Three years ago I came across a riddle in a news article. My kids love riddles even though they can rarely solve them. However, once they discover the answer they are quick to ask every adult who sits down at a table with them the riddle. But this riddle was different. When I asked it to them they got it right, but I got it wrong, for a few seconds.
Here’s the riddle. See if you get it right:
“A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate – that boy is my son!”
I am nine years into fathering and there is one social norm expected of me that has been more striking than any other; the clothing my children are dressed in—the colors, cuts, images, material, brand, and origins. All of these attributes contribute to much more than their essential purpose of protecting the body from external elements.
Until my oldest daughter was three, I was regularly reminded of the social messages her clothing communicated—many things that words did not. Explaining our choices of garments was a waste of breath. The clothes my daughter wore were a medium for expressing hers and our beliefs and values around gender identity to adults and children.