By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Oct 08, 2007 at 5:23 AM

Halloween is my favorite day of the year, and I start to think about my costume -- and my boys' costumes -- way early. Last month, my kids and I decided they would be robots, and I enthusiastically started to research how to make creative, inexpensive robot costumes from Styrofoam balls, brown paper bags, glitter, bottle caps, etc.

I had the entire costume put together in my head and even started to gather the items, when out of the blue, they came out of their playroom last week and told me --  in a super-serious tone that's usually reserved for goldfish death -- that they no longer wanted to be robots. Instead, they wanted to dress up as ghosts.

I wasn't thrilled with the ghost idea, even though the costume making would be a snap. I was really into the robot get-up, but I had to remind myself it's not really about me. It's their Halloween. Damn.

I finally got used to the ghost idea, and when I was about to buy a couple of twin white bed sheets at Target today, my son said, "I don't want to be a ghost anymore. I want to be Strawberry Shortcake."

This is where things got complicated.

"Really? But ghosts are soooo scarrrrrry! Don't you want to be a scary ghost?" I asked in an over-enthused voice that hasn't worked since he was 2.

"No, I want to be Strawberry Shortcake," he said firmly.

I wasn't quite sure what to say. I thought about saying, "OK, whatever," because most likely in a few days he'll want to be something completely different, like a Power Ranger or a purple bat or a greasy pork chop -- who knows?

But what if I said OK, and he didn't change his mind later? Could I let my 4-year-old son dress up like Strawberry Shortcake for Halloween?

I do what I can to prevent the reinforcement of gender stereotypes: the boys have both trains as well as dolls and a dress-up station as well as every type of ball you can imagine. I even let them buy girls' underwear once because the boys' underwear wasn't available with Curious George on it. (It's not like they actually use the little flap in the front of the boys' undies anyway, right?)

But is there a time and place when a line needs to be drawn, deciding what a little boy can and cannot do? It's not that I think or worry my son might be transgender -- I've read accounts of children who are, and the early signs have little to do with dress-up. But wouldn't other kids poke fun if they saw my stocky boy child in a red wig and fruit-patterned dress? Might he feel embarrassed during trick-or-treating, or worse, traumatized? Is this all my fault because I let him buy the flapless Curious George underpants?

I didn't buy the white sheets for the ghost costumes, but I didn't run out and grab red-and-white striped stockings either. I'm waiting it out for now and doing that really hard thing  I think good parents are supposed to do: Hope he decides on his own not to do it, but if he does, support it. 

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.