Wally Ben’s preschool last year hosted a tea party (an annual tradition). The class anxiously awaited this day, where they read a book about proper manners, ate mini snacks, and sipped from tiny china cups. Teacher Penny said the boys looked forward to it the most.

So when the new church we’ve been trying hosted a tea party for 2-5 year olds, I thought this would be a great chance for WV and me to meet some of the people. We showed up right on time and walked in with a few moms and their kids. All the girls were wearing pretty dresses, so I felt a bit under dressed walking in. But one of the 3 families that were there included a boy dressed in shorts and a shirt like WV, so I felt okay.

Then the lady in charge handed the people walking in before us a cutesy garden hat made out of a cardboard plate and bowl to decorate. And she showed them where the flowers were to put on the hats. Since Wally and the other boy were outnumbered already by 6 or 7 girls, I said, “Is this a party for boys also?” The lady said, yes yes, there are more boyish decorations on the table.

We sat down, and I overheard the mom at the next table, the mom of the boy, saying, “No, you don’t get to decorate one…your dad is coming for you in a minute.” The boy looked a bit crumpled. More and more girls in pretty dresses came and sat at tables. And then, when that boy’s father showed up to pick up his son minute later, I was the mom of the boy, among the 20 or so moms of the girls in the pretty dresses.

Mortified. A mom mortified. Sitting at a table next to my 3.5 year old son, who was very focused on snazzing up his cardboard party hat. He grabbed the glue in front of him, globbed a big goop on top, and grabbed the most eye catching thing in front of him he could find–a huge pink fuzzy poof. He smacked that pink puff in the center of his hat, and continued to decorate away with whatever caught his attention–purple flowers, a few elephants and snakes, butterfly stickers, and more. (His hat, shown below.)

So what was a mom to do? Abandon ship? Sneak quietly in the direction of the door, luring my little crafter with a cookie? No maams. All you maams, with your cute girls in their cute dresses. I sat. I took a deep breath. And I designed my own cardboard top hat. I made mine a little more Little Boy Blue than Wally was going, so that, should he ask to trade, he’d be set. (This plan went quickly downhill when Wally noted I had no puffs on top of my hat and started handing me things to glue on to make it better.)

We had our “tea” in pink and purple sippy take home cups. We enjoyed our flower cupcakes. And then after an hour of fun, we made our graceful exit just as the girls all started running around the lawn with the party favor boas.

But not before the person in charge asked to take our picture. I mentioned before she did that next time we would go to the church’s pirate party instead, which we had missed a month prior. She said, “You know, I didn’t specify. Tons of girls came to the pirate party. Thank you for coming to represent at the tea party.” If a girl can be a pirate, why can’t a boy enjoy some tea and crumpets? He did, after all, have fun, and he still has no idea that anything was unusual about the night. He saw a craft, he did it. A necklace, he wore it. And a treat, he ate it.

And I had fun, too. Me and my little guy. And the interesting thing is, I would have left. I wanted to leave, as I sat, wondering if I had read the event information wrong. I was feeling small, and out of place. But then I looked at my 3.5 year old wonder, with his tongue out, and his eyes blind to our different-ness, and he made me brave.

Sometimes they are smart, these little ones, in their blindness. Sometimes their direct way of seeing the world as the world makes more sense than the sense an adult tries to insert into a situation. While I felt like, well, the boy at the girls’ tea party, WV felt like Wally Ben, hat maker extraordinaire. We could learn a thing or two about what matters from these mini people if we pay attention (in addition to how many puffs should be added to a garden hat before it can be considered complete).

And we got these cool hats out of it to boot.


For the record, I’ll be taking both WV and Vivvi to the pirate party and tea party again next year. And we will be inviting our boy cousins and friends to sit with us, dressed in their Sunday best, to show that boys deserve to get dressed up, and to be gentlemen, and to have cupcakes. I agree to let girls be girls, and let boys be boys, but by bringing them, aren’t we letting them?And doesn’t Wally’s presence next year make Vivvi more than just a girl in a pretty dress? Doesn’t it say, we are pirates, and we are proper, and we are all doing this thing called life together?

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