Your son wears a dress once in a while. Or, maybe it’s every day. So what? Should it really matter to anyone – other than him?

Image credit: Jen Anderson Shattuck, Facebook

Maybe your own son doesn’t prefer the comfort (or beauty) of a skirt. Maybe it’s the little boy who lives down the street, your 4-year-old’s best friend or your own BFFs little guy. Whoever it is, you’re totally tolerant and don’t think it’s a big deal.

But, not everyone feels that way. And, when one mum experienced the needless insensitivity (okay, so that’s putting it mildly) she took to Facebook. Mum Jen Anderson Shattuck wrote (on her Facebook page),

“My three-and-a-half-year-old son likes to play trucks. He likes to do jigsaw puzzles. He likes to eat plums. And he likes to wear sparkly tutus. If asked, he will say the tutus make him feel beautiful and brave. If asked, he will say there are no rules about what boys can wear or what girls can wear.”

Shattuck’s young son has been wearing tutus everywhere. She goes on to say that he wears them church, the grocery store, on the train and even in the sandbox. And, this has never been a problem. Not with her, not with her family and not with anyone. Even though some people have questioned her son’s tutu-wearing, the mum admits that it has always been well-intentioned. They’ve listened the questions, answered them and that’s it. That is, until one day on a walk to the park.

As the mum and her son walked a man (mind you, a stranger who they had never met before) approached them. Shattuck writes, “We didn’t know him, but he appeared to have been watching us for some time.” Creepy, right? Unlike the well-intentioned questions they were used to getting, this man’s questions were clearly not from a place of kindness or understanding. They were from a place of hate. Instead of trying to understand why the little boy likes tutus he asked the mum, “Why do you keep doing this to your son?”

Doing this? This was her son’s choice – not a forced decision that a parent made. The little boy loves his tutus, so mum went along with it and supported him. Not only did this man make a point of telling the mum that she was wrong for “doing this,” but he let the child know too. “You’re a boy. She’s a bad mommy. It’s child abuse,” he said to the three-year-old. Child abuse? Hardly. Obviously the mum knew better. But, ignoring this man’s hate-filled words wasn’t easy – especially with her child hearing them too.

Not only did the man verbally accost the mum and boy, but he began taking pictures (clearly without the mum’s permission) and threatening her. Like many of us would do, she called the police. When the police showed up to take the report they complimented the boy on his tutu. Bravo for the police!

The incident may be over, but not for the little boy at the heart of it. Did he feel shame about wearing a skirt? Maybe. Did he feel fear? It seems so. Shattuck writes, “Still, my son does not feel safe today. He wants to know: “Is the man coming back? The bad man? Is he going to shout more unkind things about my skirt? Is he going to take more pictures?”

Image credit: Jen Anderson Shattuck, Facebook

Whether a boy wears a skirt or a girl plays with trucks and toy cars shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter to the child, to the family and especially not to strangers. It’s completely common for children to dress in clothes that aren’t stereotypical for their gender (or play with toys that don’t ‘fit’ the stereotype either). A boy walking down the street in a tutu isn’t something for anyone to be concerned about. But, a grown adult spewing hateful language about it is.

The mum closed her post with, “We know who we are. Angry strangers will not change who we are. The world will not change who we are—we will change the world.”

Oh, and if you’re wondering why this mum didn’t lose it when the man approached her and her son. Why she didn’t fight back, use equally as angry words or do something worse, she responded to a question on her Facebook page asking just that.

What was her answer?

“I thought about it. I wanted to. But I had a choice: I could teach my son that we lash out and make violent, unkind choices when we’re angry, or I could teach him that we defend ourselves firmly but with kindness. I believe it’s because I made the choice to stay calm that he has been able to move past this incident so quickly and with so few emotional repercussions.”

Bravo mumma, what a great role model you are for your kids!


Belinda's a passionate advocate for community and connection. As the founder of the Mum Central Network she’s committed to celebrating the journey that is Australian parenthood. Mum to two cheeky boys, and wife to her superstar husband, they live a busy but crazy lifestyle in Adelaide. Great conversation, close friends and good chocolate are her chosen weapons for daily survival. Oh, and bubbles. Champagne is key.

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