Sparkle hangs up his new dress for the night!
The only thing our four-year-old son wanted for Christmas was the shiny, blue, glittery Elsa dress like the one he’d seen in the movie Frozen.
He’d asked for it for months. Consistently. Repeatedly.
He’d make us stop and look at the dresses when we were in the store. He’d color pictures of them. He’d tied his Superhero cape around his waist and pretend it was the dress.
His father and I had more than a few late-night talks about it.
Should we get it for him? We didn’t have any objection to him dressing up in a dress. When we picked him up from preschool he’d often be found in a dress and heels, prancing around with the other girls as they played in the dress-up area of the classroom.
Wanting a dress was par for the course our son had been on. At two years of age he regularly identified himself as a girl and frequently played with toys that were generally considered “girl toys.” Since we support gender neutrality in toys, our home was filled with a variety of toy options–dolls, trucks, blocks, crafts, a toy kitchen.
“Sparkle” also said he was a boy on occasion so we were just watching and waiting–he was working something out. We were going to let him.
No, we didn’t mind that he wanted a dress. Who wouldn’t want that beautiful blue dress?
But as a parent, intentionally going out to purchase a dress for our son felt uncomfortable.
As if purchasing a dress for our SON was somehow against the rules of parenting.
Hell, that’s crazy, we decided. If a dress makes our son happy, then he’s getting a dress for Christmas. He likes what he likes and giving him a dress isn’t going to scar him or twist him or “turn him gay.” We weren’t afraid of any of that.
So we went out and bought him a Frozen dress. We wrapped it up and couldn’t wait for him to open it on Christmas.
Oddly, his reaction was subdued. He seemed surprised and set it aside. We had to cajole him to finally put it on. And when he did, pure joy. He swirled and pranced.
And he’s lived in that dress for a year.
He’s worn it to school, on bowling outings, and at the zoo. Family functions, hiking and grocery shopping.
We get many looks when he’s in that dress. Sometimes a knowing nod and wink. Women stop to compliment him on his ensemble (he often accessorizes with homemade crowns, necklaces, long bits of yarn tied to headbands, and bracelets). Men do double takes. People mistakenly call him a girl.
Some kids point fingers. A lot of grown-ups stare. And more than a few have told him that dresses are for girls.
And yet, he endures. The dress is 5″ too short for him now. The blue crystal gem on the front fell off long ago. The cape has rips. And the hem has had to be repaired three times.
That dress is his safe place. It’s the first thing he puts on after he’s home from school. The thing he reaches for when he’s angry.
That dress has made us all stronger and tougher. That dress is the start of a journey with our little Sparkle. We just aren’t exactly sure where we are going.