A lot has changed about raising children over the years, and parents often find themselves at odds with their parents about what methods are best, from whether babies should sleep on their stomach (never!) to the best time to introduce solid foods and whether or not to pull out a loose tooth. Another common controversy is “appropriate” gender expression, whatever that means. While many parents believe there’s no such thing as gender-specific toys or clothes, the previous generation may hold more binary ideas.
That’s exactly the situation for a poster on Reddit‘s AITA forum who got into a serious argument with her mother-in-law about her 6-year-old son wearing a dress.
“My son is 6 and likes to wear dresses sometimes indoors,” wrote the original poster (OP). “And we just do not care. If he comes out as trans, gay, whatever my husband and I 100% support him and love him the way he is.”
Hooray for acceptance! Unfortunately, the story continues:
“My MIL was planning to stay over for a few weeks before she moves houses,” she continued. “The second day she’s here, my son wears a dress. MIL makes a screwy face and asks my husband what he’s doing out of our son’s earshot. I didn’t quite hear what my husband said but MIL kept a screwy face for the rest of the day but made no more comment.
The OP added, “A couple of days later (yesterday) he wears a dress again. This time MIL turns to our son and says in a very judge-y and mean tone, ‘Why don’t you go put some jeans on? Why do you want to wear a dress?’ He had tears in his eyes and came over to me for a cuddle. He was sad and ashamed. I comforted him and told him ‘Nope you’re fine to wear a dress please don’t worry.'”
Nice job, Mom! The OP asked her mother-in-law for a word in private, explaining that she wants her “kids to love themselves and it’s very important for me and her son to install self-confidence in them. And that I would prefer she stay with her daughter instead.”
The Redditer noted that her husband supported her, but her mother-in-law balked.
“But it’s our house and we take her attitude against our son very seriously,” the mom explained. “This is a judge-free house in that way.”
While the parents feel confident in their decision, reactions from a few other family members led to a twinge of doubt. However, most Reddit commenters backed the parents.
“Protecting your children from toxic, judgmental relatives is important,” one wrote. “It DOES NOT MATTER that it’s grandma. She is toxic and needed to have her eyes opened right there on the spot.” Another commented, “A 6 year old dressing up is so completely normal. She has no reason to make any negative comments. Your house, your family, your rules.”
“Who actually decided who should wear pants and who should wear dresses?” asked a reader. “Jeans don’t make a boy a boy and a dress doesn’t make anyone a girl or gay. But who cares? He will decide who he is and what he wants to wear.”
Yes! We love all of these positive attitudes toward self-expression, especially this one: “Jesus is depicted wearing a dress (and long hair!), Tibetan monks, Greek togas, Spartans, Scots: all wear dresses/skirts. Your MIL needs to chill TF out. Your child will be who they want to be. Now Is the age to be loving and supportive (as you’re being) and not judgmental and condescending. You’re doing a great job, OP!”
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