'Princess Boy,' 5, Loves Wearing Dresses, Inspires Mom to Publish Anti-Bullying Book
"I look at myself in the mirror lately and I see this guy -- in earrings, pillbox hat, veil, maybe a little choker of pearls -- and I ask myself, 'Would a sane man dress like this?'"
-Cpl. Klinger, "MASH"
In the Army, dressing like a Disney princess might help you get a Section 8 discharge as a head case, but Cheryl Kilodavis is a lot less touchy about such things than the military. Her 5-year-old son dolls himself up in pretty pink dresses all the time.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
In fact, Kilodavis has put together an entire picture book, "My Princess Boy," about how there's nothing wrong with that.
Some 12 years from now, will Dyson, her son, want that book trotted out and shown to his prom date or the guys on the football team? On the website for her book, Kilodavis says she hopes for a better world by then.
She writes that the book "is designed to start and continue a dialog about unconditional friendship and teaches children -- and adults -- how to accept and support children for who they are and how they wish to look."
At first, Dean and Cheryl Kilodavis were uncertain they should let their son sashay about looking like the Sugarplum Fairy. Cheryl Kilodavis tells the Today Show she told her son to knock it off -- in a kind, motherly way.
She explained that boys cannot be princesses.
Her older son, 8-year-old Dkobe, changed her mind.
"Dkobe said to me, 'Why can't you just let him be happy, Mom?' I realized at that moment that this was my issue, not his, and not Dyson's nor Dean's," she tells Today. "After taking a second to do some self-searching, I realized I had years of preconceived notions from my childhood, spiritually and culturally. After journaling, I printed a prototype of my book at a local copy center and used it as a tool to share my feelings. It explained how exclusion hurts and how even a basic level of acceptance can really change lives."
Of course, mothers have a reputation -- perhaps even a stereotype -- of indulging their children's eccentricities. What about Dean Kilodavis? How does he feel about all this?
He thinks it's pretty cool, actually.
"It's not contagious," he tells Today. "He's just like any other kid. He plays checkers, he plays in the trees. He just likes to do it in a dress. Big deal."
It might be a big deal to a bully looking for faces to rearrange. But Cheryl Kilodavis tells the network you can't stop bullies by sacrificing who you are.
"I understand that we all want life to be easy for our children," she tells the network. "I want that, too. But I don't think bullying will stop if my son wears traditional boy clothes. We need a wake-up call. America needs one. The world needs one. We need to start asking ourselves why we are condemning people and things just because they are different and make us feel uncomfortable."
It is the bullies that need to be stopped, she says, not their victims.
"Bullying is taking lives. It is unacceptable. Period," she tells Today. "We must stop standing by while others are being harmed for expressing themselves. Our children are teaching us how to accept them every day. We all want our children to live in a world where they can express themselves without harming anyone else or being harmed."
What does Dyson say about all this?
"I'm a princess boy and I love wearing dresses and I love the colors of pink and red," he tells Today.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.