Nicolette Writes

Professional Freelance Writer and Stay-at-Home Mom

My son’s dress…


The past year my husband and I have been challenged with my little boy of three years old wearing dresses. I say ‘challenged’, because even though many might say it is nothing and just a phase, we have had to face the disapproval of loved ones. Despite this disapproval, it is understandably also hard for my husband (a real farm boy!) to come to terms with, as he really wants to love and accept Alex as he is (and encourage what makes that little heart happy), but we live in a society entrenched in gender divisions of male-blue-strong and female-pink-weak.

I have turned to my Lighthouse and I have been trying to find an answer – I have been yes/no, yes/no on this matter too much. God has showed me Jesus – who was Jesus? What does the Bible show us about Jesus? Well, everything that the Word teaches me about the kind of person Jesus is just confirmed to me that there is nothing wrong with Alex wearing a dress…

Try to imagine Jesus on earth, and a little boy running up to him with the biggest biggest smile and showing him with great pride his beautiful (sister’s!) dress that he is wearing. The little boy’s eyes are so bright. His smile is so big. He wants Jesus to look at his dress and give him a smile so full of love before he will run off again and play. I can only imagine Jesus rubbing this little boy’s head and laughing with him. I cannot imagine the Jesus I have come to know in the New Testament breaking this little boy’s heart. And that is what happens when we take away Alex’s dress… his little world falls apart. I have never seen my little boy so sad, so inconsolable, as when his dress gets taken away. He doesn’t understand. And quite frankly, it doesn’t really make sense that little girls are allowed to play with whatever they like and wear whatever they want, but little boys are not.

We have decided to ‘let Alex be’ – the less fuss we make of it, the smaller the chance that he will one day feel he will have to wear dresses (or do anything he thinks we might disapprove of) in secret. And if he turns out to be a dress-wearing adult (which I doubt), he will know that his mom and dad love him unconditionally and that he can share anything with us.

dress

Lots of love,

Nicolette

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31 thoughts on “My son’s dress…

  1. I would like to get some male opinion…
    Also, someone suggested that we actually buy Alex a dress of his own – in his own size… not a baby dress of his sister’s… what do you think? I couldn’t get myself to do that yet…

  2. Wow, tricky one Nicolette and not so much from the point of view of you and adult friends [although i imagine that’s a minefield] but for me it’s the idea of school and other little kids and bullying and it not being okay for anyone else… does that mean it’s something you should stop now? i don’t know – maybe it is just a phase he will grow out of. But what happens when he is around other little kids and other parents. That is, i imagine, when the decisions you make now will be questioned and proven right or wrong.

    i am interested in how he chose it the first time – just something lying around that he thought would be fun? and i speak as someone who thinks it is quite unfortunate that guys ‘can’t wear nail polish or typically can’t or something cos i think i’d love the vibe of throwing on some deep purple or black or whatever but then that ‘makes you a certain kind of person’ which doesn’t bother me so much cos you know me and boundaries – but i do get the norms and what seems acceptable and what isn’t and how much push back will be given to different things and so it’s a very interesting journey to walk – wishing you all the best as you do.

    love brett fish

    • Dear Brett, thank you so much for your comment!
      Indeed – my biggest worry with all of this is possible ridicule and heart-ache in the future… absolutely. I don’t know exactly how to answer that yet, but for now it feels like God is saying to me to just let Alex be – but absolutely that is the main concern.
      How this started – a few months after Rebecca’s birth…
      He is at home with us most of the time, he only goes to play school in the morning, and one day we were playing in Rebecca’s room and he wanted to put on one of her dresses. Since then, it has just escalated…
      It has been very challenging – we have received strong criticism from some family members (to the extent of not having contact with them anymore).

      Got to run – have to pick him up from school soon!
      Chat again soon

      • Oh wow, can just imagine. Well the answer is clearly love him which i know you and Solly do your best to do and hopefully within that framework the specific answers will emerge – not an issue most folks have to deal with i imagine and if that is what it takes to lose family members/friends then rather know that now than when you really need them for something – this will help you figure out who your allies and those who really love you well are.

        love brett fish

      • Anonymous on said:

        Do you wonder perhaps, this is just a thought, that maybe when your son reaches his teenage years, (the years when we form real identity in this ever complex world), and sees pictures of himself as a young boy in girls dresses, and his mother writing forums that it is okay for her son to wear dresses, because it was his free innocent choice (even if he was too young to identify between boys/girls and clothing choices and his sister’s dress happened to draw his attention), that this might give him a false impression of who he thinks he is?
        Is it not our duty as parents, to direct our children, eating healthy, sharing toys, being respectful to others? If a child is eating too many sweeties, should his parents not tell him off and perhaps take it away from him, and direct him in a loving way what he is allowed to eat, so that he grows up into a healthy young man, or encourage him even further to go pick his favourite sweets and eat it just whenever he likes? If a child is showing disrespect/hitting another child, should the parent not show him what is right by not allowing him to hit again, so that he learns how to respect others?
        I’m just curious, where you as a parent draw the line, because he decided he wants to put on the dress that day, that it was allowed to escalate. But if he decide to have as many sweets as he likes, or hitting another child, will you just ‘let him be’, because you want him to have free choice, as a little child?
        I guess letting him wear dresses can be seen as just a phase, but if I knew I wore dresses as a young boy, I sure would have an identity crisis when I got older, even if I was just a normal boy who did what I loved. Just a thought…

        • Dear Anonymous

          To answer you, I think I just want to be able to one day tell my son, when he is big and look back on these photos and posts, that mommy made a decision that she truly believed in her heart was the best decision for him at the time. He is THREE years old and loves Sleeping Beauty and says he is she (Sleeping Beauty). Why is it okay if a girl likes dressing up as a pirate or male character, but if a boy thinks dresses are pretty, it is frowned upon?? There are so many male designers… I have to ask myself: what if he is interested in fabrics/colors/designs? Why can’t he be?
          In any case, if he turns out to have questions about what we allowed, I can just say to him in all honesty that I loved him and that he was my first child and that I was a new mommy and truly tried my best to make the decision I thought was right. And you know what, sometimes I am just too damn tired to argue with him about his dress. I watch the kids by myself the whole day and have close to NO help. I really hope that you are a mom yourself writing this post, who had to look after two under four year olds by herself – no nanny, no grannies, daddy at work all day. Disciplining and setting boundaries is much more complex than you could ever imagine. I have spoken to child psychologists, have done a lot of reading and spoken to friends and mentors – I do what I can to handle this situation – I do not take it lightly at all. I might not be making the right decision, but what I am deciding I am doing out of the deepest love a mother can have for her child. Actually, I’m a little upset right now, and should probably write a better and more thought-through reply later 🙂 Love xx

        • Dear Anonymous

          Two more things:
          No, I don’t think pictures of him as a THREE-YR-OLD will make him question his identity one day when he is older. Not at all.
          Secondly, you cannot equate matters of discipline (eating sweets, being naughty) with DRESSING – a matter of expression, not discipline.

          Kind regards 🙂

  3. Michelle on said:

    Wow it’s often so hard to be a parent, all I can share is from my own experience. Our eldest daughter Rebekah grew up with boys who wore just shorts and no shirts so that was her chosen attire, that and socks on her feet, she wore them everywhere, her favorite saying was socks on. Sheout grew it the more girls she hung out with and is a beautiful 14 year old who wears tops….all I can say is we never made a big deal about it, and allowed her to set the pace. I know it’s somewhat more socially acceptable, but to others it wasn’t. I also know her choice is not deemed equal to the one you find yourself in, by society.
    But what I do know is this, God knows and He will guide you. He blessed you with just the right son, hand picked by God for your family, allow Him to lead you in how to raise him. I know he is going to be such an amazing blessing in your families life ❤

    • Anonymous on said:

      Thank you Michelle for your comment! I also believe little Alex was hand-picked for us! I think he is going to outgrow this? But thank you for the encouragement while we are in a space where we need it xxx

  4. Anonymous on said:

    Nicolette, I think the responses above are so wise, God shaped him in your womb just perfect for you. If I can add my opinion to the above, you asked what anyone thought about buying him his own dress. I wouldn’t do that because I think he has to know that there are differences between boys and girls and be guided gently towards what the norms are. I absolutely agree that he should be able to play with Rebekah’s dresses and toys and she must be able to play with his things too. You and Solly are very wise and will ultimately do the right thing in love.

  5. Karina on said:

    Wow Nicolette Рso interresant en so mooi geskryf vanuit jou hart. Julle is amazing ouers en klein Alex en Rebecca is so gelukkig om julle daar te h̻ om hul deur die lewe te navigeer. xx

  6. My niece found it very funny when we told her of my brother’s similar dress experiences as a three year old. You and Brett both do touch on the strange inconsistency of treatment between girls and boys. This extends beyond choice of clothes. In creating a more equal society, we have focussed on breaking down barriers for girls but there are lots of no go areas for boys.

    Sounds like your approach of letting him know that he doesn’t have to ‘hide’ anything is a good one. Like Rebekah the barriers/boundaries may come from other playmates. The disapproving family members may be scared of bullying. Bullying normally comes no matter what you do.

    I am not a parent. Just someone who thinks about this stuff and has friends with kids. I reckon there are only two rules:

    1. Try keep the kid alive and healthy.
    2. Make sure they know they are loved.

    Sounds like you are on track.

    • Trevor, I typed a long reply to you and then lost it due to poor Internet connection!
      Wanted to say that unfortunately the opposing family members aren’t concerned about bullying – rather they were disgusted by the idea of a boy wearing a dress 😦
      So glad my little boy couldn’t understand everything they said – he was standing rifht there, so happy to see them and proud to show them his his dress!

      • Good that he can have an experience with Mom next to him where he can see how she responds to other people’s ‘disgust’. No space for that sort of judgement in 2015. Beyond dresses, there are enough different views on enough different things that we are all going to disgust someone at some stage. Their loss. Does suck when it is family though. Would be nice if a manly Captain America could wave a dainty fairy wand in their general direction and sort them out.

  7. Thank you so much everyone for your comments. I wish I could take longer to reply now, but my little man is calling ‘Kom maaaaaammmaaaaaa!’ from the other room. xxx I will reply once I have a little more time:-)

  8. Katharine on said:

    Hi Nicollette, I came across your blog post on my facebook feed. I have not experienced this with my boys but as I read I just wondered about introducing him to exciting boys dress ups? Superheroes, animals, kings, knights, cowboys. Could be worth a try to shift his focus a little. Hang in there and trusting God will give you the wisdom in this situation.

    • Katherine, I think you are right – Alex might need some male superheroes. He mostly watches movies like Cinderella, loves Tinkerbell, Annie and adores Mary Poppins and Wizard of Oz. Any ideas???

      • Sounds like Alex likes musical movies, how about Rio, the Prince of Egypt, Jungle Book, Aristocats, some oldies like Singing in the Rain, Bugsy or Oliver Twist? (You might need to check if all of these are age appropriate.) The only kids superhero movie my boys enjoy is the Incredibles but he might be a bit young.
        The reason I suggested the dress up was because this worked for a friend in a similar situation. Her son is very artistic and was drawn to the beautiful patterns and textures in girls clothing. His mom gave him dress up in silks (king’s cloak) and fur (animal) and even Lycra (superhero).

  9. Hi, Nicolette! I’m almost a year into our son-wearing-dresses journey and I had hesitations about it at first too. The potential ridicule was the hardest part to get myself over, but people have been surprisingly supportive. And since embracing and supporting the feminine side of our son it’s like we’re getting to really know him. It’s been a great year!

    Now for misc info I wish I had been given when we started our journey 😉

    I think the two biggest “wow” points are that children our sons’ ages seem so young, but most people have a sense of their gender identity between the ages of 2 and 4. The other “wow” point is that kids like ours have THE highest rate of suicide in the world and that THE single thing that knocks that rate down to the national average is parental support. That’s huge – parental support means the difference between life and death for gender non-conforming children. I know that sounds so ominous but supporting gender non-conforming children really is that important. (Charts and graphs here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2s9xsqsJPYcNVJEYWp6OXpJYW8/edit)

    Have you looked at GenderSpectrum.org? That site helped me understand what was going on and get on board with it. A year ago I googled “My son wears dresses” and thankfully found Gender Spectrum. I think I read every word on that site!
    Here’s their family section: https://www.genderspectrum.org/explore-topics/parenting-and-family/#more-340

    Also you might like to check out Debi Jackson – She often talks about her Christian perspective in raising her transgender daughter. Here’s her video that went viral – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/15/debi-jackson-transgender-child_n_5588149.html

    I’ve met Debi IRL and definitely recommend getting in touch with her or even just following her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Debi-Jackson/793470530713240

    *Side note – gender non-conforming falls under the huge trans umbrella, so if you see a resource for trans kids it will almost always include gender non-conforming children as well. It doesn’t mean that your son will become your daughter, it just means that our sons share a lot of issues with the trans community and that all gender-bending things fall under the trans umbrella. All trans is gender non-conforming but not all gender non-conforming is trans 🙂

    Check out RaisingMyRainbow.com, she’s raising a gender non-conforming child who is just a few years older than our sons. Her son sounds eerily similar to my son. I bought her book and underlined like half of it and had my mom read it!
    http://raisingmyrainbow.com/2012/06/30/12-things-every-gender-nonconforming-child-wants-you-to-know/

    Support for our children is of course vital, but we need support too! There are Facebook groups and e-mail groups and location-based groups for supporting parents of gender non-conforming children. If you’re interested I’d be happy to help you find a group. I *think* you’re in South Africa? There’s PFLAG there, you could look into them. (Again with the disclaimer – boys wearing dresses doesn’t mean they’ll grow up to be gay or transgender, but boys wearing dresses falls under that huge trans umbrella so when you look for support you’ll find it at LGBT organizations. I was nervous to go to our first LGBT event but I was surprised! I’ve never met a more accepting group of people! I was so comfortable there and I loved seeing my son accepted and understood by a group of people) http://pflagsouthafrica.org/

    I wrote about coming to terms with my gender non-conforming son last year here: http://sometimesboy.tumblr.com/post/84462343386/my-sometimes-boy

    I should update with where we’re at a year later. Initially the hardest part was getting on board and gaining confidence to go out in public and get stares. NOW the hardest thing is taking it day by day and not knowing what path he’s on. Will he grow up to be transgender? Will he be gender fluid? Will he outgrow it? It’d be nice to have a solid label and a solid path, so the uncertainty and patience has been difficult at times.

    Also, I highly recommend giving Gender Born, Gender Made a read. It’s about raising happy and healthy gender non-conforming children. – http://genderborngendermade.com/

    Have I overwhelmed you yet? Ha ha… Feel free to e-mail me too if you’d like. Since I’m not a national organization or a public figure I’m easier to get a hold of than some of the things I’ve listed :p langaroo5 at gmail dot com

    Oh! I remember the first dress we bought for our son. (Referencing a previous comment). It was hard to get to that point for us too. The first dress he wore in public was a hand-me-down from his sister. But when I bought him his very own dress he lit up! He was so excited! Since then we have let him pick out his own clothes, from either side of the store. As I type this he’s wearing a sun dress he picked out in Hawaii and he looks like himself. It took us a while to get to that point though. We had things to work through and to get over on our end, we just tried to never let him see that we were struggling with it. Now, a year later, he has blossomed and is such a happy kid! So comfortable in his skin and sure of himself. He was so bleak a year ago. I’m not saying your son is bleak, of course, just sharing our experience.

    • Anonymous on said:

      Molly you have given me so much to think through – thank you! My Internet connection is currently a big problem… I am going to work through all the links next week as soon as my Internet is sorted!! Thank you so much for your kind message xxx

  10. Dear friends, I would love to reply to all comments, but I currently have an Internet problem. I’ll get back to you soon!!

  11. Anonymous on said:

    Hi Nicolette

    All the best with your journey. I think the commenters above have given tons of good advice.

    What is ironic to me is that this completely comes down to culture: Males wearing dresses are/were the norm in so many cultures. I love ancient warfare, so if it was my son going through such a phase, I would probably have bought him a child Roman armour set to go with his dress – see http://www.amazon.com/Forum-Novelties-Child-Roman-Armour/dp/B00P3QZMV8 (how cool is that?!). And I probably would have whispered in his ear that he should sneak up on the disapproving family member and give him/her a good stab with his Roman gladius! 😉

    Love, grace, and peace to you in Jesus, sister

    • Ooh haha thank you so much for your message!! I read it out loud to my husband and we had a good laugh and he also loves the roman armour idea!! Thank you so much for your kind and funny reply xxx

  12. Hi Nicolette! What a beautiful and honest post. I love your approach in letting Alex be whoever he is and accepting him regardless. There’s no more important lesson we can teach our kids: that they are worthy of our love, just as they are.

    Have a look at Glennon Melton’s perspective on a similar issue, and the beautiful letter se wrote to her son: http://momastery.com/blog/2010/10/14/a-mountain-im-willing-to-die-on/

    Lizette

  13. Pingback: A Safe Space (for a little boy who adores dresses and tiaras) | mommy in a bunny suit

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