Imagine it's the first day of school, and it's all you can do to get your 5-year-old son ready and out the door on time. Then he comes to you and tells you he wants to wear a skirt...
You take a deep breath and if you're Nils Pickert, rather than discourage your son and warn him against impending ridicule, you say, Fine, and then in a can't-beat-'em moment, you slip on a matching skirt yourself.
While the German dad's parenting seems a little unorthodox, it's made him an overnight hero of the internet, where photos of the red-skirted duo have gone viral. He's since been lauded in a host of parenting blogs for being so progressive, and Gawker dubbed him "Father of the Year."
"Yes, I'm one of those dads, that tries to raise their children equal," he wrote in Emma, a German feminist magazine. "I didn't want to talk my son into not wearing dresses and skirts," explained Pickert, whose family had recently moved from Berlin to a small German town. "He didn't make friends doing that [in Berlin]… so after a lot of contemplation I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself."
But is he really setting the right example? Won't this boy still have a rude awakening when he realizes so much of fitting in at school and making friends comes from assimilating, from learning to conform to social norms, instead of bucking them.
Gender roles exist, whether or not parents try to consciously flout them. Will Pickert's method thwart bullying or only make matters worse in the long run for his son?