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Niamh Greene: Brad and Angelina allow their girl dress like a boy, I'm not sure I'm so brave

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Brad Pitt and his family.

Brad Pitt and his family.

Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie.

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Brad Pitt and his family.

Kids can be extremely obstinate about what they will or won't wear.

Many of them have very particular ideas about how they want to look and no amount of cajoling or haggling will convince them otherwise.

Put on 'old-fashioned' trousers instead of their beloved tracksuit bottoms? No way. Take off the hoody for five seconds and wear a nice top instead? Forget it.

These are the sorts of arguments that erupt all over the country, particularly at this time of the year when parents want their offspring to look their very best when visiting friends and relations.

It can be an intensely frustrating issue for parents, especially if they've already handed over their hard earned cash for good clothes in the vain hope that they might actually be worn.

The only consolation is that these ongoing battles are completely natural.

Deep down we know that kids need to be comfortable in their own skins and that it's important for them to develop a sense of style and identity.

But what if our child only ever wanted to dress like the opposite sex? How would we feel then?

This is exactly what Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are dealing with. Their 8-year-old daughter Shiloh has favoured an androgynous look since she was a tot and is usually seen dressed in boys' clothes.

This week, for example, she appeared on the red carpet of her mother's movie première in LA sporting greased back hair and a dapper suit and tie, exactly like her two older brothers. Reportedly, she even refuses to answer to anything other than 'John'.

feminine

There can be many reasons why a child wants to dress and act like the opposite sex. Lots of kids do it, and mostly they're just playing or copying older siblings in an attempt to fit in. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's forever.

Clearly, Shiloh has a strong sense of self and, luckily for her, her parents have no issue allowing her to express that, just as they allow their other two daughters to dress in a much more traditionally feminine way.

I have to applaud them for this because, truthfully, I'm not sure I would have been as brave if my daughter had wanted to do the same.

I talked the 'gender neutral' talk, for sure.

I told my kids that the sexes were equal, that there were no such thing as boys' toys or girls' toys and that the idea that they had to wear either pink or blue was a silly, outdated one.

tutu

But my beliefs were never really tested in any meaningful way. Yes, my son went through a superhero obsession that meant he never took off a Spiderman suit from morning until night. But that affectation was considered cute, not odd.

I'm sure there would have been more raised eyebrows if it had been a sequinned tutu he wanted to wear. It makes me wonder how I would have reacted if that had been the case.

I like to think I would have supported him in his choices.

But it's also possible that I would have been embarrassed by what people were thinking and steered him in a more traditionally masculine direction.

Whatever Shiloh decides to wear or do in the future, I think it's wonderful that she'll always know that her parents were in her corner from the very beginning.

They allowed her to choose who she wanted to be instead of forcing her to fit some stereotype that society says is acceptable.

And that has to be one of the greatest gifts that a parent can give a child.


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