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Dear Other Dude at the Playground…

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Dear Other Dude at the Playground on Saturday –

I couldn’t fight the need to write you about an incident between our kids.Remember me? I was the dad with the son wearing a pink dress.

Before he burst onto the playground, and as I parked the car, he was positively vibrating. I asked, “Now…you’re sure you want to wear your dress?”

He shouted in response, “Yes! Because I want to show everyone how beautiful I am in this beautiful dress!”

It was a big deal for him; and for me.

He hasn’t asked to wear a dress “out,” before. I didn’t fight it. Who cares, right?

Or so we’d like to think.

As you noticed, he couldn’t contain his excitement showing off the dress to the only two kids playing…your daughter and her friend. He skipped and twirled and chased them for ten minutes shouting, “Do you like my dress? I’m wearing a dress! Can I play with you? Will you play with me?”

Remembering those ten minutes fills me with emotion…because his unencumbered joy thrilled me. He radiated happiness. He beamed like a sun, like a firework, like every clichéd metaphor for joy. Except it wasn’t a metaphor. It was glorious.

How I wish he could hold on to that pure excitement.

How I wish I could watch him be that thrilled every day of his life.

I’m sad because society somehow tamps down such delight. It’s embarrassing to the rest of us. Except behind closed doors, when do adults (or even teenagers) jump around with excitement? And some day even my little boy will probably be self-conscious about such excitement.

And of course, wearing a dress in public might not always bring him such unabashed joy.

Your daughter and her friend were obviously older and uninterested in welcoming a new playmate. (Especially one so desperate…nay, aggressive…in his playtime invitation.)

But my son continued, “Do you see my beautiful dress? It’s a Sleeping Beauty dress!”

Then my reticence was confirmed when your daughter walked by me saying to her friend, “I don’t want to play with a boy in a dress.”

I admit I wanted to trip her.

I think it’s safe to assume you’re a heterosexual father and you live in rural Connecticut. Parents probably don’t allow their kids to gender-bend. (You don’t even see it much in NYC.)

But when your daughter said to you, “Daddy, that boy is wearing a dress,” your response was a pure gold moment, for me: “Well…you’re wearing pants, aren’t you?”

I was touched and surprised by your compassion.

Like you, I just want my kids to be happy. And while I worry that wearing princess dresses might one day bring tears of betrayal for my son, right now, he loooooves to do so.

So, thank you.

Thank you for showing my son support for his choices.

Thank you for bringing more acceptance to your (understandably) inquisitive daughter.

I fully anticipate others insulting my boy’s self-expression. That obviously petrifies me. That’s what makes me tamp down (but not outlaw) the dresses. I want to protect my exuberant cherub from betrayal and shame for as long as possible. (I know that’s a losing battle, but still. A daddy can try.)

But more important that sadness is his self-expression. So we go with it and compliment him and encourage him, putting off that day of sadness for as long as possible.

And then we’ll deal with that.

So: thank you for encouraging my son’s joy.

You helped me be a better father, in turn.

Thanks, dude.

Daddy Coping in Style

356 Comments

  1. Ah… I was holding my breath waiting for the little girl’s father to be rude. Almost cried with joy when he wasn’t! I love your honesty, because I would have wanted to trip her too.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. A lovely story, you are a great dad. I am a teacher and I try to encourage an open minded, equal approach in my Nursery class when it comes to dressing up and gender related standards such a this. I always wonder what parents will think of my approach though!? So it’s nice to know that some might agree and be happy their son is experimenting with dresses and just enjoying themselves! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. absolutely amazing and touching story, you are a fantastitically frank, rare jewel of a dad, your son is a child loving life, his way. how lucky is he to have a parent who enables that and not suppresses it to conform to the accepted “norm”… i commend you. to the other, dude in the playground, you have restored my faith in human nature… very few stories i read inspire me, you, and this did… i salute you both, you are fine, good men and fantastic dads.xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a cool story and in was suprised at the outcome. However I will have to disagree with some of the commentors. Your child should not decide that it is ok for him/her to wear pajamas to school. You don’t wear a tank top and camo shorts to court, or a funeral, or an interview. Kids don’t make the rules, the parents do. Every now and then I think it’s fine to let them to wear something silly sometimes, in that regard I will let kids be kids. However, letting them put on whatever they want and go to school, or the store or wherever is absurd. Where do you draw the line? What if a 10 year old wants to wear a diaper to school and nothing else? Can they express themselves but only up to a certain point or do you let the kid wear a diaper? Im not saying letting your kid wear a dress was wrong, but there has to be a line that is not crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this Dad’s response to his daughter. And I love you for allowing your son to express who he is. Now if only the rest of the would could learn acceptance.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Dear Other Dude at the Playground… – White Fennec

  8. I really loved this. How lovely of the other Daddy to defend your sons right to wear a dress. But how wonderful to see that you not only allow him, but encourage him to be the real him, despite how others may react. I’d call that winning at parenting x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jessinta says

    This made me so proud to read not only as a mother of 2 boys but as a human being. You should be very proud of the type of father you are letting your son be free to be himself.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What I wish people would understand and maybe remember about themselves is that as kiddos, they live in the moment. What makes them happy one second will be pure disgust in the next. A Disney dress one day and maybe a suit of armor the next or who knows, maybe they’re a dinosaur. Their finding themselves is so precious – I’m so glad a fellow dad and stranger chose this opportunity as a teachable moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this. I have had the same situation arise. I just want my children to be happy and if it is as simple as letting my son wear my makeup on 80s day or buying my daughter “boy toys” for christmas then so be it. I am happy to hear there are still individuals full of compassion, especially because the world can be a cruel place.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a lovely story. I wish I wasn’t so surprised at the other father’s reaction. What a wonderful world it will be when we are no longer surprised by the warm acceptance of others. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. donnafreedman807293825 says

    My great-nephew sounds like your son. B, who’s 9, has been wearing “girl” clothing exclusively for the past couple of years. The school has been great, but I shudder to think what might happen to him in middle school.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughtful words. Here’s hoping both our boys can be accepted for who they are, not expected to fit into a mold.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Gender doesn’t matter to people as long as they live with a different perspective-The thinking that you’ve walked as a human being first and then as male or female.People are realising this and sooner or later,I guess there won’t be anyone in the ground laughing at a boy liking a pink dress or the other way out.

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  15. That’s amazing! The Dad’s response is perfect. It’s just clothes… and children are naturally adventurous and creative. I think it’s great he wants to be like his favorite movie characters. Let him know he needs to put a pair of shorts under his skirt. The girls do it too… less drafty that way.😉

    Having a soon-to-be two year old boy myself I find it consistently disappointing the dress-up options for boys are so limited. He’s not particularly enamored with the idea at the moment but as his Mom I would LOVE to dress him up more frequently! Oh well… maybe once he’s older I can find a few eye-catching dress shirts which he’ll tolerate.

    -Ashley
    http://strugglingtothrive.com

    Liked by 1 person

  16. really glad to see there a people in the world capable of accepting and embracing people for how they really are instead of trying to make them conform to their unrealistic and outdated standards, I hope your son continues to express himself with the freedom he deserves and my heart is warmed by this story you’ve shared with all the world. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. So beautiful. Great entry. It made me smile knowing you enjoyed watching your son wear a dress, and I top of that another father who encouraged his daughter to understand and appreciate choices!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Dear Other Dude at the Playground… – mitzyonherlaptop

  19. Hopefully your son will always be able to express himself in a way that makes him happy. It is so nice to read this story of parents being supportive and compassionate.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. DashaDodge says

    I wanted to give you the respect and let you know I referenced this post in my most recent post. I am not sure if WordPress tells you or not. Your post brought a smile to my face and thought provoked me. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t read that, but thanks so much for reading, replying and re-posting! Means a lot. The story came from the heart. It’s quite validating to have such a great response for peeps.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. momster101 says

    How amazing. We need more people like you and Mr. Dude. What a touching story, it really warmed my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. faystephenson says

    Love it! My son has a good friend who has cut her hair short, wears gender neutral clothes and asks to be called Elliot. I have no care in the world about this, why is it an issue, as do any of the kids, but so many of the adults do 🙁

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Anthony says

    Thank you for sharing this story. All to often kids are not allowed to express themselves and have such understanding parents. Kudos to you and Mr Dude

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Don Williams says

    I so want you, your son, and Other Dude to change the rest of the world to be like you. Thank you. I never really wanted to wear a dress since playing dress up as a little guy is a small mining town in Arizona, but my husband of 36 years wears the best Church Lady Hats to church every Easter. More and more now wear Easter hats ever Easter. It is great celebration of fun, freedoms, and joy.

    DON

    Liked by 1 person

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