Thursday, November 12, 2009

My son wears high heels. Yay

My 3 year old son, Caleb, and I, recently had a typical encounter. When I say typical, I mean the encounter was typical of many parent-child encounters/debates

Encounters that usually take place prior to stepping out into the public arena

Encounters that I too had on many occasions with my parents

This particular encounter occurred on a non-descript Shabbat/Sabbath morning before shul/synagogue. We were at home. Getting dressed. Wearing our smart, presentable, 'Sunday best'.

Okay, I was dressed in my Sunday best. The struggle was getting him to understand that when going out in public, especially to the synagogue for Sabbath prayer services, one should dress appropriately. He should dress like me. Black pants. Long sleeved shirt.


When people use the word 'appropriately', it sometimes means 'not naked' but it (actually) usually means 'like everyone else'

In this situation it refers to the latter

My son insisted on wearing short pants that resembled swimming trunks. Long Spiderman socks, pulled up to his knees. A T-shirt that did not even match itself. And, his high heels

He loves his high heels

They are a pair of smart, boy's black shoes with a typical heel at the back. He calls them his 'boy's high heels'

And the encounter went something like this

Daddy: You can't wear that. It looks ridiculous
Caleb: I love these clothes. I love these shoes
Daddy: But you can't leave the house looking like that
Caleb: It looks cool. I like it

That went on for a while. I eventually gave up, realising that giving my kids a healthy breakfast was more important than having a fight over what Caleb was wearing

We went to the synagogue. Caleb wore HIS version of 'Sunday best'. And I sat in the synagogue, watching him, feeling slightly embarrassed.

I replayed the 'encounter', over and over, in my mind. And then I got into an internal debate

I reckoned:

  • He is fully clothed. 'Appropriate' for prayer services.
  • But he looks ridiculous.
  • But he looks extremely cute too
  • But what bout the 'encounter' we had before leaving home?
  • I really did not want him to go out looking like that
  • But this is what he wanted to wear
  • These were clothes that he liked
  • This was how he wanted to express himself
What's a concerned father-with-a-dress-sense to do?

My biggest concern before leaving the house, and while sitting in the synagogue, was:


I was not thinking: 'What will people think about him'

My concern was that people would think that I did not know how to dress my kids 'appropriately'. My concern was that people will judge me. My concern was that people will accuse me of being an inadequate parent. My fear was that my EGO would come under attack

And I recalled the same fears my parents had - every time I left the house with my favourite ripped jeans, or worn-out shoes.

It took me a while, but I started to realise that I should not confuse my ego with childrens' desire to express themselves

My kids dress 'appropriately'. I do not need to fight/argue with my kids when all they want to do is express themselves, albeit through an offensive dress sense.

THESE types of parent-child 'encounters' are not worth the fight
These types of arguements only serve limits my childrens' self-expression. I do not want to limit their creativity to my ego-based fears of other parents' criticism

My ego can handle a pair of boy's high heels


  1. We can learn so much from their total ignorance to 'expectations'. Kids are so refreshing. Funny article.

  2. The question as to what is 'appropriate' dress, is of course, totally subjective, and there-in lies the answer. It's not only subjective on an individual basis, but also subjective on a collective or communal basis. So yeah, 'appropriate' means 'like everybody else', but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It just represents a set of values that you have chosen to subscribe to, based on a given rule set. Does you little angel give a hoot about your choices at this stage of his life? Well, we all know the answer to that one. The question you really should be asking is this: "Do I want to impart this value onto my son?" and face that question off with your desire to teach your son the value of "freedom of self-expression". The winner will depend on the context, so in this case, freedom of self expression might win the day, but here's another scenario where "appropriateness" would more than likely rule: 'What would happen if it were your teenage daughter, and she wanted to express herself in ways that you deemed "inappropriate" at a party she was going to? You get my point.

    Great Article BTW, keep it up


  3. Perhaps the lesson out of this is that your son should, especially at this age, do what you tell him to do?