Dear Other Dude at the Playground…

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


  1. I’ve always wondered how other parents would react to kids like your son. Personally I think your son made the right move to show who he is and not hold anything back. People these days should be more like him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a stay at home dad to a wonderful two year old son. He challenges me every day and like you I allow whatever brings him joy. It warms my heart to see his complete and utter joy as you did with him and the dress. It was AWESOME to read the acceptance of the other father. Great story! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thought you were going somewhere else. Glad it turned out this way. Wannabe photog that I am. one of my favorites is of my son and two of his friends, one black, one Palestinian and my son who is neither. six years later they are still friends. My point, discrimination of any kind is learned. Kudos to you and the dude.

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  4. that was a really nice response by the other dad. i must admit i wasn’t expecting that. i thought it would be one of those negative remarks that speak on behalf of society in general. kudos to that dad! and kudos to you too for allowing your son the freedom to express his creativity in whatever form he feels like it in the moment. =)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This post didn’t go the way I thought it was. Which is such a relief! I was holding my breath waiting for a horrible comment from the other Father. But I wanted to high five that guy through the screen! Both of you are fabulous examples of doing parenting right!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Christ, I was scared to read this. I honestly thought it was going to be about someone being a complete asshat to a little boy and I was going to have a stroke. Thank you for proving me wrong and telling a tale of parents doing something right. Both dads in this story are winners in my my book.

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  7. We all should try and give our children the freedom to do stupid (according to the so called cultured SOCIETY) things. They should have things to laugh upon when they see themselves in the pictures. Before liberating our children we should ourselves be liberated from these shackles. It was very touching for a father to be so supportive for the choices his son made..You are a great father!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I started reading this and was so worried about where it was going, but I am so happy I was proved wrong. I am so happy to read about an adult accepting another child for being who they are. I hope your son continues to find such joy in wearing exactly what he wants.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This brought tears to my eyes. From the title of your post, I thought this was going to be a rant. It ended up being a wonderful story of such open-minded parenting… the same way I am raising and hope to keep raising my three children. I would hope that I would’ve had a similar response to this Dad… saying something along the lines of, “And isn’t it such a beautiful dress? Maybe you might wanna go compliment him on his dress… I do think it’s such a nice color!”

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  10. I am so glad things went well it was scary there for a second. My son was 4 when my husband and I decided to buy him a tiara for Christmas. I was nervous to ask my husband but he was excited about it too and when my son saw it he placed it on his head and announced to us all that he was a real princess now and we knew we had done the best most fun thing for our baby. Thank you for your story.

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  11. Kudos to the dad for saying something, anything, that makes the girl think and not just knee-jerk reinforcing her. And as for preferences, I think you’re born with them and so there’s nothing to do but go along…..

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  12. Thank you for this. I have twin 4 year old boys, both of whom love to wear dresses. LOVE IT. My wife and I like to think of ourselves as pretty open, progressive people (we’re both actors), but we find this ridiculous fear creep up on us every time our boys go out in public with them. You’d think someone who has had to wear (and even enjoy in many cases) all manner of costumes wouldn’t have any problem with his sons doing it. But the fear is there. The fear of ridicule for them, and, selfishly, the fear of judgement upon us as parents. At some point, I know someone (child or adult) will say something disparaging to them and it will crush them. I know it will crush me, too, because it will confirm my worst fear: that I don’t know what I’m doing as a parent and I’m screwing up my kid. Reading your experience and the experiences of the resulting commenters brings tears to my eyes. It’s just nice to know that I’m not alone in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My boy is 3. His daddy is strictly “girl stuff is for girls” and while I can appreciate that I also don’t see the harm in him trying on my makeup after he watches me use it or wanting to have his nails painted.You can read about my journey on my blog at I’m working on getting some readers but want the overall thing to be more of an advice column.

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  14. Great. Now I’m crying! I just saw Kelly Clarson’s “Piece by Piece” on youtube and just read your post… Guess today’s going to be an emotional one for me…

    Thank you for having the courage to post such a personal part of your life. I’m so glad to read that the other dude was so supportive.

    We need more love in the world. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  15. As some others have commented, I too expected the story to go in a sad direction, but I’m so glad to see there are others with open minds and hearts. Awesome post.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Reading this was such an inspiring experience because it represents the changing world we are living in, and that is truly beautiful. I hope you’re child can experience the blissful joy that comes from self expression everyday of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, so much, for reading and commenting. Ugh…I just wanna hold onto that blissful happiness and expression!


  17. Wearing skirts didn’t magically make my identified-female-at-birth nonbinary child a girl, and I’m really not worried one way or another if it’s going to somehow warp my youngest, because if it couldn’t turn my eldest into a girl, it’s probably not going to do that to him, either, unless he already IS. In which case, I’ll be supportive, because rule number one is Mama Loves You.

    Around here, it’s really, really well tolerated (a city in Oregon). The only time people bat an eye is when he goes all out with an outfit that might include, for example, a pair of penguin pajamas, a tulle skirt, a pair of ladybug rain boots, a batman bathrobe and a fedora. And that’s just because it’s so impressive.

    A relative of a relative asked me recently if he “only wears girls clothes”. While he was wearing a skirt with a spiderman shirt. What I said is that he wears a lot of things. What I should have said is, “He wears clothes. They’re his clothes. They’re not boy clothes or girl clothes, they’re just CLOTHES.”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I would like to say Thank You! Thank you for bringing children up in a way that allows them to be who and what they want to be. Thank You for not being another straight parent who brings there child up with simple do’s and don’ts. It is great to see that maybe the next generation may have some hope after all. I my self have 2 sons and my youngest (2 yr old) wanted a baby like the other little girl had ( a real life looking doll), so I went and got him one. It made me so proud how happy he plays with that doll. I know its not the same as a dress, however; It’s all apart of active learning and role play, which is what makes the child their own individual personality as they grow. Thank You again xx

    Liked by 1 person

  19. My now-8-year-old son REALLY wanted the lavender-with-birds-and-flowers Littlest Petshop (I think that’s the name of the show?) lunchbox a couple years ago, but was already aware that it was “girly”…. I looked him straight in the eye and asked him if it was his favorite one on the shelf, to which he said yes. I pointed out that a dear friend of ours, father of one of his godmothers, has never been seen in my son’s lifetime without purple somewhere on his body, and that the most famous bird artist of all time was a man, as have been most master gardeners… so if anything, that lavender lunch box with birds and flowers was a MASCULINE item from that perspective. He smiled so brightly and carried that lunchbox until it broke sometime the following school year and now has some random superhero one instead. They’re kids, they love what & whom they love and that LOVE is the important part. Carry on with the awesomeness, parents of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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