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Azai Willis likes to play with dolls, but his father doesn’t mind. His dad’s positive reaction to the 4-year-old’s interest has taken the web by storm thanks to a viral video.
“I feel overwhelmed and real overjoyed about the attention it’s received and almost not at all surprised,” Mikki Willis of Ojai, California told ABC News. “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 said it was a couple days ago that he took his son Azai to exchange a duplicate gift he received from his birthday party on July 26. Without a second thought, he said Azai chose 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!’
“It’s just not working to prohibit the rules of kids expressing themselves and conforming to what society wants.”
After the toy store visit, Willis recorded himself and his two smiling sons. In the video, he promises to support the boys no matter what decisions they make in life.
“Choose your expression,” he said 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.”
The video has been watched more than 10 million times since it was posted to Facebook on Aug. 21. It’s 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.”