My Princess Boy is four years old.
He likes pretty things.
Pink is his favorite color.
He plays dress up in girly dresses.
He dances like a beautiful ballerina.
Not all storybooks arise from a place of fantasy and imagination. Some books are born at the hands of parents who are trying to navigate the world that their child—sometimes a child who doesn’t fit in well—lives in. Mom Cheryl Kilodavis wrote the book, “My Princess Boy” for and about her son, a boy who happily wears dresses to school.
As reported by NPR, there has been a surge in the number of parents bringing their kids into the doctor’s office to address issues of gender identity. While the number of actual cases of Gender Identity Disorder has not increased, what’s remarkable is that the number of parents concerned that their child has the disorder have. The article suggests that increased publicity surrounding the disorder are behind this increase in parental concern.
Is there a legitimate disorder surrounding a basic sense of that exists, yes, but there are also other factors to consider. It may be societies gender-driven toy marketing…little girls are steered towards dolls, cooking, and other gender-role based pretend play toys, while little boys are supposed to gravitate towards masculine-specific toys (i.e. cage fighting sets, boxing gloves, tools for trucks and cars, Power Rangers) that encourage them to behave in manly, sometimes aggressive ways. There are also the cartoons, commercials and other media aimed at kids that reinforce these gender-specific play stereotypes.
While no one can really answer the questions about our society’s views on child rearing and gender, I can say with certainty that kids who do explore opposing gender roles are often the victims of bullying or the targets of negative remarks, and often these are instigated by adults charged with protecting youngsters.
Whether these actions are based on the perceived rights or wrongs of gender-associated behavior or not, ultimately, Kilodavis believes her son should be able to grow up in an environment that practices compassion, even—no, especially— for little boys who wear dresses.
Kilodavis’ book, she says, was written to encourage compassion for children who “express themselves differently” and to be used as a “tool to talk about unconditional love and friendship.” The book is smartly written, since it shares the experience of this mother and her son from the poeple around them.
When the boy is laughed at for wearing a dress, his mother explains to him that some people don’t like it that boys wear dresses, and she frankly admits that “It hurts us both.” With her perspective as a mom who both loves her child, but tries to let him be who he is, even if she doesn’t always understand it allows readers to empathize with what must be a difficult position to navigate.
You can start the discussion about tolerance, friendship and compassion with your child after ordering the book, here.