Our son, Noah, is quick-witted and hilarious with a gigantic, colourful imagination. He’s a preschooler with a future in stand-up comedy. He is also sensitive, playful, and an incredibly loving soul who is by far the most generous in our family.
Noah fell in love with the movie Frozen, specifically with lead character Elsa, two years ago. He owns two Elsa dresses, Elsa shoes, pink Elsa pyjamas, a crown, Elsa and Anna dolls, and more. Recently, he told his preschool teachers that he will only respond to the name “Elsa” when called and he often doesn’t answer me unless I refer to him as Elsa.
My husband and I find this endearing and comical. We love his sense of individuality, freedom of expression, and how comfortable he is in his own skin. He does not care what other people think. Noah well and truly beats to his own drum. But, if society has its way, it will crush this individuality out of him and he will become just as boring as everybody else.
I remember the first day he turned up to school in his Elsa dress. It was a dress-up day, where kids were allowed to wear any costume of their choice. So, of course he reached for his shiny blue dress with silver trim. The majority of parents gave me weird looks and a few congratulated me for having the gall to send my son to school in a dress. While it was meant as a nice gesture, would we congratulate someone for sending their daughter to school in a superhero costume? It was clear that many people had a problem with boys doing "girl" things... but not vice versa. Things only went downhill from there.
Family members asked me if I thought Noah would grow up to be gay. Others asked me why I wasn’t firmer with him and why would I let him wear a dress. He asked for a new Elsa dress or his birthday (the coronation one to be exact) and my own mother’s exact words were “I refuse to buy my grandson a dress for his birthday. If you want to encourage that sort of behaviour, you can pay for it.” I got comments like, “Doesn’t he like boy things like superheroes?”
Of course he does. He also has a Yoda costume and loves Kung Fu Panda. But Elsa happens to be his favourite, and as far as I’m concerned, that is not a big deal.
Interestingly, no one Noah’s age sees any problem with his love for all things Frozen. Preschoolers just like shiny, pretty things and they don’t care what’s supposedly for girls or boys. Now we just need to find a way to protect them from the stereotypes that have been drilled into us and to stop them from losing their gorgeous sense of freedom, expression, and individuality.
Why are parents proud of their little girls who act tough and like boy things, like tools and trucks, yet we scorn boys who are sensitive and like pretty things? Who decided blue is for boys and pink is for girls, but it’s stylish for my husband to wear a pink shirt to work with his suit? I recently heard of a parent who asked her son’s preschool to not play with glitter because it is too ‘girly’. Shouldn’t we all be teaching our kids, from the earliest age possible, to be unbiased and accepting of others, and that girls and boys are equal... Not put into predetermined boxes?
Given the current state of society, where people are marching for gender equality, refugee rights, and global tolerance, it seems we’re forgetting about toddlers and preschoolers and the stereotypes we instil in them from a very early age.
With kids, it’s always about showing and not telling. That’s why my husband and I show them constantly that life is an even playing field. They’ve watched men do ballet and women weight lift. They see Dad do the ironing and Mum drill a hole just as much as they see Mum bake cookies and Dad wash the car.
How you raise your children is clearly your choice, but my decision is to raise my boys (all THREE of them) to be confident, proud, loving, kind, and accepting of absolutely everyone. They will be strong, wise, and polite little gentlemen, but they will also be comfortable with showing emotion and talking about their feelings. They will treat the opposite sex as equals, whether it’s in the workplace or at home, and they will not tell someone else what to like or who to love.
And for now, the way that Noah shows that is by marching down our hallway in his Elsa heels like the little dude he is, and I hope that society never breaks that spirit.
Follow Jennie at @thejenspot on Twitter or Instagram.