The other day, the Today Show posted a picture of a little boy with lovely, long locks who had been teased (and eventually cut his hair for Locks for Love), and asked for folks opinions.
I usually make a point of not reading comments on polarizing stories like these, knowing all to well how I just end up with a horrific combination of head & heartache. This case was no different. While there were many people offering sympathy, empathy and general sweet words toward the boy and his family, many people admonished the family for allowing this child to be bullied.
Apparently, the child expressing his individuality in a non-harmful, non-threatening way was the one at fault here. Not the bullies who clearly weren’t taught tolerance and acceptance (or hell, even politeness). No. More folks than I cared to count lambasted the little boys parents for letting him grow his hair, and essentially forcing him to be bullied.
Other people had issues with the fact that this boy was blurring gender lines in a way that clearly made them uncomfortable.
Boys should be boys and shouldn’t look prettier than girls. Just play football, biking, boxing, etc. and leave the glamour part to girls.
just put a dress on him and call him Nancy!
Don’t like it, I have 3 boys and I think that the parents need to stop using him for their own personal gain. Cut the hair and return him back to looking like a little boy.
Yes, but I have to say—he looks like a little girl with all that long hair.
I don’t like this. I don’t care if his locks were donated to a charity. He’s a boy & what’s wrong with being a boy? Don’t f— the child up to satisfy your own liberal BS views! I feel sorry for the boy. Imagine the ridicule he received at school. It sickens me as a mother with a son of my own. I would never have done that to him! ADORABLE? I think not!!!
My heart cracks a bit every time I read comments like these. Maybe I take it personally because I have a son with long hair. I’ve written about it before – how he loves his long hair, and how society has perceived him as different or even mistakes him for a girl (and yes, at 5, he still gets that on occasion…)
And maybe I take it personally because I now have a 5 year old who…seemingly out of nowhere… has started becoming more concerned with what others think of him. When I wrote about my precious 3 year old and his curly locks, I noted that he liked his hair that way, and never made any indication otherwise. He never mentioned what others thought at all.
But now? Now he’s growing up and things are changing.
I hear doubt creeping into his voice when he makes certain choices, or when certain things happen. The other day we had gone on a bike ride and he tumbled. As he got up and dusted himself off, he pointed to a group of men on the street and asked me “Did they laugh at me when I fell?”
My heart stuttered and I immediately shook my head no. But his eyes kept sliding back to them, unsure of my response.
This past week we’ve been on vacation and have been pretty active. It’s been hot and I encouraged EZ to tie his hair back (like me. like dad.) so he didn’t get sweaty on his neck…after all, rain forests can get pretty steamy.
He turned to look at me once I piled his curls into an elastic. “Are people going to make fun of me for my ponytail?”
“No way, bud,” I reassured him, knowing in my heart I couldn’t exactly give him 100% on that promise, but hoping that I could count on humanity to, you know, prove itself for once.
Thankfully, all was well. Despite a few folks mistaking him for a girl (which, surprisingly [or not] doesn’t bother him in the slightest), nobody commented on his hair.
But what kills me is that my confident young son is taking cues from those around him (be it from school, the playground or just keen observation when walking around town) that you can be judged by others for even the slightest of differences. We teach him to be strong and comfortable with his choices, and to change them when they don’t suit him any more (trust me, when you have to deal with thickly dreaded curls on an almost daily basis will frequently find yourself offering hair cuts…only to be continuously rebuffed. So much for pushing my “liberal bs views”).
So when posts like the one from the Today Show pop up in my feed and I find myself reading the comments, I can’t help but grit my teeth and steel my heart, knowing that my son’s worries are pretty much justified, and wondering just what I can do beyond teaching him to be confident and proud of who he is.