event. But once they were there, with their pink fairy wings, they were running around in circles and pretending that they were winged pterantadons. So for anyone who may have expressed an ELEVATED concern that we are tampering with our boys' masculinity (gasp!) please allow me to reassure you that my boys play with pirates and dragons and other boyish-type things a lot more than they play with dolls and dress up in pink tutus.

But if they wanted to play with dolls and dress up in pink tutus, I'd support them in that decision. AND if my boys decided tomorrow that they were never going to play with dolls again and Henry suddenly realized that his pink "Super Suit" is actually his sister's ballet leotard and the antithesis of something Superman would ever wear ... I would support his decision to stash it away forever.

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They're not running around with knives or re-enacting violent scenes.

They are zooming around the yard pretending they can fly.

In pink ballet slippers and leotards.

As Charlie said to me, "If William and Henry grow up to be men who wear women's undergarments, then I'll worry." Then he hesitated and added, "Then again, if they grow up to be positively contributing members of society - what does it really matter WHAT THEY WEAR so long as they are comfortable in their own skin?"

I couldn't have said it better myself.

64 comments:

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  4. Courtney in Crete9/29/11, 5:20 AM

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  39. Michelle (Just another mom)9/30/11, 11:07 AM

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  64. Yes. Clothes are clothes. They do not have a gender.

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