Ponytails, Elsa and my 3-year-old son: The Aftermath

About a month ago, I wrote about my son’s expressed desire to dress up as Elsa for Halloween and some of my deep fears and concerns about how this would be received outside the safe haven of our home. I promised a follow-up post to let everyone know how it all turned out, so here it is.

I received so much wonderful support for encouraging my son to dress up as whomever he pleased from the Striving Parent community and I was so touched. Many people shared reaffirming stories about parents who are also trying to raise their children outside the constraints of gender norms, which filled me with courage. Unfortunately, I also heard disheartening stories that confirmed my fears that the world is not always the free and welcoming place I try to create within the walls of our home, which filled me with dread for my son.

Despite the negative tales, I resolved to not let my fears dictate my son’s Halloween choice. We set off together to costume shop at Target and I did my best to leave any internal bias at the front door.  Just as I suspected, my son was really torn between all things superhero and all things Frozen. He was immediately drawn to the Anna dress and exclaimed (spoiler alert), “I forgot Elsa freezes Anna. That’s not nice so I want to be Anna”. Even though my son said for the past month or two he wanted to be Elsa, he changed course last-minute and I just went with it. With the costume in our basket, we proceeded to head toward the check-out when an Iron Man costume caught his eye. “Ooooooh, Mommy! I want to be Iron Man for Halloween!” he exclaimed. Being that he is a typical 3-year-old, my son was not capable of deciding between Iron Man and Anna right there on the spot. He held both costumes tightly in his little hands, and I agreed, somewhat begrudgingly, to buy both costumes and try them on at home before making the ultimate decision. Phase one was complete.

Once at home, my son immediately wanted to put on the Anna dress. I helped him into the costume, and once in it he did a couple twirls and sang “For The First Time In Forever!” at the top of his lungs. My heart burst with happiness for him. Finally, he had space to play out the Frozen fantasy that he’s been so attracted to for the past year and a half. But not three minutes went by before he started pulling at the sleeves, which were that rough, see-through material, and said, “This is really itchy. Take this off!” Later, my husband and I had him try on the dress with a shirt underneath, but he again said he didn’t like how the dress felt against his body. The dress has laid unused in our dress-up box ever since.

Needless to say, my son went as Iron Man for Halloween. Part of me was relieved and another part of me was disappointed. I had done my research and was prepared to battle the world, but my pragmatic son made his decision based on comfort, and I couldn’t fault him on that. It’s ironic to me that his choice had nothing to do with “this is for a girl” but everything to do with “I don’t like how these feels”. So his innocence around gender remains for now. We did dress our daughter as Robin, since my husband went as Batman; a little homage to gender nonconforming choices.

Ultimately, I’m proud of the way my husband and I handled our son’s request to be Elsa and the only thing I would do differently would be to nurture his desire sooner. He wanted to be Elsa for Halloween last year at age 2, and while I thought that was so sweet, I quickly dismissed it and chose a costume for him. I’m on a much more intentional parenting path now and his stated interests will be explored and honored moving forward. That’s what being a striving parent is all about, right?

Thanks again for the support, everyone. I appreciate the community and sounding board that A Striving Parent has become.


4 thoughts on “Ponytails, Elsa and my 3-year-old son: The Aftermath

  1. Alison Zampino says:

    Shannon, I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts. Raising a 2 1/2 year old daughter has me thinking about many of these issues. Thank you!


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