Posted by Nancy S.
It's the moment that makes every parent cringe when it happens
to them. The moment when your son wants to dress up as a girl for
Halloween. It's not so much homophobia that makes you wince, but
the fear of how to handle your response in a way that shows love,
understanding and helps your child avoid total humiliation in the
face of his peers. Because let's face it, in elementary school,
it's rarely acceptable for boys to dress as girls, even on
Halloween. Whatever the reason this moment makes you uncomfortable,
the way it's handled can be a life-changing experience, for your
child and for you. We all want to handle this one well so that our
kids will be least affected.
It happened recently to a friend of mine, who so generously
shared her story and gave me permission to write about it. When she
asked her son what he wanted to be for Halloween, he replied,
"Princess Leah from Star Wars!" She immediately flashed back to
Halloween 2008, when he dressed as Kirby, the quirky character in a
hand-held Game Boy device. She worked tirelessly on his costume
that year. Creatively, she fashioned a homemade outfit in which he
could move seamlessly all day and portray the pink, fluffy
character with authenticity. "Not bad," she thought as she surveyed
her work Halloween morning before he walked out the door to school.
Apparently, it was really bad. All the kids in school made fun of
him. They pointed and laughed at his pink fuzziness and tormented
him so badly that he ripped off the costume and refused to wear it
for trick-or-treating that night. He was so scarred emotionally
from the drama of it all that it took days, if not weeks to get
Fast forward to Halloween 2009. "Really, Princess Leah." she
said. "Are you sure that's the one you want to be?" She thought
carefully about how to address it in a way that would be sensitive
and allow him to make the best choice for himself with her
guidance. "Now, son, you can be Princess Leah, but I just want to
remind you what happened last year with the Kirby costume.
Remember how you were treated? How it made you feel? "
"I don't care," he said defiantly.
"This Princess Leah costume could bring the same type of
reaction. Let's talk about what you like about Princess Leah so
He immediately replied, "Mom, she carries a gun! She's so
"Ok," my friend thought, "I can make this work. So, son, there
are lots of really cool characters that carry guns in Star Wars.
How about Hans Solo or Chewbacca?"
"No, I want to be Princess Leah." He wasn't budging.
At this point, she felt helpless. How could she knowingly put
him in a position where he would be ostracized by his classmates?
She consulted her husband. "Absolutely not," was his response.
That's when she confided in me. I happened to agree with her
husband. Why put him in harm's way? Talking him through it
afterwards wouldn't be enough to heal his broken self-esteem. I
suggested, "I know it won't be homemade, but perhaps you can take
him to one of those Halloween superstores with the millions of
costumes and distract him with all the cool costumes there? Tell
him he can pick out any costume (make sure to ask the clerk to hide
Princess Leah or steer him in another direction first). He'll
be making the choice and it won't scar him for life!"
The next day I received a call from my friend.
"Well, we went to one of those stores," she said.
"And…" I was dying to know.
"I paid more for a costume than I have ever paid before. That
"OK, but did he get Princess Leah?"
"No, he got the Scream face. You know the one that looks like
the Grim Reaper and comes with a scary mask and a sickle?"
For a moment, there was complete silence and then we both burst
out in uncontrollable laughter! In between giggles, she chuckled,
"I'm really not sure that this is any better than Princess Leah. I
know he's going to be fighting his brother with the sickle."
It turns out that five minutes into trick or treating, he turned
to his mom and said, "This mask hurts, can you carry it the rest of
the night so I can collect candy."
And that was that.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.