I bought my 2-year-old son a tiara for the same reason I bought him the Batman shirt he fell in love with at Target. It’s the same reason I bought him the Sofia doll his friend Katherine has. It’s the same reason we have been ordering him superheroes on eBay for the past month until he amasses a complete collection (don’t worry, kid, Shazam and Black Canary will be arriving on the UPS truck any day now).
I bought him the tiara because he showed a genuine passion for it, and he’s at an age where I think it’s important to nurture his innate curiosity. He’s at an age where he can become absorbed in toys and imaginative play without inhibition—he can delve into something with wide, bright eyes.
I bought him the tiara the same day I took him shoe shopping. While chasing him through the aisles trying to get him to try on a pair of sneakers, the pink tiara sparkling on the shelf caught his eye. He told me he loved it because it was pink and “spawkly” and “bootiful.” I gave it to him to hold, and he finally sat still so I could see if the sneakers fit. They did (thank God), he took off running again, and we eventually went to the cash register and bought the sneakers and the tiara.
I am grateful that I live in a liberal part of the country, and that I’m surrounded by friends and family who don’t think twice about a little boy wearing a tiara, having a small collection of princesses, and declaring pink and purple his favorite colors. I am grateful that he was able to stride through the shopping mall after shoe shopping, proudly wearing the tiara until it fell onto his grilled cheese sandwich and he’d had enough of it.
But let me tell you, if anyone—at the mall, or anywhere—had made a snide comment about him wearing it, I would have socked them in the stomach. (OK, I’m a totally non-violent person, but in this case I would have used my worst words.)
I am sick and tired of boys and girls being boxed into gender stereotypes at such young ages. It infuriates me that I had to feel the slightest bit on-guard when he walked around wearing the tiara, and before that, when he admired the pair of high-heeled shoes at the shoe store.
Right now, he is a blank slate when it comes to the concept of gender. And I want his image of what is beautiful and wonderful to come from inside his soul, not from a manufactured notion of what boys and girls are supposed to like. I know that in just a few years, as he becomes more and more socialized, the concept of gendered clothes and toys will be impossible to avoid, and at some point he’ll feel the pressure to conform.
I have no idea where he will stand then. I most certainly will support him if he wishes to adopt more traditional tastes. I understand the desire to fit in, and that most children end up feeling comfortable with their prescribed genders. In fact, if he’s like most kids, he’ll eventually shun all princesses and tiaras—or at least lose interest in them.
But if he wants to continue loving pink, frilly, sparkly things despite peer pressure to stop, I will support him with all my heart. And if anyone hates on him for doing so, my mama bear instincts will be in full force—you better watch out.
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