I love my family and my son. I love being able to work from home and being able to homeschool him. I love a country where I have the freedom to do all that and the freedom to do as I please.
I do not love the judgement that comes from those who don’t know us at all.
Now I’m not talking about someone judging us for our religious beliefs or the way we homeschool. Or even the fact we have an older car and live in an apartment (and believe me – people judge for all that and anything else they can think of.) No, I’m talking about judgement on one thing, a very simply thing, that is honestly driving my husband and I (and my mom!) nuts.
Our son’s hair.
If you’ve followed this blog at all, then you know that our son has long hair. I have long hair. So does my husband. It is our preference and part of our beliefs. Yet no one can spend the scant few seconds that is required looking beyond our son’s hair and automatically assume he is a girl.
“What a pretty girl!” “You have such a cute daughter!” “Make sure she tries out the bikes.”
And the famous “Are you sure you should let your daughter wear things like Batman shirts? Wouldn’t fairies be nicer?”
Politely we correct them – “No, he prefers Batman.” or “Yes, he’s a handsome boy.” We don’t make a big deal out of it – what’s the point?
Now, some people when you use “he” will be a little embarrassed, spend a few more seconds looking beyond the obvious, and apologize and then go on talking to him and us like any normal person. We always say “yeah, it’s okay” and let it go.
An honest mistake is an honest mistake and we understand that everyone gets in a rush and just glances and automatically assumes. We aren’t just going to let people carry on about what a lovely girl he is though, hence the polite corrections (which sometimes people don’t even get.)
Other people? They are angry. Are they angry because they made a mistake and now they’re embarrassed? I have no idea, but I do not see the need to be downright angry.
And I don’t mean they leave in a huff. I mean they get ugly. They become rude, sometimes crude, and sometimes they don’t stop at a smart aleck comment or snide remark. One man actually had the nerve to not only grab our son by the shoulder but declare he was going to “fix” the problem by cutting his hair off.
We’ve had people go “Oh…so when are you cutting it?” with a sharp, nasty tone as they look down their noses and outright sneer at us.
We’ve been told we’re going to make him gay, we’re scarring him for life, we’re bad parents, we’re irresponsible, we’re neglectful, and we’re cruel. We’ve been told we’re sentencing him to an eternity of fire and brimstone.
I think that goes a bit beyond embarrassment to downright nastiness and taking advantage of a situation in order to get your frustrations out on someone else. Just the same as those idiots who like to make comments to breastfeeding mothers.
There is nothing wrong with our son’s long hair. He loves his hair. He loves being like daddy and mommy. He does not want it cut. He does not believe his hair defines him – rather he believes he is special all around. It’s clean, tangle free, and doesn’t even have a split end.
If these people who feel it’s okay to harass us about our son having long hair – or worse, follow us around in stores or on the playground or refuse to allow their own children to play with him (this happened once!) simply over hair – would take a few seconds looking beyond the hair to the entire child, they’d see he’s a boy. He looks like a boy. He’s running about in Spiderman sunglasses, Batman shirt, Justice League shorts and Godzilla shoes. He’s playing at being a robot or dinosaur.
Can girls do all that? Of course. And if he were a girl I wouldn’t care one bit if he wanted to wear Batman shirts and be a dinosaur. But most little girls his age are busy being princesses, ballerinas and fairies. I keep wanting to say “Open your eyes and LOOK!”
Yes, there’s an easy way to solve it. Cut his hair. Make him look like all the other boys. But why? Why should we do something we do not feel comfortable doing to fit in and please everyone else? Why should we cut his hair when he himself isn’t bothered? And kids are cruel – kids repeat what their parents say and we’ve had an older girl make comments directly to him.
Boobear’s response? “My hair is part o’ me. I be me. I be special. You don’t like all o’ me? Dat okay. I don’t need you.”
In fact, he’s probably bothered less than we are. We’ve asked him if he wanted us to cut his hair so people stop mistaking him for a girl – it was a very loud NO! We’ve asked if it bothers him – he said no, it’s not his fault if people couldn’t tell because they can’t see him.
If only we all had that attitude when things like this happen to us.
Having a child with autism has forced us to reconsider those looks we once gave to the parents with the unruly child, or the child in long sleeves in July, and so on. And we both learned long ago that the prettiest person might be hiding the ugliest heart.
So remember when you’re out and about – long hair doesn’t define the child or the parents. It doesn’t define the person. Not anymore than a mohawk automatically means a bad person, or tattoos mean someone is a gang member, or somebody who likes black clothes is a devil worshipper. It doesn’t define someone anymore than the color of their skin does. It’s WHO they are that is important.
If we can’t remember to not say anything at all if we have nothing good to say and to lead by example, if we can’t even manage to look past a little child’s long hair to see the little boy trying to play peek a boo – then what kind of example are we really setting and how can we say we know at all the way to go?
Perhaps, with kids like Boobear leading the way who have the confidence to not be bothered but are still able to ask for help and ask for forgiveness when they do something wrong, we can all learn to make this world a more peaceful place.