Dad Supports His Son Wearing A Dress To High School And Makes Us All Want To Be Better Parents

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legs in dressIn my former life working in child advocate law, I sometimes dealt with parents that did not have their kid’s best interests at heart. Years of this work left me jaded, but my icy soul thaws a bit whenever I come across a story of a parent who truly supports his child for who they are.

Doug Gertner wrote a thoughtful piece published recently by the Huffington Post in which he chronicles his teen son’s fashion choices through the years and his son’s recent decision to wear a sundress to the second day of sophomore year. I love reading about parents supporting gender fluid children, but what struck me about Gertner’s essay was how he notes that the struggle for acceptance in high school, by yourself and others, is universal:

These are the types of choices he’s making, and as a parent I am strongly compelled to leave well enough alone and let my son navigate his own course. That this path leads through the halls of a big urban school is something he must’ve calculated. That he’ll be in the company of familiar friends, and under the eye of new teachers and administrators, may have figured into his calculations. And when I check my own feelings, I need only recall myself as a high schooler, seeking attention and acceptance.

Finally, story about a father and his son that doesn’t make me want to throw things at my computer. Gertner acknowledges the feeling of wanting to protect your children from potential difficulties while respecting that his son needs to have the ability to make his own decisions as he grows ever closer to adulthood.

While I dressed according to traditional gender lines, I can relate to the challenge of representing myself through clothing in high school. I wasn’t one of those kids who had the cash to blow on a $70 Abercrombie & Fitch sweater and thereby achieve instant status points. My own high school style was inspired by movies like Clueless and The Craft, which is to say it was all over the place. There are so many factors to consider- is it trendy, will I look fat in it, does it comply with dress code, what will my friends think.

One Christmas my mom bought me this awesome pair of shiny pleather pants from Hot Topic that I had been talking about for months. She thought they were hideous and worried that I would be laughed at, but she understood enough about self esteem and self expression to get them for me. They were stiff, very sweaty and I squeaked when I walked through the halls, but I loved those pants. I loved her even more for understanding why I wanted them.

My kids are still young, but I know that soon enough they will start expressing opinions over their own clothes that go beyond dragging a Mickey Mouse shirt of out the dresser and demanding to put it on. With awesome parents like Gertner out there inspiring parents like me to love their kids for exactly who they are, I can’t wait to see what they will want to wear next.
(Image: Vladimir Arndt/Shutterstock)