Yesterday I overheard a group of children talking to each other in the cubby room about their thoughts on boys wearing skirts or dresses. I was surprised to hear that many of the children said that boys can’t wear skirts. One child said that boys can wear skirts. In response, a child said, “No! Boys can’t wear dresses because people will point and laugh at them!” I knew that we needed to talk about this more so I brought a friend to circle this morning…
Nick joined us wearing a purple tutu! Our conversation that followed was quite long. I recorded it during circle and transcribed it this afternoon. I chose to include the whole conversation in this blog because I think there are so many important pieces and ideas here. We will use this conversation to continue this work in the future. As you are reading, what stands out to you? Let us know in the comments!
Alisha: Nick came to our circle to tell you about something that happened at his school. One day he got to school and this is what he was wearing- Overalls, his button up shirt and his beautiful purple tutu and a ribbon in his hair. He was so excited to show everybody his tutu. He had been wanting to wear this tutu to school and he finally did. So he was very happy and smiling a lot. So he walked into school and guess what someone said to him?
Alisha: Someone said, “Boys can’t wear skirts!”
Sarah Lu: That seems like a mean tone of voice.
Alisha: How do you think that made Nick feel? Raise your silent candle if you have an idea…
Kids (a bunch yelled out): Sad!
LD: Sad and nervous
AB: Sad and nervous
Alisha: Is it true that boy can’t wear skirts?
BS: It’s not true! Yes they can!!!
LD: They can wear skirts!
SH: In my head I was like, “Yes they can!”
Alisha: You don’t think that’s true. LD said Nick would feel nervous. Why would Nick be nervous?
LD: He would be nervous that people would point and laugh.
Alisha: That’s not really fair to Nick. I believe that people should be able to wear whatever they want. Anybody can wear what they want. I think boys can wear dresses, or skirts or pants or shorts or overalls or anything they want. And I think girls can wear dresses or skirts or pants or shorts of overalls or anything they want.
SH: Like in the swimming pool if there’s a shark slide and a person was going down that slide and his friend said, “Hey! You aren’t allowed to go there because you were afraid last time!”
Alisha: That’s kind of a type of teasing too.
SH: Yeah there was one time there was slide with a shark and I was very scared and I didn’t want to get close to it.
SL: Did people laugh?
SL: No. But were you nervous that they might?
SH: Yeah, kind of.
LD: And last time when I was in a pool there was these two whale heads and I was too scared and then these guys point at me and laugh at me and I was sad and nervous.
Alisha: Raise your candle if someone has ever pointed and laughed at you and it made you feel sad and nervous like LD.
SH: I’ve had someone laugh at me, but I wasn’t nervous. Or sad.
Alisha: How did you feel?
Alisha: That’s another way you might feel if someone pointed and laughed at you.
LD: I also felt mad. It made me feel like I wanted to beat up all of them. But I wouldn’t because the lifeguard might see.
Alisha: So someone teased you and it made you feel like you wanted to beat them up.
Sarah Lu: You wanted to lash out at them.
Alisha: Would that help? I think that it could make the person even more mad if you actually hurt their body. I don’t think it would help them learn.
NL: EB and AB and BS.
Sarah Lu: Do you feel safe around those people?
NL: I laugh with EB and AB.
Alisha: Raise your silent candle if you know anyone who is a boy and wears skirts or dresses…
(Half the children raise hands)
Alisha: Wow, a lot of us do! So that means a lot of boys wear skirts or dresses. Raise your silent candle if you know girls who wear pants.
(everyone raises hand)
SH: Of course I do, everyone does!
Alisha: So we all know people of different genders who wear skirts and pants!
Katee: My skirt has shorts in it!
BS: I have one like that!
VH: I even wear shorts.
SL: My pants have a shirt on them
Alisha: like Nick with his overalls.
Alisha: I have shorts under a dress too! For some people pants or shorts are more comfortable and for some people dresses or skirts are more comfortable. What do you think Nick should do at school so people know it is okay? He really wants to wear the skirt again but he’s a little nervous that people will point or laugh at him.
NC: I think Nick should wear pants over the skirt.
SH: Yeah because then he would still be wearing it.
Alisha: But Nick likes how the skirt looks on the outside. He likes how beautiful it is and especially when there is music on he likes to spin, and the skirt also spins.
Sarah Lu: I think clothes are part of how we express ourselves. Just like singing a song or painting a picture. What we wear is part of how we express ourselves. So if we are hiding what we want to wear that doesn’t seem very fair.
Alisha: Yeah, doesn’t seem fair that he would need to hide his skirt that he loves just because someone else thinks he shouldn’t wear it. Do you think that is fair?
ST: Maybe he can wear pink pants.
Alisha: Pink isn’t his favorite color. He loves purple and lots of other colors. He does like pants but he also likes skirts. And he does want to wear a skirt.
LD: How bout he can hide from the person who laughs at him.
Alisha: A lot of you have ideas about how Nick should hide but I’m wondering about ways that he could help other people learn that it’s okay to wear whatever you want.
Sarah Lu: Or ask other people to help him.
BS: He could tell the person that it’s okay!
Alisha: What could he say?
BS: He should say, “Boys are allowed to wear tutus.”
SH: A teacher could talk to him!
NC: He could wear purple pants to blend in.
SH: I just got a great idea! He could put a shirt on pants.
Alisha: He already has a skirt that he loves that he really wants to wear.
Katee: Would that help other children know it was okay to wear whatever you want?
LW: Maybe a teacher could come with him to tell him.
Alisha: Yeah that’s a great idea. Nick could ask a teacher to help him. And the teacher would say, “Of course” and they would both go up to the child who said that and say, “It’s okay that Nick is wearing a skirt. Anyone can wear a skirt.”
Sarah Lu: I’m wondering if you can think of anyone else who he could ask for help.
EB: They could talk to a different teacher.
SH: A friend!
BS: He could ask one of his friends.
Alisha: That’s a great idea. Asking a friend for help.
SH: And what was the friends name?
Sarah Lu : it was Charles.
EP: Maybe he could ask Rose.
SH: That’s what I was going to say!
Alisha: Rose is great at problem solving so that would be a good person to ask! Let me ask this question: If you were at school at Tulip Tree Preschool and you saw someone at school teasing someone about wearing a dress or a skirt, what could you do to help that person?
(room gets loud with children shouting out ideas)
SH: I would say, “Hey! Boys and girls and everybody is allowed to wear dresses at school!”
Alisha: Yes! And you know who’s bucket that would fill?? It would fill the bucket of the person wearing a skirt and it would also fill your bucket!
Sarah Lu: and it might also fill the person who said it.
Alisha: They might learn something new. They might think , “yeah! It’s clothes, anyone can wear anything!”
LD: How bout Nick can sit next to me and then when a bully comes by and says, “No one can wear dresses and skirts,” and I’ll say, “Hey! Everyone can wear dresses or skirts!”
Katee: Yes LD! And that just filled my bucket to hear you say that.
Alisha: Me too! Did that fill your bucket to say that?
LD (smiling): mmhmm.
SH: If someone was teasing something about me, like a different thing, and LD said that to that person, my bucket would be overflowing. (hugs LD)
Alisha: That makes me really happy to know that you stick up for each other and for people who might need it.
Sarah Lu: Yeah I was also thinking that after you said that to the person who wasn’t accepting of Nicks skirt, you could say, “ If you want to play this game with us, you can!” and then maybe that would get them used to playing with someone who is different than them.
Alisha: Yes. Just because someone says something that is unkind, doesn’t mean they are a bully or are a bad person. It just means that they haven’t learned yet. You could teach them!
Alisha: Thank you everyone for this advice. It really filled up Nick’s bucket! Everyone say bye bye to Nick!