Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Son, The Princess

Happy Halloween everyone!

Spiderman.  Too cute for a mask.

A few weeks ago we broke out the dress up clothes and started asking The Bean what he wanted to be for Halloween.  He adamantly told us "Superwhy" and we subtly tried to steer him towards a costume that we a) had or b) could make (easily).  He then ran through a number of ideas --witch, doggy, skeleton, ghost, Spiderman, cat-- trying on various costumes as he went.


 By the time our first Halloween celebration rolled around we had settled on a skeleton.  We threw on his skeleton sweater and a pair of black pants, I quickly painted his face, and off we went to the party.

Sprout seem mildly unsettled by The Bean's skeleton makeup. 

That evening we had party #2.  It was a neighbourhood party at the nearby streetcar barns where we go for the farmer's market.  We went last year and had a great time, however, we both remembered it being hot.  We decided Sprout would forego the piglet costume in favour of something more breathable.  She has a sparkly little fairy get up that someone gave us when she was born (adorable, but yes, an odd baby gift) so that was settled.  As I was getting her changed The Bean walked over with a beautiful gold brocade number out of our costume box and announced, "I be a princesses too!"

Our little fairy princess, trying to eat her wings.

Jen and I looked at each other.  "How about a horse?" we asked.  "No, a princesses."  Neither of us were totally comfortable with the idea, but he insisted.  We pulled out a pair of tights and I quickly cut out a paper crown and into the car we piled with our two princesses.

On the way there Jen and I tried to convince each other that this was no big deal.  It's a costume.  He's two.  Halloween is about dressing up.  Still, we were concerned that someone might say something hurtful.  We told The Bean people might think it was funny that he was dressed as a princess.  He shrugged and responded, "That happens."  Clearly this boy is better adjusted than we are.

The Bean did get some glances at the party.  I think people mostly thought it was cruel that we had given such an adorable little girl such a severe haircut.  No one commented other than saying things about "All the beautiful princesses."  The Bean was happy.  He twirled with the best of them.  We thanked the Halloween gods.

I'm still thinking about it though.  Halloween is about dressing up.  And who cares what a two year old decides to be.  Is it really any more unusual to put our daughter into a fairy costume than it is to put our son into a princess costume?  It's pretend.  I repeat: Who cares?

Only the thing is people do care.  As parents, we want to protect our children.  I don't think twice when The Bean wears the princess dress at home, but out in the world I worry what others will say.  I don't want to see him hurt.

On no level to I believe that The Bean is gender non-conforming, but this small experience made me feel so deeply for parents of children who are.  How difficult they must find it to allow their child to express their individuality while knowing that not everyone will accept them for who they are.  I can't imagine how ambivalent parents in that situation must feel.  (And yes, I am talking about parents who are wholly supportive of their children, knowing full well and feeling heartbroken for children who do not have this kind of support from the people who should love them unconditionally.)

Tonight he's dressing up as a horse.  

I love my son, the princess, but I am also relieved.


  1. Good for you! We're experiencing this sort of thing a bit, too. Miles is fascinated with pink. He begged for pink sparkly cowboy boots, which he earned and now wears everywhere. He begged for pink fleece pajamas, which he wears every night and even launders himself when they're dirty. I know that colors are for everyone, but it's a challenge for me to "let" him dress that way for school, where others might say something hurtful to him or...maybe think hurtful things about ME? It's tough!

    1. The Bean loves pink too and has a pair of (hand me down) pink sparkly rain boots, which he mostly wears on the balcony at home, but will occasionally wear out.

      I also worry about what people think of us letting The Bean wear pink or princess dresses or whatever, particularly since we're gay. You know and I know that letting a boy wear "girl" clothes won't "make" him gay, but people can be really ignorant. :/

  2. Ian also loves to dress up, in both superhero costumes and tiaras, jewelry etc. Last week Kim took him to a friend's house and he took his baby doll and the friend's husband made a comment about him playing with dolls. After Kim told her friend (who apologized) that Ian hadn't heard which is the only reason she didn't say anything, I also remember Erik buying a pink tea set and the cashier making a comment. That's the type of stuff we worry will happen because it does. I was even worried the other day when Ian took a care bear to school for toy day. We want them to play with what they want, but it's sometimes stressful when they do.

  3. I think we all understand how you feel. It is hard. If the world was full of people like us, we wouldn't have to worry. But everyone around us does make comments. Jackson and Quinn have heard the neighbour question why they are playing with dolls. It's ridiculous. In our home, they are free and we are care-free. In the real world, we feel a little more protective and know all too well that people are not as accepting. It's sad but true. I think I would feel the same as you.

  4. These are just adorable pictures!

  5. I get this. We let Curly play with whatever he wants at home, and wear whatever he wants, and encourage play with dolls and traditionally "girly" things. But when he wants to continue wearing a tutu from home to school, I get really nervous...for his welfare and again, what people think about us. We actually have let him wear it a couple times to school and it's not been too bad...sure he got comments...but it's only pre-school and the teachers are overall cool about it. But it's going to be very different I know as he gets a little older. It makes me sad to know he'll feel self-conscious about it as well. The importance our society places on gender and gender-appropriateness is so stupid and maddening :(

  6. What's especially frustrating is that it only takes one voice to drown out a crowd of approval. Even if most people in the room are supportive, a single harsh comment is what sticks. That's true for many things, not just gender non-comformity. The good news is that more people are writing, blogging, just plain talking about it these days.

    Nothing you don't know, of course. I'm sure he made a lovely princess, horse, and everything else too!