I have a friend who hasn’t yet cut her son’s hair. He’s about 3, running around with long locks; or sometimes, he has it up in a ponytail. He doesn’t want to cut it yet, and Mom says fine.
I have another friend who let her son paint his fingernails glittery pink. And I have friends whose boys spend their time in theater, or playing violin. Most of my friends — even the one who hasn’t cut her son’s hair — feel general acceptance of their parenting from those around them. But not always.
Because despite it being 2018, and even though girls have been allowed to play sports, wear jeans, and get muddy for 100 years, our society still tends to hold on to its archaic beliefs of what boys should do, what they should wear, and how they should act.
Well David Pendragon, a data analyst from Charlotte, North Carolina, says this tired list of rules is getting old. So he recently took a stand against it, as he defended his cousin’s 10-year-old son who chose a lunchbox that didn’t quite fit with society’s norms.
In a viral Facebook post that’s been shared over 48,000 times, Pendragon writes:
“My cousin Emily has a 10-year-old son named Ryker. Ryker, who loves cats, was very excited to get his new lunchbox. Unfortunately because of its colors, or because it has cats, or both, he was teased about it by other boys in his class. He even wanted to stop taking his lunch so he wouldn’t be teased about it any longer.”
“I have decided, however, to stand with my little cousin and show him that a man can love whatever he wants and not be afraid to express that love,” Pendragon goes on to say. “So I have ordered the same lunchbox for myself and proudly carried it to work today at my large, conservative, corporate workplace. I’ve told anyone who asked the story behind my lunchbox and they all stand with Ryker too.”
With his post is a picture of Pendragon himself, at work, proudly holding up his new lunchbox that matches young Ryker’s. And the Internet loves him for it.
Pendragon, like all men from this generation and those before it, grew up in a time when boys were pigeon-holed into one square box.
“I wasn’t much into sports or traditional ‘boy’ things,” he tells Babble. I mostly read, drew, composed poems, and played music as a child. So I wanted to show Ryker and all the other kids out there that you can be a happy and respected adult while still loving the things you love.”
Pendragon ends his powerful Facebook post by saying, “There’s no one way to be a man. Men can be colorful. Men can be expressive. Men can be emotional and silly and gleeful. I love my new lunchbox and I hope Ryker and all the other boys out there can see that their passion and self-expression is never something to be ashamed of.”
Even though Ryker had a rough go at first, Pendragon tells Babble that the best part of this entire story is that his teacher addressed this issue with his class and they now understand the power and impact of their words and actions. Ryder still carries his lunchbox and has no issues at school now.
Pendragon is also very optimistic about the future, telling Babble, “Patriarchal tradition dies hard. It has been ingrained in our society for so long and has been passed from generation to generation. I think it’s getting better, though. Gen X and the millennial generation are changing the way they teach their kids about gender, society, and their place in the world.”
Hopefully my friends’ sons who may have long hair or sparkly finger nails will read stories like this and remember that even if a few people judge their choices because they may not fit into the mold of what a “boy” should be, that they can be proud of who they are and find in joy in whatever makes them happy — whether it’s baseball or music. Or Star Wars or cats.