My son loves playing dress up. He’s almost 2 and his imaginativeness is shining through. He loves wearing hats of all sorts (included plastic buckets, and baskets, and wigs (as we’ve seen before in pictures), capes (made from scarves or other bits of fabric), and sunglasses. I haven’t yet gotten him many other dress-up items, but I think since it’s Halloween time, we will head on over to Value Village soon and pick up a few other play options.
Today, at daycare, when I picked him up, there were many kids digging in the pretend play box. And one little girl had put on this fancy princess dress and was wearing it around. Potamus was so glad to see me, and we did a quick 30 second snuggle, and as I was asking the teachers about his day, one said to me “he wants to wear that dress,” pointing toward the little girl. “He’s always asking to wear it.”
And my response was, “oh, let him wear it. That’s totally fine. He’s at such a sweet age, and playing pretend is good for him. He’s not old enough to be made fun of for wearing a dress, yet.” And they nodded their heads and laughed along with me, since my tone was light and cheery.
But I meant it.
And I have so many swirling thoughts about it all.
The first, is, that this is a phase. That my child loves all things dress up, and I want him to have the full range of exploration imaginable. And my second thought was horrified, not that he would be wearing a dress, but that he had been asking to wear a dress and they hadn’t let him. My baby, unable to play pretend in a way that he has wanted. Which makes me question the underlying foundation of the daycare (which is otherwise doing great), because I’ve been not teaching hard-line male gender stereotypes, and would hate if he was being subtly or not-so-subtly pushed into a certain way of play, at such a tender age. Also, it wasn’t that long ago in history where little boys (up until age 6 even) were dressed in dresses to keep them ‘sexless’ and innocent for as long as possible. Or for fashion or other reasons, like practicality when not wearing a diaper!
But then my thoughts flicked toward the longer term future, at the unknown of what Potamus’s true gender identity will be. Perhaps he’ll embrace traditional male gender stereotypes, or perhaps he’ll be a “boy who loves girl things” like CJ at Raising My Rainbow, or perhaps he’ll tell me that he is actually a she, or that he loves boys, or that he wants to wear rubber boots to school everyday (true story, my friend’s son did that for a good long time). I don’t know, but I will love him no matter, and will encourage him to be who he is, no matter what.
I hadn’t thought about him being pegged into a gender role so soon, and hope that the conversation with his teachers, for the minute, allowed a little more freedom for him to get to experience pretend play as his sweet little toddler self, without the teachers worrying that they might get in trouble for letting him wear a dress. Because, I could see that some parents may not want their kid to play dress up that way, but I don’t mind. He can wear a dress if he wants to. Or fairy wings. Or a crown. Or a pirate costume. Or a basket on his head.