It’s hard out here for a parent.
Technology and a never-ending news-cycle reminds us of local and global threats of potential terrorists, internet predators, exposure to toxins and yes, the danger of five year old boys who wear dresses.
That’s right. Who knew that pictures of smiling, seemingly well-adjusted young boys wearing dresses could become not only an Internet viral sensation and blow up the blogosphere but also represent for some a perceived societal threat? Folks weighed in with varied opinions about what it means when a little boy, a son and/or a brother wants to wear a dress. Issues about parenting practices, sexuality (at five?), and asked if parents weren’t setting up their child up to be the potential victim of bullies? These are all understandable concerns but off-base.
There is no correlation between the fact that girls who play “rough” and love trucks or dressing like a boy, and boys who love dolls and wearing dresses grow up to be cross-dressers or transgendered or gay. And actually so what if they did?
WATCH ‘TODAY SHOW’ COVERAGE OF THIS ISSUE
Gender identity is much more complicated than that. There are the characteristics of biological sex; attitudes, roles and behaviors related to how you see yourself as either male or female, and your ability to answer, are you a boy or girl? Lastly, there is the question of sexual orientation; do men, women or both turn you on?
So, what should parents do if your son or daughter expresses a wish for choices that are considered non- traditional? What if you son wants to wear a tutu while shooting hoops? Or your daughter refuses to wear dresses instead preferring baggy shorts and Air Jordans?
You let them. You love them. You encourage their creativity, quest for individualism and bravery. You deal with your own angst or fears and disappointment. At the same time, you prepare your children for a world that may not understand them, and explain that not every adult or child sees the world in the same way that they do, but that’s okay because they are special. Leaders are created by creativity, opportunity and a willingness to take action.
Children who feel rejected or non-supported by their parents are more likely to be depressed, have behavior problems, suffer from low self-esteem, develop substance abuse issues, poor coping skills and experience adult attachment issues.
As parents, we want our children to have it easier than we did. We don’t want them to suffer, be bullied or teased or struggle unnecessarily. We want to raise healthy and happy children who are capable of deciding and making choices because they are loved.
The father of one of the boys featured, commented on his son’s choice of clothing. He said, “I’m fine with it. I just want him to be happy and healthy. In the end, when he’s grown up, I want him to be able to say that no matters what he chooses, my parents were supportive of me”.
Wise words for all parents.