When I arrived at the preschool to pick up Hal this afternoon, a dad in the hallway informed me that Hal was wearing a pink tutu. Perhaps he thought this would faze me. It did not. I have a long history of little boys in frilly dress-up.
When I reached the half-door of the classroom, it looked like there had been a fabric explosion. A little boy, not Hal, was strutting about the room in a long gauzy green dress. Another boy was struggling with a hot pink tutu. Yet another was in a blue number.
A little girl in a pale pink dress and a cow head approached me at the door. She explained that her mom (who was not present) had let her wear her Halloween costume and patted the soft horns on her head.
“Are you a cow princess?” I asked her. She nodded and beamed with delight.
I hadn’t yet found Hal. The teacher was sitting against the wall, looking slightly apprehensive. “We are playing dress-up and they can wear whatever they want. That’s what he chose to wear.”
I followed her gaze and found Hal on the floor in a fairly unremarkable dress, looking worried.
“Hal, you look absolutely stunning but we need to go to church. Can you take it off and get your shoes back on, please?”
He smiled broadly and proceeded to talk to me about all the various dress-up options. I noticed that the only children wearing the boring “boy” dress-up uniforms were… girls. And if all the boys weren’t wearing dresses, I’m pretty sure it’s just because there wasn’t enough to go around.
Hal doesn’t have a lot of experience with dress-up dresses. Daryl, on the other hand, lived in them for quite some time at around the same age. His sister had a chest full of them. He coveted them, hoarded them, tried to sleep in them. He thought dresses were the best thing in the world.
One memorable Sunday before he was potty trained, he quickly dressed himself for church. Unbeknownst to me, he had taken off his diaper and donned a pair of ballet pantyhose instead. When I came to pick him up from the nursery after the service, the lady explaining his accident to me was looking at me very strangely. Since most kids his age couldn’t dress themselves, particularly not in something as difficult as pantyhose, she had assumed I had done it. That was a rather awkward moment.
As Hal and I left the school today, he told me how much fun it was to try on dresses and how much he’d like to have some at home. I agreed that it was fun to dress up. I’m not worried about my son and I am grateful that his school does not enforce strict gender stereotypes when it comes to playtime. Donning a fluffy dress doesn’t make a little boy confused or gay. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s secretly a girl inside. It simply means that, let’s face it, the fluffy dress is a lot more fun than the police uniform. Unless the uniform comes with a gun. Or maybe a sword. Daryl took the best of both worlds when he infamously ran around my brother’s house in a Disney princess dress with a plastic sword shoved down the front. I believe he called himself a “Ninja Princess”.
“Mommy,” Hal said as we approached the car, “I want you to wear some dress-up. I mean real play dress-up, but not little. Big. For you. Not a real dress, a dress-up one. I would like that.”
“Ok, Hal. We’ll have to see about that.”