Princess Zach

My son likes to wear dresses.  It’s not surprising, since he is the 3-year-old brother of a very fancy 7-year-old sister who was, until quite recently, obsessed with the Disney princesses.  You know, just like every single other little girl on earth.  I’m not sure which dark magic Disney uses to enchant the minds of all the kids, but it is a powerful spell.  There is a toddler cult and it’s those goddamn princesses.  Anyway, as a devoted member of Cult Princess, my daughter was able to decrypt the hidden message (which I assume exists) within each of the Princess songs: the message to pass along the obsession to younger siblings.  Message received.  She successfully converted my son, dressing him up in gowns, tiaras and semi-heeled plastic shoes. Great work, daughter.  The other cult members are surely proud of your work.  Of course, it didn’t take much. He’s a natural in novelty glass slippers that light up when you walk.

Depending on his mood, he alternates between either the Belle, the Tiana or the classic Cinderella gown.  Each dress was around $30 at the Disney Store.  They are cheaply made costume dresses that rip easily and seem to attract spaghetti sauce, but to him they might as well be Versaces.  That’s a popular designer, right? How about Dolgiano Langustos.  Or Vertram Von Strigands.  I love making up fake designer names.  Cranston LaRoux.  Mort Bort.  Finky Stinkbiscuit.  I digress.

He loves wearing dresses, and that’s awesome.  I hope that goes without saying, but of course it doesn’t bother me in the least that my three year old son loves to dress up in his sister’s princess clothes (actually, the Tiana dress is one that he picked out).  I love that he has mastered walking in delicate shoes and has learned to pick up the front of his dress when he walks to avoid tripping. He once came to the dinner table and before he would eat, he insisted, “Daddy, wait! I have to get dressed.”  He left the room briefly, and returned proudly wearing his Belle dress.  I took a picture.  I have to say, he wears it well.

He wanted to wear the Cinderella dress to the supermarket the other day.

“Sure,” I told him.  “You want your magic wand, too?”

“YES!” he said, and he ran to his room to get ready.

We drove down the street to Ralph’s, listening to the soundtrack from Tangled on the way.  He waved his wand around in the back seat, oblivious to judgments and pointless labels in the world.  As we listened to Mandy Moore sing about when Rapunzel’s real life might begin, I forgot about how people say stupid things sometimes, not because they aren’t thinking or “didn’t mean to” but because they are ignorant and archaic.

We walked into Ralph’s, me with a few things on a list and him, a princess out on a journey.  He waved his wand and he cast his spells and he invented a world inside the world.  Most importantly, he clearly felt beautiful.

After getting our groceries, we waited in line at Self-Checkout.

“Looks like you’ve got a little hairdresser on your hands,” a voice said from too close behind me.

I turned around to make sure the voice was talking to me.

The man was in his mid fifties, wearing a half-buttoned tuxedo shirt and black slacks. “Caterer or bartender,” my brain whispered to me as I continued to process his words.

“What’s that?” I asked.  I heard him, but it actually took me several seconds to understand the implication of his statement.  I looked at my son to be certain I wasn’t misinterpreting this stranger’s comment.  Had he been playing with a brush, or fixing a doll’s hair, or doing anything else even closely resembling hairdressing , I would have smiled and politely agreed.  Zach was not doing any of those things.  He was waving his wand at anything that caught his eye and living in that 3-year-old world that most adults have stopped seeing.  Thankfully, he was also oblivious to our conversation.

He chuckled and dismissively waved off his own comment.  He turned towards my son.  In a too loud, and much too friendly voice, he told him, “Great dress, princess!” He chuckled loudly.

My son barely noticed.

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  • Marcela Lozano

    Beautiful. I read a mother’s perspective on a similar story. Love!

  • Shelley Gibson

    Love it. You sir, are an amazing parent! Kudos!

  • Mollie Cain

    I have read mother’s perspectives on this type of occurance, but yours is the first father story I’ve read. It’s great to know that you are loving your son, not in spite of who he is but that you are just loving him.

  • Amanda Grizzaffi

    Thank you! I have a 4 year old son who loves princesses and superheroes. I have a 5 year old daughter who loves them both too. He also loves to have his nail polished right along with his sister. It is nice to know that there are other parents who just let their babies be without trying to stereotype them. There are many times I wish life was like the movies but then, like you said, people would miss the point anyway. Well done!

  • Dominga Quinones

    YOU ARE AWESOME! it’s a sad world we live in, with too much bs. I’m glad you are one of the good ones, who doesn’t judge and doesn’t care. I am the same and proud of that. it’s a shame but unfortunately it’s life. Your son is lucky to have you, I’m sure he will be the best damn WHATEVER/WHOEVER he wants to be when he grows up! Embrace the fun and innocence while you can.
    btw, LOVE how you went into the “in the movie it would’ve played out like this…” scenario because I to think quite similarly, and I’m glad I’m not the only one. You should’ve punched him in the face tho 😉 but it’s better to just walk away and be the bigger person 😀

  • Jenny Lonussen

    This actually made me teary-eyed. You are a wonderful man. This is a wonderful example of what parenting should be about; unconditional love. I wish more people would take note.

    • Valerie Yvonne Huerta

      Made me teary-eyed too. :’)

  • Genevieve Dreizen


  • Valerie Yvonne Huerta

    This was lovely. <3

  • Hannah Marcotti

    Shane, this was so beautiful to read. My littlest Lucas has beautiful curls, likes to wear pink leggings and often has painted nails. He is beauty. His 5 year old brother went to the nurse at school the other day, she said, “oh do boys wear nailpolish?” He told her of course they do, didn’t she know that. He came home and told me the nurse was very concerned about his nail polish. I wonder when the day will come that he too will be concerned and no longer do things just because he wants to.

    • Shane Nickerson

      Thanks, Hannah! Zach loves purple nail polish on his fingers and toes too! I hope he always has the courage to wear whatever makes him happy.

  • Anna Smandych Ogilvie

    Just remembered I have some wonderful photos of my little brothers in their pioneer girl dresses and bonnets. Good for you for just letting your son play and dress the way he wants!

  • Ashley Bonavito

    This was the most touching thing to read. I have to be honest, I thought it was from the mothers point of view in the beginning, once I realized you were his father it brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful father you are! Your little boy will grow up to be something amazing because of that!

  • Amy Danielle

    You are an incredible father.

  • Ruthie Trovato

    This was a delight. I hope that he never loses his sense of self and wonder <3

  • Zach Johnson

    What a sweet story. :)

  • Carlovely Lemieux

    great read :)

  • Matt Ebert

    Cranston LaRoux is a shout out to Bryan Cranston, model dad from Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, right? Please say Yes!

    LOVE your writing Shane.

  • Kaitlyn Shore

    Kudos to you for this – Zach is lucky to have such an awesome dad. Recently, I saw a little boy dressed up as Wonder Woman and he pulled it off like no other. Also, the hairdresser comment left me baffled – is he trying to suggest he was gay? Why does that even matter when one is three years old and is just being themselves, can’t people see that? Also, if that WAS the case, why would he automatically be a HAIRDRESSER? What a tool.

    • Shane Nickerson

      I was equally baffled by his comment.

    • A.j. Simkatu

      There is no doubt the man was bringing up a stereotypical homosexual profession in reference to your child’s dressing in women’s clothing. Whether it was meant in good fun or in a mean-spirited way, I think the comment is ignorant and tacky. Lot’s of young boys dress up as little girls and wear feather boas and high heels while they still have an imagination and don’t realize that they “aren’t supposed to dress like girls” (at least according to most of their peers in school). Young children also used to be able to run around naked at the beach, and often still do in most European countries. It’s unfortunate that we have to ruin innocent children’s fun because of adult sexual hangups and perversity. The proper response of the bartender/waiter would have just been “That’s a nice dress” or “That looks like a lot fun” or to say nothing at all.

  • Andrea Rees

    What a great father you are… I am sure you are one of few who would go to the grocery store with your little boy in a dress, the fact that you do is awesome. Little boys need more supportive men like you in their lives who allow them to be whoever they want to be.

    • Helen Campbell-Woodrup


  • Katie Naugle

    You are like the World’s Best Dad. You know those trophies kids give dads on Father’s Day all the world over? Well, you deserve the biggest and coolest World’s Best Dad trophy! And as a big sister to a brother for whom I dressed in leotards, sparkly gowns, and tiaras for about 10 years, I can tell you that kids really bond over that kind of stuff. My little brother doesn’t wear leotards anymore but if he did, I’d be in the front row of all his dance recitals! :)

  • Donna Fox

    Bravo to you! I heard similar remarks when buying a kitchen set for my older son, and about the long hair and blue nail polish my younger son wore to soccer camp. My younger son recently chopped off his 10 inch pony tail to donate to charity. My kids are happy, healthy teenagers, who are confidant enough to express themselves – whether it be in a dress , in a classroom, or in just making it through a day of high school.
    Keep being you Zach – you sound like a great kid :)

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