4-year-old Azai Willis likes to play with dolls, but that doesn’t bother his dad, whose positive reaction to his son’s interests has taken the internet by storm.
“I feel overwhelmed and real overjoyed about the attention it’s received and almost not at all surprised,” said Mikki Willis of Ojai, California. “It’s been amazing to watch it expand, to read the quotes and to really feel the collective, global need for people to feel the need to have permission to be themselves is really validating.”
Willis explains that his four-year-old son Azai Willis got duplicate gifts at his birthday party, so thefather-of-two took his son to the toy store to exchange one of them for something else. Without hesitation, the toddler decided he would choose to take home a “Little Mermaid” doll.
“I really wasn’t shocked at all because he’s equally fascinated by princesses and robots and I think that’s really behavior,” Willis said. “I kind of smiled, and the guy in the toy store smiled and we said ‘Alright, cool!’ This dad was cool with his son choosing a doll to play with.
“It’s just not working to prohibit the rules of kids expressing themselves and conforming to what society wants.”
Following the visit to the toy store, Willis filmed himself and his two sons in the car, promising to support them no matter what decisions they make in life.
“Choose your expression,” he says in the video. “Choose what you’re into. Choose your sexuality. Choose Whatever. You have my promise right now, both of you, as we sit in this car, in the hot car, in this parking lot, you have my promise forever to love you and accept you no matter what life you choose.”
“I let my boys choose their life,” the dad says. “That’s how momma and I are, we just say whatever. We say yeah.”
The video was originally posted on Facebook on August 21st, and has now received well over 10 million views. It has sparked an outpouring of support from parents all over the world.
“I see so much negativity being shared through social media that this is my way of bringing a little balance, at least to my friends,” Willis said. “To know we’ve touched people beyond our immediate community is both humbling and awesome.
“My boys fill my wife and I with so much joy that it would be selfish of us not to share them.”