A Particular Post Has Jane’s Unmentionables In A Twist

A while back, a long while back, a particular post of a particular blogger on her particular blog was highlighted on a particular “Hey! Look At This Blogger!” kind of page. (Can you tell I’m trying to be particularly vague here?)

I read her particular post and it’s been gnawing at me ever since.

The post was singled out as being particularly good. And it was. I suppose. But the subject matter still has my protective, Mama Bear gene twisted in knots.

I wanted to comment the day I read the post. But I couldn’t. Emotions were too strong to comment. I was afraid I’d come across too judgemental. (Awww, who am I kidding? Too judgemental? Is there ever an acceptable amount of judgement?)

She was writing of a particular holiday. Her very young son’s class was having a party to celebrate by wearing their costumes. He wanted to be a female character from a certain cartoon. Embracing his love of the character, she helped create the perfect female costume for her son to wear.

(Now you’re going to have to trust me on this because I’m not going to send you a link to the post. Mostly, because I’m a chicken and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. I’m hoping she never sees this post. So, you “Hey! Look At This Blogger!” editors? Go away. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.)

In her struggle to honor her son’s costume choice she went above and beyond to encourage his individuality. And I do mean, above and beyond. To the point when, as the event drew closer and he began showing great reluctance to wearing his costume, she pushed and encouraged him to march to the beat of his own (which began to sound like her own) drum.

The playground can be a horrible place. Real life, outside the comfort of your color-blind-gender-blind-we-all-bleed-poop-put-on-our-pants-one-leg-at-a-time living room, can be a horrible place. Kids can be mean. Kids can be, dare I say, judgemental.

Should a 6-year-old boy go to school dressed as a girl?

Yes. If that’s truly what my child wanted to dress as for a certain holiday, I’d let him. Nay-sayers be damned. I’d stick by my son, too.

But.

But.

If he showed the slightest sign of reluctance, I’d hightail it to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night to find a replacement. I would not, could not push him to continue with his original plan.

One six-year-old is not going to change the dynamics of playground teasing. Teasing that could follow him for the rest of his life. If he was wise enough to recognize this? I’d honor that request in a heartbeat.

She didn’t. She proudly pushed him to show up in his first choice costume. And I’m glad she is so open-minded. I’m glad she’s teaching her child to follow a path with heart.

But at what point do we, as parents, back off and allow our children to push their own agendas, at their own pace? Encouraging our children to “do the right thing” is one thing. Encouraging them to express their individuality at the risk of relentless teasing at the tender age of six is another.

(Climbing off my high horse, now.

Sigh.

And apologizing in advance to all and any I may offend.)

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26 Comments

Filed under children, Soapbox

26 responses to “A Particular Post Has Jane’s Unmentionables In A Twist

  1. I read this post. I thought it was wonderful and she made a good choice for her family.
    AND…you raise some excellent points as well.
    In my family….I would also have honored my kids choice to change his mind even if it was because of another person opinion. Making another choice is not a bad option to support. The kid has to live in the classroom and I found my kid to be pretty sensitive to what is acceptable and what isn’t–sometimes he goes along–other times he chooses his own path.

  2. Well thank goodness I know exactly which post you’re talking about because otherwise the wanting-to-know would DESTROY me. I think you raise a good point too, which, strangely, wasn’t really raised in the post of another blogger I read who really tore into this woman (I thought she was too harsh). She got a lot of unconditional support though, too. I’m sure she thought she was doing what was best. This parenting stuff is SO HARD.

  3. I found the opening to this piece to be rather vague. (ducking)

    I agree with your assessment of six-year-olds. As tiny humans they are remarkably representative of their adult counterparts. Something different? Pounce on it! Make it pay.

    We all know that individuality is fine only as long as you do it the same as everyone else.

    Seriously, though, I think the mom was correct to support her son’s choice to experiment with drag. I hope she also took a moment to supportively explain the possible risks. (Listen, Johnny. You may be stoned to death for being different.)

    In the end, though, when the kid changed his mind, she should have continued to be equally supportive in the opposite direction. In the end it starts to sound a bit like her agenda and not his. I may be repeating your excellent points here, but something like, “Look how open-minded I am. Look at how I support his individuality.” Sorry, but open-mindedness shouldn’t be forced.

  4. I agree that the classroom is a harsh environment. My own daughter having had to deal with a class bully just this past quarter (we and the school got it under control and things seem to be ok now, but she wanted to change schools at Christmas break) …so at 6? I don’t think the drama would have been as bad as in the 6th grade. But I wouldn’t have trudged forward with the drag if my child had second thoughts about it. That’s just me…and I’m glad that it worked out all right for them…but it IS about your child. Not about our agenda as parents.

  5. It’s good to encourage a child to exercise his options. But when the child starts having second thoughts there’s probably a reason that’s good enough to also support that. Just sayin.

  6. Definitely her agenda… she made the whole situation about her and not her son… tainted it with her “in your face!” mentality. But then, sometimes… I’m a sheep. 😉

  7. Okay, I think you raise valid points. I think part of our job is to help prepare our kids for the world. Which means explaining possible reactions to acting different.

    In her defense, 1. I know many moms who could not afford to get another costume. 2. If I remember correctly, it was other mothers (who should know better) who started the teasing.

    I would hope she would let him change his mind if he was unsure. My daughter dressed up as a knight this year, and she got comments (also from parents, not kids) about dressing as a boy. And I got raised eyebrows. But, her costume was hers (and she had other options from the dress up bin). No agenda here. I learned early that gets me no where with a head strong, pink loving, dino-focused, totally herself kid.

  8. I get what you mean. I dunno, it’s definitely a toughie. While I respect the hell out of the mom for supporting her son like that, I think that she may have pushed it too far, but I didn’t read the original post so I dunno for sure.

  9. Jayne

    I remember that post. What struck me was that the little boy’s self-preservation instincts kicked in before even entering the door. He should have been listened to.

    What I found particularly galling however was that in her subsequent crusade to be proved a thoroughly modern Mum she went right over the top and plastered his photo + a highly imnflammatory headline all over the internet. And please let’s not use that tired old excuse of it being a ‘quiet, private little blog for friends.’ You have to have been living under a rock for the past 10 years not to realise that what we post is on the web, for everyone to see, for ever and all time. As, now, is that little boy’s photo. Better hope he’s OK with that when he’s 18 then.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that she actually knew she could have handled the school situation better and the web article was her attempt at self-justification and conscience salving. It backfired. Badly..

  10. idiosyncraticeye

    It’s a tough call.

    Maybe the son himself had moved on and wasn’t so interested in that character rather than feeling influenced by playground politics, in which case was it such a wise idea to continue to push him to do it?

    Maybe it would have been better to use elements of the character, getting the child to identify with the positive qualities that they showed rather than focusing on being a double. Being a double of someone else surely isn’t what openminded individualistic parents want to encourage after all?!

    Just saying too! 😉

  11. Supporting your child when they want to be different is fine. And sometimes you even need to push them to do things that they don’t want to do (go outside, stop playing video games or eat green stuff).
    But you also need to support them in making in their own decisions. Ask yourself who this is for – your child or you? You might be surprised how often it is the latter.

  12. You are correct about the playground (and school generally) being a tough place. But I have also discovered it can be amazingly supportive.

    My middle child was diagnosed with Aspergers a couple of years ago. In a way this was good because it explained a lot of his unusual behaviors. But he was having a very hard time in school with people giving him a hard time about his tics (Aspergers is often confused with Tourettes) and other traits.

    Fortunately he had an amazingly supportive teacher who asked if she could share his diagnosis with the class. After much hand-wringing we agreed and…an amazing turnaround occurred. His classmates (3rd grade) overnight became his biggest supporters. I would not have expected such mature understanding from such young people. I think we often don’t give them enough credit.

  13. Honestly, I would have been right there at the Wal-mart with you buying another costume.

  14. So I’m not familiar with the post you reference, so I’m operating with incomplete information here. But… based on what you described in your post, I think I’m on your side. Did the mom/blogger say anything about how the experience was for her son? Was he ultimately proud of his decision? Did he get teased and ridiculed? If he was teased it sounds like his mom likely wouldn’t have admitted as much.

    I think the most important point you make here is that one bad playground experience can send shockwaves that last YEARS. Even while we encourage our kids to march to the beat of their own drummer, we also have to help them shift directions if they’re marching straight into a bloodbath. I absolutely think kids need some of those emotional bumps and bruises – it’s part of growing up – but there are also times when we should spare them something painful when they don’t know how to spare themselves.

  15. I very much agree that an event like that could trigger negative memories, and unceasing taunting, for years to come!

    I’d be interested in reading about the aftermath if it’s available.

  16. I remember that post too. It sounds like Mom was miffed she went to all the trouble to make the costume and then he didn’t want to wear it. So she made him do it out of some misplaced expectation that she deserved. And I would have understood her position if he changed his mind from being Batman to Spiderman. But, with this particular circumstance, he should have been allowed to change.

  17. Amen, sister! I write about the Pushy Parents a lot because I am baffled by them. Encouragement to express yourself is great. Actively pressuring the kid to stick with the plan )which he now realizes is a bad idea) is kind of awful.

  18. I Googled and found the original post in two clicks. Wow. With the title she choose and the humongous photo, you can clearly tell where she stands. Which is fine. Admirable even. But what about her son? Doesn’t sound like he was so sure about it. For me, that’s the key. Support your child, know when to push, and know when to pull back. And if you can’t figure it out, play it safe for your child’s sake. Yes??

  19. Kristin

    I also googled the post and just read it. The Mother does not really tell us whether or not the child ended up enjoying his Halloween experience in the costume. I would like to know if he ended up being glad he wore it.
    That being said, I think if it were me, I would’ve encouraged him to wear what he wanted, and if he wanted to change his mind I would’ve supported him with that, as well.
    I think in general, it’s valuable to teach our kids that other kids can be mean, and then teach them some coping strategies for when the meanness eventually happens. And you do need to also teach a kid that sometimes people are going to make fun of their choices in clothes, hair, etc., and even if they do it’s important to be yourself anyway. But his extreme anxiety should’ve been her clue to back off.
    As usual I’m most struck by the other Mothers. Women, particulary Mothers of young children, can be incredibly mean to other women. Why is that? I bet when the men go to Doughnuts with Daddy at the preschool they don’t make any judgements about the other kids and how they are being parented.

  20. Once I took my grandkids to a children’s museum which had dress-up costumes for the kids to play pretend games. A little boy, about 4, was enchanted with the pink fairy princess costume. He wore it during the entire time and excitedly told all of us that he wanted to be a girl princess. He was thin with an unusually high voice even for a child, and seemed to have an abundance of nervous energy. His mother smiled stoically through the whole experience. She gently suggested some of the other costumes–pirate, cowboy–but he was having none of it.

    Should she have made him take off the costume? It wouldn’t have changed what he wanted to be. Had she asked me, I would have had no advice. My heart ached for both of them.

  21. Read the post. Read your post. I believe she had an agenda – and a point she wanted to make, which I applaud. What I don’t applaud is using her son to do it. Her 5-year old son.

    Then again, let’s be real. Since when is there no navel-gazing in blogging? Since when isn’t there a heap of narcissism in it – in all shapes and sizes? Since when don’t we all care about page views?

    Did it become about her? Yep. Seems that way.

    Raising issues is important – I try to do it in my own way, many of the writers I read use their family experience to do it as well. This felt a little different. And having older kids (high school) – her comparison (if I remember correctly) to “spirit day” in high school, when kids purposely dress as the opposite sex – absolutely another matter. Not an apt comparison.

    But we aren’t in her head. Or her preschool. We aren’t the ones having to deal with the after-effects, if any, for her son.

    As for myself? Right. Walmart.

  22. OK…I finally had a chance to find the original post.

    I didn’t find the post particularly offensive. We have had instances where the kids changed their minds on things – sometimes we pushed them to carry on anyway, as part of a life lesson that once you have made a decision you have to stick with it. Other times we haven’t. I guess it really depends how worried the kid really was – and we were not there to see that.

    From the sound of it the kids didn’t have a problem – just the other parents. That is truly sad.

    What I found most offensive, however, was the follow up by her church which basically ex-communicated her. Were that me I would have delivered the Pastor a few lines that are not normally heard in a church environment and they would never have seen me again. But then that is me.

    Seems like the Moms here all could have handled things better. More importantly, the church has shown itself in a very poor light.

  23. Oh. My. Goodness. Am I out of the loop! When I read all of your comments and found out many of you were able to Google the post – I did the same. And I found out that there is a NY Times article about the post, an interview with CNN, etc. I had no idea the post went viral – as I was one of the early readers of the post. For all my fears that she might find out my criticisms (oh, I must think I am oh-so-influential!), it appears she’s been judged inside and out already by most of the American public.

    I think all of the adults involved (those critical, the church and yes, even mom) could have handled things much differently. And I didn’t mention this in MY post because I was afraid to draw too much attention to the innocent little boy — but since all of you already know, I was so very disturbed that mom used the title of the blog post that she did (My Son Is Gay!) and that she posted a picture of her son in full costume, as well. Using my faulty memory, I was reminded that the boy was 5 years old. Would he appreciate the attention such a post could (wow!) attract? I’m all for catchy titles – but using shock value declaring your son gay simply because he wants to wear a girls’ costume? Cringe-worthy.

    • You raise a good point there. I didn’t really think twice about the blog title – clearly designed to catch a person’s eye and – let’s be honest – we bloggers will do that.
      But imagine this poor boy years from now finding his picture with that title above it. At the moment he doesn’t know what it means…but 10 years from now this could be a real thorn in his side.

      I have this image of him bringing his girlfriend home (assuming he hasn’t been ‘turned gay’ by this) and his Mom dragging out the old blog posts instead of the photo album :). OK, sorry, that just sort of slipped out.

  24. I am coming late to the conversation, but I would have sprinted to Walmart. I’ve not read the original post and I’ve lived through playground teasing, mainly because I was the only Indian girl in a predominantly homogenous group. It got unbearable at times and I wonder how much that little boy will have to endure, now and in the future.

  25. I am late too…but I saw this post and thought she was one brave mama. I don’t know if I would have done the same…only because I would worry about how it would affect my son.

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