My son likes to wear skirts.
I'm totally behind this. Skirts are easier for Sam to get on and off than pants, which makes toilet training much easier. They provide an elegant solution to the issues presented by "forwards" and "backwards," which, at three years old, are advanced concepts. My only clothing objections are to combinations that are painful to look at: multiple shades of pink, or an overabundance of flowers. As Bay Area parents, my wife and I are committed to ignoring gender expectations as much as possible. So you can imagine my surprise when, one morning as I was brushing my teeth and the kids were getting dressed, I overheard Zoe tell Sam that most boys don't wear skirts.
When I heard this, I thought my wife had given in to The Twinge: the feeling we get whenever Sam wants to leave the house in a skirt. We promised ourselves we wouldn't give in to The Twinge, and I was upset that Zoe seemed to be doing just that. I'd been enjoying Sam's effect on other parents at the playground or the grocery store, as they stumble over pronouns. Parenting is hard, and one gender curve ball was enough to make my entire day.
But Zoe's motives weren't Twinge-based. It's fine to let Sam dress how he wants, she explained, but letting him march out the door without any knowledge of what attitudes were on the other side of that door leaves him unprepared for the moment when, in kindergarten or first grade, someone makes fun of him for wearing that skirt. Which will definitely happen. There's no way it won't. In my politically-correct zeal, I had completely missed this.
Sam is a sensitive kid. It's my belief that sensitive boys grow up to be men who don't start wars, cause major banks to fail or disrespect women. Allowing Sam to wear whatever he wants is only one part of helping him keep his sensitivity. Preparing him to meet the ideas, notions and people who would do away with it is another part. And that part is much, much harder.
With a Perspective, I'm Jesse Loesberg.
Jesse Loesberg is a writer and exhausted parent in Oakland.