A pile of clothes littered the bedroom floor. Stuffed animals sat on bookshelves wearing my daughter’s underwear after she dressed all of her furry friends in her clothes.
Usually, I let the kids manage their rooms and pick up after themselves, but this time I had to intervene. The mess was at my limit. We were slipping on the books that were haphazardly strewn about the room.
Opening the pine wardrobe that could house an entrance to Narnia if only it was handmade and not assembled from IKEA, I started removing clothes and assessing them for size, style, and season, sorting them into two piles: Keep and Donate.
Last year’s Christmas Pinkie Pie hooded sweatshirt came off the hanger, and I asked my daughter if she’d wear it again this year. She shook her head no; it was too small.
“I’ll wear it!” My son piped up excitedly and approached the Donate pile.
“It’s too small for you, babe. You can’t wear it.”
Looking at me square in the eye, he said softly, “Boys can wear pink, Mama.”
“We are entering the unstable era of adolescence where the thoughts and actions of peers take precedence over parental approval.”
My heart fell as I realized that my son had just lumped me with “them”—the people who think that boys can’t wear “girl colors”.
Why would he think I would ever betray him?
I am the one who helped him pick out the bright blue, pink, purple, and teal socks. I’m the one always telling them that there are no “boy colors” or “girl colors” just colors of the rainbow. I’m the one always telling them there are no “boy toys” or “girl toys”—just toys for children.
It cut me to the quick to think my son thought I was discouraging him from wearing a “girl sweatshirt” when it was truly a sizing issue.
Trust can be so easily broken and so difficult to regain.
“No, babe, that’s not it. I’m not saying you can’t wear it because it’s pink, I’m saying you can’t wear it because it won’t fit you.”
To prove my good intentions, I unzipped the sweatshirt and let him slip his arms inside. As predicted, the sleeves stopped mid-arm, and the zipper was tight against his belly.
“If you want, I can buy one in your size. Of course, boys can wear pink and purple clothes.”
“My friends at school always tease me when I wear my Trolls socks. They ask if they are my sister’s…” His stance was defensive as he relived the ridicule.
Scrambling to think quickly, I remembered that YouTube song the kids were just listening to.
“How does that song go, again? ‘I don’t really care about what they say…Imma come back like a boomerang.'”
Yes, I sang JoJo Siwa’s sugar-sweet pop hit, Boomerang, to him.
No shame, here. I was in recover and rebuild mode and pulled on every available resource at my disposal.
The Boomerang lyrics earned me the beginnings of a smile, and I pulled him into me for a strong hug. I wanted him to know that I was always on his side.
“You know that I support you no matter what, right? You can wear whatever you want. Seriously. Whatever you want.”
But the truth is it doesn’t matter what I think about him if the kids at school disapprove. We are entering the unstable era of adolescence where the thoughts and actions of peers take precedence over parental approval.
I was impressed that my son had held out for so long and continued to wear his colorful Trolls socks despite being repeatedly teased at school. A child of mettle.
In a recent GQ article, Isn’t it time we reform men, too? we need to teach our boys to perpetuate the ideas that having compassion and empathy for others are human traits, not characteristics reserved only for the feminine gender.
As adults, we know that the color of the clothes you wear doesn’t determine your gender identity or sexuality, but the kids are still figuring that out.
They often mimic what they hear at home or see in the stores. Gender identity is everywhere in our culture—stated both subliminally and overtly.
It takes a lot of consistent messaging from parents, teachers, and peers to undo the gender identity misconception that the colors of clothing symbolize anything important.
“Bright colors match his charming personality, and I’m not surprised that he is drawn to wearing fun colors in his clothing and shoes.”
Click here to watch her presentation.
Her child asked to wear a purple dress to school, and she feared her child would be misunderstood and ridiculed. As a child psychologist, she knows that supporting our children’s discovery of who they are is a matter of life or death. Children who are perceived as being gay or transgender are 8x more likely to try to commit suicide.
In her emotional presentation, Dr. Anderson challenged the audience to not only have compassion for gender-expansive and LGBTQ children, but she added that it might be our own children who explore their gender identities.
Right as rain, here we are.
It’s so vital that we support our kids as they explore their likes and dislikes. We ultimately don’t know who they will grow up to be.
I will always support my son if he wants to wear pink sweatshirts and purple socks. I bought him hot pink snow boots because he thought they were great.
“They’re perfect!” he shouted in the store as he admired the pink stripe down the back.
Bright colors match his charming personality, and I’m not surprised that he is drawn to wearing fun colors in his clothing and shoes.
Pink is not a “girl color” in our household; it’s just a color