Q: My Princess Boy began in a grassroots way and has become steadily popular. Can you describe the journey of the book -- when and why you were inspired to write it and how the title came about?
I didn't start out thinking I was writing a book. I started out journaling. My [youngest] son was almost 2-years-old when he started showing interest in beautiful things -- pink, sparkles, dresses and dressing up. The first public display happened at a daycare when he was about 2?-years-old and all the parents were coming to pick up their kids. Dyson ran to me in a red sequined dress and pink heels, and he was very excited and twirling. He was very happy, saying, "Mommy, look at this!" I was frozen; I was shocked.
My first instinct was all Mama Bear, looking around. Were the kids okay with this? Were the parents looking at me? Looking at him? Then I immediately went into problem-solving mode and thought, "Okay, there aren't pretty boy dress-up clothes." I brought some to the daycare. The next day, when I picked him up, he greeted me in a yellow dress. Then I knew he was making these choices. I was talking to my husband about it, and Dean's response was, "I think this is great because he has a passion and he's picking things that he's really interested in."
At about 3-years-old, Dyson said, "I'm a princess," and he was very happy. In one of my not-so-proud mommy moments, I said, "Boys are not princesses. Girls are." He looked me square in the eye and said, "I'm a princess boy." I didn't have a comeback. Immediately, I went back to journaling. I needed something to help him and me to not have his spirit crushed, so I took my journal and turned it into these experiences we had been going through, expressing how it made me feel and how it made him feel when he was laughed at. I started asking the questions, "Will you just play with him? Will you be his friend?"
I went to a local copy center, printed it, and started handing it to teachers before he would start class. A friend of mine handed it to a producer at New Day Northwest Seattle, so I went on the show. I just thought people could find out about this and get information.
Q: As a parent, what concerns did you have about going into the media eye? Did you worry about putting your family and Dyson in the limelight?
I'm a mom who cares about her kids, and we're not throwing our kids out into something they don't want to do. Dyson is a very, very energetic, extroverted child, and he drives a lot of his own agenda. So does [my oldest son] Dkobe. They're both strong individuals. We spent a year at family meetings during dinner talking about this book going public, so we didn't simply step on to the show; it was a year before we did that. We kept talking about what it really meant, and both of the boys constantly said, "We have to get the book out there." Dyson's point of view was, "Has everyone seen my book?" He wanted everyone to see his book and have playdates everywhere. That was his mission: to have playdates. I was the one hiding it in the home; I was the one who was redirecting.
Q: Some parents are happy your book touches on a "taboo" subject, while others are concerned that it highlights potential issues with gender confusion and sexual orientation. What were the thoughts of the child experts and medical professionals you consulted? What are your own thoughts?
When Dyson was really young and showing interest in what we traditionally think of as girl things and colors, I was concerned. I wanted to be empowered with information. I didn't want to hide it or try to stop it if it was who he was. I didn't want my son to spend a day not being happy with himself. So we went to our pediatrician and we went to child experts -- psychologists and psychiatrists -- and we went through a process of assessments and questions. Dkobe, Dean, my parents and his parents were involved. The verdict was: He is a happy and healthy little boy who just likes pretty things and likes to dress up. The advice was not to over-encourage it or over-discourage it.
Q: Your son's preschool and his friends are supportive, but bullying and teasing have become a national focus recently. What advice would you give parents who want to support their kids but who are still worried about bullying?
I think this book acts as a tool to prevent bullying before it starts, and this worked for our family. I proactively went to our preschool teacher and said, "This is my son and I don't want you to kill his spirit. If he selects the pink thing and dress thing, we're okay with that." At that point, the teacher said, "Well, this can't sit with me. I have to share it with my class." The kids would go home and the parents would say, "I want to read it with my child." I think it's important to know your child. I can't say this is the thing you should do. I think having a conversation about acceptance is important.