Azai Willis likes to play with dolls, but that doesn't bother his dad, whose positive reaction to the 4-year-old's interest took the Internet by storm in 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 today. "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 days ago when he took his son Azai, 4, to exchange a duplicate gift he had received from his July 26 birthday party.
Without a second thought, he said, 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!'
"It's just not working to prohibit the rules of kids expressing themselves and conforming to what society wants."
Following the toy store visit, Willis began filming himself and his two smiling sons, promising to support them 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 footage received over 10 million views since being posted to Facebook on Aug. 21 and 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."