My son turned 5 this year, which is a huge milestone for many different reasons. He is officially out of his toddler stage and can do pretty much everything by himself (praise Jesus). That includes dressing himself, and over the years I have gently steered him into the realm of sartorial splendor. He actually knows what it means to match, and he can tell the difference between the darkest shade of navy and black. At 5, he's way better off than I was in that department, and I'm not going to lie -- it makes me beam with pride. However, I'm fooling myself into believing that this makes him a normal kid. The rest of his boy classmates run around in clothes I wouldn't even donate to the homeless, and soon enough they will peg my son as being different -- simply because he looks better than all of them.
Fortunately, kids require a new wardrobe at least twice a year. My son grows like a weed and is about to enter kindergarten, so that means clearing aside a large budget just to keep him looking fresh. Normally. This year I wised up and decided to give him a make-under. No more J.Crew catalog realness for him. No more coordinating stripes and prints. No more "slim fit" jeans. And hello to [gags] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirts, baggy clothes, and [gags again] cargo pants. I'm finally taking the plunge into a world I'm wholly unfamiliar with: Dressing him like all the other little boys = awful.
Now, before you judge me and say things like "fuck other people's opinions, dress him however you want," please keep in mind that I apply that philosophy to myself but will not impose it on my son. My son is as "boy" as they get, and I want him to dress to suit his personality, not mine. He needs to learn self-expression, and if I continue to express myself through him, he never will. Additionally, we live in an extremely small, conservative town, and he is already different in having two dads, so why complicate things for him even more? At the moment, if you lined him up with all of the other kids in his class and asked "Which one of them has gay dads"" it would be so painfully obvious that it's him. Again, I have no problem with this, and I have more gay pride in my little finger than even the gayest of gays, but this is my son we are talking about here, not me.
I am tiptoeing into this new world of sloppy dressing. I can't jump into the deep end all at once, I have to do it gradually -- one clash at a time. And I also have certain events I can break the rules with, such as the first day of school, picture day, and that notorious Santa shot. I imagine myself compensating for all of the other days of sweatpants and bed-head by dressing him like Little Lord Fauntleroy (I won't, but I'll be damn tempted). Either way, when he's older he will look back at the snapshots and notice a clear shift in his wardrobe and I'll explain to him that Daddy has a fashion background and had to pull things back a few notches when he entered kindergarten. That being said, I feel more nervous about his first day of school than he is. Can I pull off this dressed down version of the cutest kid in the world? Stay tuned to my Instagram (gayathomedad) to find out.
FRANK LOWE is The Advocate'sparenting writer. Follow Frank on Twitter @GayAtHomeDad and on Instagram at gayathomedad.