Brace yourselves - another 'Mommy' post. This one concerns my five-year-old son.
For those who don't know me or my family, I have a four-year-old daughter and the aforementioned son. Both have taken dance lessons for years. Both are friendly, attention-loving goofballs. We encourage creativity and letting them do things they enjoy. It should come as no surprise that they have dress-up trunks with girl and boy appropriate costuming in them and occasionally they'll wear stuff from each other's stash. Innocent playtime; they think they're being silly and making everyone laugh.
A few days ago, I was visiting my grandmother with my son. She had picked up a tutu for my daughter. While she was showing it to us, she turned to my son and said, 'Gee, you'd look cute in it.' My son took the challenge, getting into it and doing some spins, making both me and my grandmother laugh. I snapped a picture on my phone and posted it to Facebook.
My son - and daughter - always want to look at pictures of themselves when I take them. He looked at the one of him in the tutu and laughed. 'I look so silly, Mommy.' I agreed with him, as did many of my friends and family who posted comments on the picture. A picture of a five-year-old, being goofy and having fun.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees a picture that way. There were a few negative comments left and finally I was asked to take the picture down. The person who requested that it come down did so because they feared bullying. If someone my son goes to soccer or plays with in any social setting sees it, they might make fun of him. They argued it was going to be hard enough with him being a dancer without adding to it. Eventually I relented and made the picture private.
While I changed the settings, it made me think about my son and what kind of message it would send to him if he knew what I was doing. Would he think it wasn't ok to be himself because of what others might think? That what everyone else thought was more important? Aren't those who can overcome society norms the very people we look up to as extraordinary? Why would I want to stifle that in my own son?
As of now, he doesn't know his picture is no longer up on my Facebook page. He hasn't asked to see it again and I haven't mentioned it. I'm afraid of what will happen when he finds out. What will I tell him? That some people are so close-minded they can't understand the joy he brought to his great-grandmother? That there are people who are afraid of being themselves, so they hide in the safe confines of what society tells us is normal and dislike anyone who ventures outside those comfort levels? Or maybe I'll tell him the world just isn't ready quite yet for his brand of extraordinaire.