'I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear.'
When people ask Jen Anderson Shattuck's 3-year-old son about the sparkly tutus he likes to wear, he says they make him feel beautiful and brave.
He wisely says there are no rules about what boys can wear or what girls can wear.
Jen says people are generally pretty accepting of the tutus ... except for people like the stranger Jen and her son met a few weeks ago. Check out Jen's Facebook post below about what the man said and how she responded:
Here's the full text:
My three-and-a-half-year-old son likes to play trucks. He likes to do jigsaw puzzles. He likes to eat plums. And he likes to wear sparkly tutus. If asked, he will say the tutus make him feel beautiful and brave. If asked, he will say there are no rules about what boys can wear or what girls can wear.
My son has worn tutus to church. He has worn tutus to the grocery store. He has worn tutus on the train and in the sandbox. It has been, in our part of the world, a non-issue. We have been asked some well-intentioned questions; we've answered them; it has been fine. It WAS fine, until yesterday.
Yesterday, on our walk to the park, my son and I were accosted by someone who demanded to know why my son was wearing a skirt. We didn't know him, but he appeared to have been watching us for some time.
"I'm just curious," the man said. "Why do you keep doing this to your son?"
He wasn't curious. He didn't want answers. He wanted to make sure we both knew that what my son was doing---what I was ALLOWING him to do---was wrong."She shouldn't keep doing this to you," he said. He spoke directly to my son. "You're a boy. She's a bad mommy. It's child abuse."
He took pictures of us, although I asked him not to; he threatened me. "Now everyone will know," he said. "You'll see."
I called the police. They came, they took their report, they complimented the skirt. Still, my son does not feel safe today. He wants to know: "Is the man coming back? The bad man? Is he going to shout more unkind things about my skirt? Is he going to take more pictures?"
I can't say for sure. But I can say this: I will not be intimidated. I will not be made to feel vulnerable or afraid. I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear.
The world may not love my son for who he is, but I do. I was put on this earth to make sure he knows it.
I will shout my love from street corners.
I will defend, shouting, his right to walk down the street in peace, wearing whatever items of clothing he wants to wear.
I will show him, in whatever way I can, that I value the person he is, trust in his vision for himself, and support his choices---no matter what anybody else says, no matter who tries to stop him or how often.
Our family has a motto. The motto is this:
We are loving.
We are kind.
We are determined and persistent.
We are beautiful and brave.
We know who we are. Angry strangers will not change who we are. The world will not change who we are---we will change the world.
Jen's Facebook post has been met with an outpouring of support since she posted her story.
It's been shared over 51,000 times, and the comments have been empowering and supportive overall. Sure, there will always be haters. And yes, tutus are frilly, sparkly garments often associated with girls and princesses, sugar and spice and everything nice. But is there a rule that says boys can't also love those things? Nope.
Jen's not alone in her open-minded approach to her kid's self-expression. Charlize Theron was recently criticized after her son was photographed dressed as Elsa from "Frozen," but she supported his choices just like Jen did.
Kudos to Jen (and other parents like her!) for encouraging this awesome display of self-expression. And kudos to her young son for not letting small-minded people get in the way of his desire to express himself!