Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Boy Who Loved Dresses

When Devin was three years old he asked me if he could wear one of my maternity dresses. I gladly helped him into it, along with a pair of tights, per his request.

He danced around the living room watching the dress swirl with him with every move he made. He leaped from the couch and coffee table looking behind as the dress slowly floated behind him like a cape. He was so happy. He loved wearing my small, short, maternity dresses, that fit him just right. I used clothespins and paper clips in the neck and waist to cinch in the measurements to fit him more comfortably. He would say, "Mama! Watch me dance!" with a pure appreciation for himself and what he was capable of.

When friends would come over, they would respectfully celebrate his love for dresses with him, commenting on how nicely he danced and how great the dresses looked on him. I am so fortunate to have always had loving, supportive friends who have respected my children when most people would judge.

Not everyone in our family was supportive of our choice to allow Devin to wear dresses when he wanted to. Close family warned us that if we "let" him wear dresses he would grow up confused and it would somehow "screw him up" as a person. They were well-intentioned when they encouraged us to buy him more "appropriate" clothing for his gender, like pink collar shirts, or boys button down shirts with Hawaiian flowers. I think some family assumed his intentions were something they were not. The assumptions that he wanted to "be a girl" just because he wore a dress were far-reaching and exaggerations of the simple fact that my son loved to wear dresses. I wouldn't have minded if he wanted to be a girl, and I would have supported him in that desire, but Devin still loved being a boy! He just wanted to express a feminine part of himself that is often stifled in boys in our culture. I was encouraged to bring him to a psychiatrist to evaluate him.

I never listened to anyone but Devin and my own heart. I knew that the fear surrounded Devin's dress wearing was just that - fear! I knew that the only way that I could ever damage my son would be to not allow him to express himself in the way he felt was right for him, even at three years old! I knew that the fear that others had in Devin wearing a dress was just their own issues and that I never had to take their "advice" and bring my son for a psychological evaluation, or make him wear pink colored boy shirts - instead of his beloved dresses.

Listening to my son and respecting his desires in what he has been drawn to over the years has never led me wrong. I trust him fully in his own inner knowing about what is good for him.

Devin wore dresses all day, almost everyday for over four years! We stood by his side and supported his passion for dresses with unwaivering certainty in his wholeness as a person. We helped him on with his tights and zipped up the back of his three favorite dresses for years, with love.

Today, Devin is boy who loves to play video games, build things, shoot his BB gun, ride in his Kayak, create stories and so much more. He has not worn dresses for six years, but if he ever wanted to again, I would gladly support him. I am so happy that he was always able to express himself and I have always trusted him.

We may not know what need is being filled by some of our children's actions and choices in life. Quite honestly, I do not think it is our business to pry into our children's minds to try to find out, because in doing so is when we damage them and make assumptions based on others fears most of the time. It is my role to support my children's choices, without judgement.

One thing is for sure, I will always be by my children's side in whatever they choose to do, or have, or be in life. Unconditionally.

I am so glad that I have listened to my inner guidance from the beginning with my kids.
Devin is a joyful, content, whole and healthy person. I am so glad that he was able to truly be *him* and wear dresses for the years that it met a need within him. I will never forget him dancing around the living room, with pure bliss in his eyes, spinning and leaping and able to be who he was at that moment. I still have his favorite yellow dress, which is now full of holes and little rips from being worn and washed so much over the years. I sometimes take it out of my top drawer as a reminder to never stop respecting, honoring and listening to myself and my children.

Sometimes boys just want to wear dresses and it's all good!


Hippie Chick said...

Absolutely beautiful! I admire your heart and unconditional love. I truly believe that this is the key to life - being free and happy and believing that it's ok (and actually a good thing) when square pegs don't fit into round holes! Screw the round holes!!! LOL!
Cyndi (Peaceful Hippie Cyndi on Facebook ~<3~)

Samantha said...

Love, Love, Love this! My son has been wearing dresses for the past few years and still likes to when he's playing with his sisters. I have never had a problem with it. I even put his long blonde hair up in two ponytails when he asked to have his hair like his sisters'. My family did have problems with it too. They said that I was 'mixing him up' and other things like that. It's so nice to hear about other parents letting their sons be free to dress how they want and not try to change them to be more 'manly' when all the kid wants is to just be who they are. Thank you so much for sharing this! :)

Natalie said...

I *loved* this post. My son loves dresses too and why not, they float and flow and are made of such fantastic fabrics and colors. He and his sister love wearing my make up too and I love the feeling of joy when he comes racing through, sword in hand chopping away at monsters, or roaring along with his kung fu moves, dress swirling around him, stopping for a twirl before running on out again. He's 3 too. And he's used to correcting people when we go out, who think he's a little girl with his long blonde hair, no matter what clothes he's wearing! I also love that many of my friends have the same scenarios going on in their homes and that we're raising children who can be themselves, whether that flows with or at cross currents to gender or any other norms!

Jody said...

So beautifully written!


mom of a ten year old boy with long blue hair : )

Sherri said...

Great blog!!! My son hasn't ever wanted to wear dresses but I would support him if he did. He does have really long hair, longer than mine so he has gotten the comments about his hair being "like a girl". My youngest daughter loves bugs, and anything gross or disgusting. For example, if we see roadkill in the road, she says "Sweet!". She likes to play in the dirt and with bugs but she also likes to do traditional "girly" things too. She's a tomboy and a princess all wrapped up into one. I would support all 3 of my children no matter what they want to do regardless of the "traditional gender stereotypes". Thanks for the great blog, Dayna!!!!

Charli Armstrong said...

Great Post!

It is something to see people today raise such silly fear-based objections to boys wearing dresses when there was a time in our history when it was fashionable for men and boys to wear their hair long and to wear "pretty" clothes that included blouses with ruffles, tights, skirts, bows, ect.

One of my favorite quotes from the book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came from a wizard in a woman's nightdress refusing to put on a pair of trousers:

"I like a healthy breeze around my privates, thanks!"

Charli Armstrong said...

Great Post!

It is something to see people today raise such silly fear-based objections to boys wearing dresses when there was a time in our history when it was fashionable for men and boys to wear their hair long and to wear "pretty" clothes that included blouses with ruffles, tights, skirts, bows, ect.

One of my favorite quotes from the book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came from a wizard in a woman's nightdress refusing to put on a pair of trousers:

"I like a healthy breeze around my privates, thanks!"

karisma said...

:-) When my youngest son was three he used to love dressing up and his pink and lilac fairy costume was right up there with spiderman in his books!

Luscious Lea said...

I recently looked at a daycare facility and was given paperwork to take home to read over which detailed things including what to send your child with for the day. It noted that your child should be sent wearing "gender appropriate" clothing. What the heck does that mean?! If my son wants to wear a dress or skirt then that is what he'll wear just the same as if I had a daughter she'd be free to wear jeans, shorts etc

nightdoodle95 said...

My younger brother loved to play with baby dolls, which some people insisted would make him into a "sissy boy". He is now one of the most confident men I've ever known and a wonderful, loving father to three great kids. I think being allowed to play with dolls had something to do with that.

Erica Perry said...

Yay to freedom!!

Jessica said...

Thankyou for writing this Dayna, we are on the otherside, and often more socially acceptable side (and i hate using that term because everything is as it is).My middle daughter will only wear boys things, she plays with boys toys, in games she has to be the boy and is happy as such.She is happy in freedom and if that is who she is then it is no one elses buisness.What is it with trying to over analyse everything kids do.They are kids, they dont need their minds disected, they dont need people telling them they are not, goodness forbid, 'normal".Because they are who they are, who they are meant to be.In the end its their life, and its better they go forth in support and love then in fear they are not "pleasing" others.

Anonymous said...

You are a truly awesome mother. Your children are so incredibly lucky. Few children are raised this way.

Anonymous said...

I have gotten some raised eyebrows at the fact that I have a Spiderman- obsessed daughter (which has been waning lately, but fun while it lasted), so I can appreciate this in some sense. I know it is harder with a boy that has "female" interests than it is the other way around.

denthreekids said...

This post really touched me as not only did we not mind it for our oldest, we later found out she (born bio male) had gender identity disorder and now lives wholeheartedly as a little girl. I listened to her and am glad we let her take her path. Now, instead of a sad and possible dead little boy, we have a vibrant, confident, and happy little girl.

Susan Burke said...

To this day, I believe as a result of his mom and my openness about his choice of clothing, my 11 year old nephew will choose long flowing dresses or skirts when he plays dress up with my 7 year old daughter. I admire his deep seated sense of self. He knows who he is and wearing a dress every now and then isn't going to define him as anything other than a well balanced, self assured individual for whom society's fixation with gender specificity has little meaning! He loves his light sabre, skiing, video games, rough housing, and banging on the drums just as much as he does playing dress up, cooking, and sewing his own fashion creations!

Ashley Rahar said...

Thanks so much for your honesty and enthusiasm I've watched some of your youtube shows and interviews. As a homeschooling mom of 3 young children, my husband and I receive lots of criticizing from family, our LOVED ones. My first thought in reading this post was "Wow! How amazing it must be to have a mother who loves and supports UNCONDITIONALLY!" ...because I don't have that. But my second thought was "but what if your children, whom you support unconditionally, end up raising their children very differently, maybe more traditionally, in a way you have never understood or agreed with?" How would you handle that? How would you still happily support and trust their heart to raise their children how most people do when that's obviously not what you believe? I'm asking because I'm playing 'devil's advocate' here...asking what my own mother would ask and think.

Amy Wishman Nalan said...

My 3 year old son loves wearing dresses, skirts, and his big sister's shoes. Reactions vary from people who think it is a joke to people who just ignore it. Thank you for this post. I was really encouraged by it.