Recently, my sister forwarded me an article about a mom that posted pictures of her six-year-old cross-dressing son on Facebook. "What do you think of this article?" my sister asked.
Well, this one's certainly Dot Complicated.
I absolutely applaud this mom for being proud and supportive of her son's clothing choices. There are so many cruel, judgmental people in the world, and it's wonderful to see parents who tell their children from a young age that they love them unconditionally and encourage them to explore their own interests and tastes. Even better is a mom who can stand up publicly and defend her child's choices to the world.
There was a similar story a few months ago; a photo of a 5-year-old boy wearing pink shoes on his first day of school went viral. When his mom posted the photo online, it sparked dozens of comments. Some people praised her parenting style, while others criticized her choice, saying it was "wrong" and "would affect him socially."
I wish with all my heart that kids could just be kids and play with whatever they want, wear whatever they want, and choose whatever colors they want, without gender labels or stereotypes. We need to encourage our children to be individuals and to explore their passions and talents. At the same time, we do have to acknowledge that we live in the real world, not a fantasy world. Your child is inevitably going to come into contact with other kids, who can be mean and cruel -- is it possible that we do our children a disservice by not preparing them for the outside world?
I would do anything to prevent my son from experiencing the humiliation of being bullied. This might mean having a realistic discussion at a young age about why other children might not understand a young boy wearing dresses and high heels and why it's in his best interest to limit that behavior for now. I'm not sure we're doing them a favor by just sending them straight into the lion's den without a warning about what's in store.
Here's a quote I love (from Kanye West, of all people):
"Society has put up so many boundaries, so many limitations on what's right and wrong that it's almost impossible to get a pure thought out. It's like a little kid, a little boy, looking at colors, and no one told him what colors are good, before somebody tells you you shouldn't like pink because that's for girls, or you'd instantly become a gay 2-year-old. Why would anyone pick blue over pink? Pink is obviously a better color. Everyone's born confident, and everything's taken away from you."
We need to acknowledge that we're a society in transition. Hopefully in 20 years, this subject will be a non-issue.
But back to the main story -- I'm still undecided on the mom's decision to post the photos online. That most certainly wasn't for the benefit of her 6-year-old son. Did he ask for the photos to be posted? Did he know his mom was taking photos and uploading them to her friends? As parents, we need to ask ourselves whether we're posting photos for our children or for ourselves. And if you're posting it for yourself, wait a little bit before pressing the "share" button so you can really think about if it's in your child's best interest.
Childhood is a time to experiment, to make mistakes, to be silly and creative, and to use your imagination. I know there are a lot of things I did in my childhood that are (thankfully) in a photo album somewhere in my parents' basement, instead of permanently cached online. For example, I wore a full-body Darth Vader Halloween costume when I was just a little too old for it to still be cute. A great memory, but looking back, I'm glad it's not part of my online identity.
It's a fantastic thing to be proud of your child. We should always love and support our children no matter what, and we should applaud parents who bravely support their child in the face of society telling them otherwise. But it's one thing to capture an adorable moment and send it to a few close friends and family. It's another thing entirely to send it out into the void of the Internet, without thought of future repercussions.
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