What Are You Thinking Allowing Him To Wear A Dress

We sat on the couch in his living room.

I hadn’t seen him in ages, so I was trying to catch him up on our life.

I showed him photo after photo of our family.  

Sawyer hitting a baseball off a tee in the backyard.

Cooper splashing in a pool.

Sawyer holding his fishing pole.

Jamie and I drinking beers at a baseball game.

Sawyer and his cousin playing dress up.

He was smiling and laughing but stopped suddenly.

It’s been a while, years and years since this happened, but if I am remembering correctly, he clutched his heart at the sight of the photo.

The reaction was so obviously negative that my first reaction was to panic.

I studied the last few photos I had shown him.

What was wrong? My eyes darted from side to side, up and down, at each of them.

Was it the beer?

Sawyer not wearing a helmet. I mean it was just in our backyard. It wasn’t like it was an actual game.

Was there a crack pipe or loaded gun in the photo? A naked adult? Was one of my children being harmed and I didn’t know it?

What had I missed?

Had I done something terrible as a mother that I should know about?

I looked at him and said, ‘what’s wrong?’

And very quietly and very calmly he said, ‘This is disgusting. What are you thinking allowing him to wear a dress like that?’

I didn’t know what to say.

I had never been one to limit my child’s play or interests. One day it’s trucks and Legos and the next it’s dress up and doctor.

My three-year-olds attention span was so short that some days it felt like he played something new every 3 minutes. With a costume to match. His current favorite was from Paw Patrol.

But let him wear a princess dress? I didn’t know I had. Or hadn’t.

I guess in the moment I was probably so happy that he was being entertained for 5 minutes by his cousin that he could have worn a full face of makeup and bra and underwear and I wouldn’t have cared.

I am guessing I appreciated the time to relax.

I quickly thought, he must be joking. He’s joking. I mean it’s 2016.

I glanced up at him.

His face told me that he wasn’t joking.

I was at a loss for words.

And let’s be clear here. There have been very few times in my life that I have been at a loss for words.

Did I have to defend my parenting choices? Did I have to defend my son?

Were we really going to get into a debate about sexual preference along with our coffee and show-and-tell?

I hate confrontation. I am bad at it. I immediately wanted to run away. But I had nowhere to go.

So, in true Minnesotan, sweep it under the rug fashion, I said, ‘It was no big deal. He’s just playing dress up. Who cares?’

He said, ‘I care. You are making him gay. I actually can’t think of anything worse.’

With that last comment, ‘I can’t think of anything worse,’ I felt like I had been slapped.

I was stunned.

I felt my face turn hot and red. I wondered if smoke was coming out of my ears.

I sat back and started gathering up the photos.

Putting them into a pile slow and deliberate like.

I needed a second to collect my thoughts.

Now the first thing I want to tell you is I would have no problem with my son being gay. I want that to be crystal clear.

But I also want to tell you where I was at in my life at that very moment.

My older son had just been diagnosed with autism. We found out he was severe. And nonverbal. He was self-injuring. And having very aggressive behaviors.

He refused to eat all but 5 foods. He slept just a few hours a night. He never sat. Not ever. He would try and escape out of our house and run away.  

He had many chronic health issues. We spent our days visiting doctors that promised to help but couldn’t. We couldn’t leave our house. I was learning that he also had anxiety, apraxia, ADHD, sensory issues and OCD.

He was the love of my life and I couldn’t help him. No matter what I did, or tried, I would always come up short.

I was also just learning that his autism was forever. That it wasn’t going away.

So, whether it’s right or wrong, along with life being really challenging, I was also grieving the normalcy of life that he may never have.

I looked down at the photo of my smiling boy. My beautiful, happy, growing, thriving, easy, three-year-old.

I let myself see the photo with fresh eyes.

I saw a boy who acknowledged his cooler older cousin and wanted to play with her.

A boy who knew how to have imaginative play.

A boy who could stop and smile for a photo.

A boy who was in sports and had friends and went to birthday parties.

A boy who could say when his head hurt and when he was sad or happy.   

A boy who couldn’t wait to start preschool.

A boy who spoke. And slept. And had never beat his head on the floor because his socks felt funny or hit me because he couldn’t communicate.

But most importantly, I saw a happy, carefree child who got the privilege of growing up.

I took a deep breath.

I collected myself.

And looked at this man who I realized did not know anything about my life.

I smiled.

And said, ‘If one day Sawyer informs me that he is gay, well, that is not the worst thing that could ever happen. Far from it honestly.

Because that tells me that he has grown up cognitively, emotionally and socially. That tells me he can communicate his wants and needs. That tells me he can advocate for himself. That he can transition to the next phase of life. And that he knows how to be happy.

But most importantly, if he one day tells me something huge like that, well than I did my job right and he knows how loved and treasured he is. And that nothing could ever change that.

I have a son who may never say a word to me. Who can’t tell me if someone hurts him. Who will most likely never grow up or move out. Who will need lifelong care. And you want to tell me that Sawyer being gay is the worst thing that could ever happen.

Good God get some damn perspective in life. I am over here trying to give my son a chance at life and you are mad about a pink dress?’

We packed up our things and left. We never spoke of that conversation again. But I will tell you it has been three years and I’ve never forgotten it.

That conversation changed me. It gave me perspective. It gave me clarity.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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