Don’t Trust the Fear – Trust Your Kids!

When Devin was three years old he asked me if he could wear one of my dresses. I gladly helped him into it, along with a pair of tights, per his request.

He danced around the living room watching the dress swirl with him with every move he made. He leapt from the couch and coffee table looking behind as the dress slowly floated behind him like a cape. He was so happy. He loved wearing my small, short, maternity dresses, that fit him just right. I used clothespins and paper clips in the neck and waist to cinch in the measurements to fit him more comfortably. He would say, “Mama! Watch me dance!” He had an authentic love and appreciation for himself which was so inspiring as a new mother.

When my friends would come over, they would respectfully celebrate his love for dresses, commenting on how nicely he danced and how great the dresses looked on him. I am so fortunate to have always had loving, supportive friends who have respected my children when most people would judge. Unfortunately, not everyone in our family was supportive of our choice to allow Devin to wear dresses when he wanted to.

Family warned us that if we “let” him wear dresses he would grow up confused and it would somehow “screw him up” as a person. They were well-intentioned when they encouraged us to buy him more “appropriate” feminine clothing for his gender, like pink collar shirts, or boys button down shirts with Hawaiian flowers. I think some family assumed his intentions were something they were not.

The assumptions that he wanted to “be a girl” just because he wore a dress were far-reaching and exaggerations of Devin’s innocent desire.  I wouldn’t have minded if he wanted to be a girl, and I would have supported him, but Devin loved being a boy! He just wanted to experience the simple, feminine pleasure of wearing comfortable dresses. This authentic desire is often stifled in boys in our culture and blown so out of proportion due to fear. Our family encouraged us to bring him to a psychiatrist to have him evaluated.

I never listened to anyone but Devin and my own heart. I knew that the fear surrounded Devin’s dress wearing was just that – fear! I knew that the only way that I could ever damage my son would be to not allow him to express himself in the way he felt was right for him, even at three years old! I knew that the fear that others had in Devin wearing a dress was just their own issues and that I never had to take their “advice” and bring my son for a psychological evaluation, or make him wear pink colored boy shirts – instead of his beloved dresses.

Listening to my son and respecting his desires in what he has been drawn to over the years has never led me wrong. I trust him fully in his own inner knowing about what is good for him.

Devin wore dresses all day, almost everyday for over four years! We stood by his side and supported his passion for dresses with unwaivering certainty in his wholeness as a person. We helped him on with his tights and zipped up the back of his three favorite dresses for years, with love.

Today, Devin is boy who loves to play video games, build things, shoot his BB gun, ride in his Kayak, create stories and so much more. He has not worn dresses for six years, but if he ever wanted to again, I would gladly support him. I am so happy that he was always able to express himself and I have always trusted him.

We may not know what need is being filled by some of our children’s actions and choices in life. Quite honestly, I do not think it is our business to pry into our children’s minds to try to find out, because in doing so is when we damage them and make assumptions based on others’ fears most of the time. It is my role to support my children’s choices, without judgement.

One thing is for sure, I will always be by my children’s side in whatever they choose to do, or have, or be in life. Unconditionally.

Devin is a joyful, content, whole and healthy person. I am so glad that he was able to truly be *him* and wear dresses for the years that it met a need within him. I will never forget him dancing around the living room, with pure bliss in his eyes, spinning and leaping in total freedom and respect of who he was at that time in his life. I still have his favorite yellow dress, which is now full of holes and little rips from being worn and washed so much over the years. I sometimes take it out of my top drawer as a reminder to never stop respecting, honoring and listening to myself and my children.

On the Unschooling path, it is so important to always remember that one of the major benefits is that our children can be themselves on a level that most children in our culture never get to experience. Always listen to your inner voice and respect your children’s desires and silence the negative, fearful voices of those around you. Turn up the volume on trust, joy and love! Sometimes, boys just want to wear dresses, and It’s All Good!

~Dayna

Comments

  1. I love this post, esp. the line “I never listened to anyone but Devin and my own heart”. Every single parent should live by this rule. My own Devan (now 13 1/2) I breastfed until he was done, which was at 2 years 4 months. Everyone would say “aren’t you done breastfeeding him yet?” I said “No, does it look like I am?” haha Also, my mother was very (and probably still is) against the fact I have always co-slept with my children. I’ve battled with this for a long time. I’ve been told so much that I will “damage them” by never letting them be on their own. I, myself, had to sleep alone. You know what that got me? Anxiety up the wazoo. And to this day, night time is the hardest time for me. Recently my son, who gets bloody noses a lot (and pretty bad ones at that), woke up choking. It was the first time he’d ever had one while sleeping. We finally decided that who cares what other people say. I will no longer lie and say “Yes, they sleep in their own rooms”. We all moved our beds into my oldest son’s room (its the biggest) after a family meeting. No more “oh, we all sleep in the living room because our bedrooms aren’t done yet. We, ourselves, didn’t even know what was going to come next after the living room….would the boys each sleep in the same room or their own? Will they sleep on our floor? Even though we’ve always co-slept, it was always “temporary”. And when we did try to make them sleep in their own room? I’d be so frustrated getting up every hour to put them back to bed. I mean, that’s what everyone else does right? It’s “normal” to sleep in your own room, right? Wrong. Its normal to do what’s right for your family. And now I won’t feel the need to lie or to “pretend”. It feels right, deep down inside. It felt so wrong to keep my kids so far away from us at the most vulnerable time of the day. And besides, we use bedtime to play learning games becuase its fun! Parents need to follow whats in their heart and shut out all the negativity and be proud of who you are. No, you don’t need to run around announcing things that aren’t other people’s business, but you don’t have to be embarrassed either 🙂

    • Jamie, Thanks so much for your comment! We have always co-slept with our children too. I love how proud you are of your personal path. You should be!

      Thanks again for your comment and for visiting my site!

      ~Dayna

  2. Dayna, I truly love your style. I also have been a position where people tried to force their fears and their version of a correct life on my children by pressuring me. My daughter wanted to get married at 18, and my friends and family beat on me about how could I “let ” her do that? I believe that it is her one and wonderous life and she needs to live it her way. I helped her plan and then celebrate this step of unfolding and discovery. Two years later she and the young man divorced, and I held her and helped her to explore her feelings and options as she began to write the next chapter of her life story. Now she has moved out of state and is creating an awesome and exciting urban life I could never have imagined. And once again I am honored to be her friend and anchor as she sails off to create a life only she could dream!

    • Demi, I am so glad that you have always respected and honored who you daughter is! I applaud you for respecting her choices and being by her side, unconditionally.

      Thank you for commenting and for visiting my website.

      ~Dayna

  3. Dayna, did you hear about ‘the genderless baby’ here in Toronto last spring and the huge uproar it caused?

    I was physically sick from reading some of the criticism of this fabulous family who are just as committed to living in harmony and respect with their children as you are, as described in this post. All I could think was “How can parents be criticized, ridiculed and condemned for being so loving and open-minded?”

    I’m so grateful for people like you who are standing up for and encouraging the other radical unschooling families.

    Much love to you!

    • Patti, I hadn’t heard about that genderless baby. I will have to do some research and learn more about it. Thank you so much for your kind words and for visiting my website. I love what I do and I am so grateful to be able to help others on their Unschooling path!

      ~Dayna

  4. Beautiful and inspiring post. My son (who’s three) frequently tells me he wants to dress up as a queen or a princess for Halloween this year, and I encourage him to dress up however he wants. He also says he wants to be a cowboy or a spider, so who knows what he’ll end up doing? There are plenty of people in our family who will have a problem if he wears a dress, but I plan on listening to his desires and what makes him happy and ignoring everyone else, not just on Halloween but for the rest of his life. Like in Jamie’s comment above, I too had family who questioned my breastfeeding my son for so long. He stopped when he was ready, a month shy of his third birthday, and they still think that was “weird” but I would never do it another way. Our children want what they want and need what they need regardless of anyone else’s perceptions, and my son’s needs will always, always trump the opinions of others.

  5. What a joy it is to read your posts Dayna! A neighbours boy used to visit as a 3 year old and always chose the white ‘brides’ dress out of our dressing up box. His spirit was so free, and I loved him especially for being that way…my youngest boy also had moments of trying on makeup and female attire.
    I’m seeing how the natural desire of each one born is so important – it’s like the life force itself calling us forth to live, expand, explore, create! And as such, supporting this in whatever way it shows up is paramount. Our job as parents is to live a happy life along with our kids, not mould them into something we have chosen, or keep them ‘safe’ from themselves or the opinions of others!
    It takes something for us to allow and allow and allow, and so thankyou for being a beacon for others who may be under pressure from outside influences which have us question our own natural loving instincts. It always makes me sad when I see kids being coerced out of their flow, or the missing light in the eyes of a teenager who I knew as a ‘bursting with life’ young child.
    Thank goodness times are changing!

    • Marigold,

      Yes! Times are changing and shifting so fast! More and more people are coming to this life as a means of hope and connection with their children. I love sharing a different perspective with others and helping them learn ways t make their family life better and more full of love.
      Thank you for your comment!

      ~Dayna

  6. Dayna, I am so happy to read this post. My son (2 years) has been asking to wear dresses for the past few weeks. I haven’t done it yet but will now! My 3 year old daughter is very reluctant to share her dresses!! And to be honest I’ve also had some reservations…seems there’s some mental debris that needs to be cleared on my part. Today I put on an apron for him and the first thing he did was ask to go look in the mirror – so cute! He likes to sing ‘I’m a girl’ to a song that she sings…maybe it’s all because he looks up to her so much but hey you are right, who am I to analyse him and make guesses, assumptions and judgements. Thanks so much for sharing this post and helping me open up even more unconditionally.

  7. These are the moments that some people miss in the attempt to live up to some unrealistic idea of societal normalcy. What makes us different is what makes us wonderful. Allow someone to express themselves without judging or changing their actions and life becomes so much easier for everyone. If you can find even one bit of happiness in your life without hurting someone else, I say, “Go for it!”.

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