I get a few different types that usually go like this:
A parent books a mermaid party for boys. The boys have fun swimming with us, racing us, using the underwater camera, asking us questions about our tails and the ocean, and generally just have a lot of fun.
Then sometimes we have parties for girls where boys are guests. These can go several ways. The way I like is when parents encourage their kids to play. The boys do exactly like the above example. They have fun.
Then we have parents who make undermining statements about boys playing with mermaids. Maybe it makes them uncomfortable because they see it as a feminine interest. (as if straight boys couldn’t possibly like pretty mermaids!) With people like this I will usually hear at parties or public events statements like, “Let the girls play with the mermaid.” “No Billy, you’re a pirate.” “No, don’t call yourself a mermaid.” “Mermaids are for the girls.” “Daddy’s not sure how he feels about that.” And I’ve sadly even heard some dads at public events actually wonder out loud if there kid playing with me is “too gay”. Kid’s hearing statements like these from their parents are the #1 cause of behavioural problems at parties. I’ll have a boy who is behaving perfectly well, and the second he hears his dad say something like this he’ll come and misbehave toward the mermaids. Because their parent is showing they disapprove so the child has to show they aren’t giving in to what would upset the parent with usually an act of aggression, rudeness, or inappropriate language (in my personal experience).
People are often surprised to know I do a lot of parties or events for boys, or that boys could even be interested in what we do. I’m going to break it down for you, using my degree in child and youth development, and my degree in elementary education, as to why boys and mermaids go well together! Most of these points can also be applied to girls, but since we’re talking about boys I’m going to specifically address boys and the research I’ve read on male development.
Physical Activity. Current research is showing that kids do not get enough physical activity, and that boys specifically need healthy spaces and environments in which they are allowed to exert extra energy. When kids don’t have that, they end up with restlessness, behavioural problems, sleeping, eating, and toileting problems. An hour swim with a mermaid is a WORKOUT. Your kid is constantly moving, and will be sleeping well after the swim for sure. Plus it’s important to model to boys- who at times can be more susceptible to aggression - healthy ways in which they can use that energy. Research shows that when this happens, boys are less likely to have aggression issues as teenagers and adults. Because they’ve learned healthy self-regulating. At our swim parties boys sometimes have the chance to try mer-fins/monofins which teach them the basic dolphin kick. They can also go for mermaid rides, dive with mermaids, learn underwater tricks and flips, and play in the pool environments which typically include slides, diving boards, rope swings, climbing walls, and wave machines. Just getting on top of a floaty can be a mechanical feat all on its own.
Curiosity. Fostering a sense of wonder is so important for kids. Teachers can tell you that boys and girls will often respond to stimuli differently in terms of being curious. Boys are brought up in society to be curious of one thing while girls are brought up that it’s only acceptable to be curious of other things. Mermaids encourage kids to use their imagination in a broader context, to play along, and be curious. Developing curiosity even through the simple task of asking questions can set up success for later in life, especially in academics. Boys are often incredibly curious about our tails, about our back stories, and especially about our underwater camera. I’m often entrusting a boy with the camera and a pair of goggled while he swims off to capture photos and videos of the whole party.
The Importance of play. There is a mountain of research under the emergent curriculum movement that shows education through play is the best way to learn. It also supports that extremely important developmental and social development occurs through play. Your kids need time to be kids. Boys are no different but are often rushed into growing up. We may allow our boys to play pretend at 3 or 4 but by 6 or 7 we are putting them into structured play environments like sports. There’s nothing wrong with that but kids need (as the research shows) unstructured play. Time where they can take the lead and be sporadic and not have any specific direction. The fact is, so long as parents don’t undermine what we try to do boys feel safe to explore and have fun. In a judgment free zone, boys have a heck of a lot of fun with mermaids.
A boy will grow up to have a sexuality of some sort. It’s a very wide rainbow of possibility. But I assure you, when it comes to being gay, spending time with a mermaid just isn’t going to turn your kid one way or another. They either are, or they aren’t.
In terms of how society values what we mermaids do, it’s still a very new thing. It’s one of the few fields in the world being pioneered by mostly women. We do have mermen, but mermaids are certainly more in numbers. Society often devalues anything seen as feminine. But we know that being exposed to what society sees as feminine does not have adverse effects on boys. Mermen have to also overcome the same sexism that mermaids face in how something deemed as feminine is less valuable. Many mermen have to worry about proving their motives to parents. Proving they can entertain girls just as well as boys. And proving they're safe to be around kids. The sexism goes both ways. We mermaids tend to believe that what we do balances between what society sees as masculine and feminine, but we prefer to ignore society norms and acknowledge that: mermaids are strong! Mermaids are fast! Mermaids care about the environment! Mermaids are story tellers! Mermaids come in many shapes, sizes, and colors! Some mermaids are quiet and some are loud! Mermaids are creative! Mermaids are caring- especially toward kids! Mermaids can be great role models!
The point is your kid only gets to be a kid for so long. These boys have everything to gain from your supporting of them in environments with women. You can teach them respect for women and to value what women have to offer. You can teach them to see that it doesn’t matter if some people think mermaids are for girls or that what we do is girly, because you know better. You know mermaids are for everyone and that we can do lots of things! We want to give your kid a memory that will last with them forever. We want them to feel inspired to take care of the ocean. But most of all we just want your kid to have fun. And sometimes it works best when parents put their personal gender biases aside… and just let us do what we do best.