I absolutely love reading inspirational stories on Facebook and get a fabulous sense of righteousness when I share an exceptionally uplifting post. It happened recently with a story about a young boy and a tutu (and I wasn’t the only one, apparently – with over 50,000 shares at the time of writing). If you happened to miss the original post you can read it here. For those who aren’t on Facebook (I am never sure whether I should salute or scoff at you people) it is basically the story of a 3 year old boy who wears a tutu wherever he goes, and the incident that prompted the post was a horrible man approaching them, taking photos, telling the boy what an evil mum he had and telling the mum what a child abuser she was – in short being an all round douche bag. The police were called. The boy is now scared and the mum angry. They’ve felt the need to share themselves publicly on the internet and have probably now opened themselves up to a whole new world of hurt despite the outpouring of loving comments on Facebook.
My knee jerk reaction to this story was outrage at the guy handing out hate to a mum and her cute son in a tutu, and also a staunch resolution that should my boys feel the need to wear such a thing I would support them whole-heartedly.
A chance conversation with one half of the Two Wise Oracles from the Western Land Over the Sea (also known as mum and dad in England) soon got me to thinking about this a bit more – and as usual with any heated topic there are way more than tutu sides to this story.
Being a parent of two toddlers I am absolutely certain that given their own way one would not wear clothes at all and the other would wear his armbands everywhere. Mr 2.5 is currently in the stage of getting ‘dressed up’ (thanks Playschool – if you hadn’t given me so many hours of peaceful time to eat and shower I would be having a few choice words) and he often undresses himself from the outfits we have chosen to don one of his brother’s babygrows or his Ironman wetsuit – demanding that this is how he is going shopping today. Yes it’s cute. Yes, sometimes I of course relent and we go to the park with him looking an absolute treat. Yes – I love seeing those ‘parenting win’ photos online of the dad and the daughter in the supermarket with matching superhero capes. Yes – it’s adorable on social media but is it really practical in the actual, real, social world we live in?
Is it actually very sociable in real life to let our kids stand out from the crowd in such a grand fashion? Kids can be the meanest of all of us – still having to learn our social mores and rules – is it fair of us to let our little ones throw themselves under the bus without trying to steer them on to the safety of the sidewalk first? Kids need friends and kids like to be liked – it’s not world changing or groundbreaking but it’s a hard job growing up, and surely as parents it’s one of our jobs to make it as easy as possible. Having friends is fun and if the kid in the tutu is being given a hard time by the grown ups then his peers are probably going to follow suit.
The post also talks about how this adorable little boy says he feels when he wears a tutu – he feels beautiful and brave. The thing here is that we all know that toddlers’s feelings absolutely cannot be trusted. (you’ve all seen the ‘Reasons My Son is Crying’ page right?) They don’t even know what they want half of the time and they definitely don’t know what is good for them. Am I going to let my 2 year old put out real fires as it makes him feel like Fireman Sam? Nope. His imagination will do him just fine. Am I going to let him play with the knives in the kitchen? Nope because he could get hurt. OK maybe comparing knives to tutus might seem a bit extreme but we all know the old sticks and stones adage that absolutely does not ring true in real life. It’s those pesky emotional scars and nasty words that take the longest to heal.
Of course we need to let our children express themselves but we need to provide a safe environment where they can learn about the world at their own pace (and not through some crazy angry guy at the park).This lovely mum talks about how she will not let anyone intimidate her son and what he wants to wear (ouch I do that to mine on a daily basis) and how she will love her son for who he is and shout it from street corners. She says that her family know who they are and angry strangers will not change who they are. Her family will change the world.
It is so admirable to teach our little ones that they can change the world – but maybe it might be better to hang on until they can carry the weight of that world on their little shoulders first.