Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mommy, Will You Paint My Nails?

Having children of both genders is so much fun.  We really get the full spectrum as far as things that our kids are into, and have a full range of both "boy" & "girl" toys in our house.  I've never discouraged my son from playing with dolls, kitchen sets, or putting on tutus and princess costume jewelry at playtime.  Furthermore, it does not phase me when my daughters play with trucks, dig in dirt, or run around with a football in the backyard.  Like most modern parents, I am unconcerned with pushing my children into traditional gender roles.  They are who they are, they like what they like, and I love them for being themselves.  I most especially love the fact that I am raising girls who see nothing wrong with digging in dirt with their brother, only to come inside to tend to their baby dolls or put on a plastic tiara.

Now that my children are attending school I've become even more aware of the fact that not all parents will feel the way that I do about certain things.  While I have no problem letting my male child play with "girl" toys, wearing nail polish in public is where I draw the line.  Or maybe just wearing nail polish in general. (it hasn't actually come up yet in my house.)  A boy in my son's class recently came to school with his fingernails painted.  It formulated a lot of questions from Joey, but did not prompt him to want his nails painted too.  Quite the opposite, actually.

Then while I was reading a celebrity gossip magazine at the (gasp!) gym, I saw this:

3-year old Zuma, son of Gavin Rossdale & Gwen Stefani, having a pedicure in his Captain America Superhearo costume.  I don't know why this annoyed me so much.  Normally I like seeing pictures of celebs & their kids.  You know, going to the grocery store, wiping boogers, pushing them on swings, all that regular old mom stuff.  It adds an element of normalcy to a world that is so not normal.  But this?  Not so much.  I mean seriously, did little Zuma (what is up with that name anyway?) wake up on the morning of his 3rd birthday and declare that he wanted to go get his toenails painted?  Maybe.  And if that were my kid I'd be like, "Uh... I don't think so.  Let's go get donuts instead!"  But I just seriously doubt that this kid wanting to go to the nail salon was his own idea.

I'm trying not to be hyper-critical here.  I understand that we all want our kids to feel free to be who they are.  But teaching your son that having his nails painted is socially acceptable is sending the wrong message in my opinion.  I get it that the kid might think it's all innocent fun.  It is innocent fun.  To them.  And probably to the parents too.  But not to the rest of the world.  We live in a cruel, cruel world.  Kids get bullied in grades as low as Kindergarten.  People (especially kids) will find anything to make fun of, and a little boy with his nails painted creates the perfect avenue for that kind of ridicule.  We as parents have a job to protect our children from harm.  That includes both physical and emotional harm.  And setting the stage for your kid to get made fun of is putting them at risk for emotional harm in my opinion.

As my kids get older I will not be able to control every little thing they do.  Eventually if Joey wants to wear nail polish to school there will be very little I can do about it.  And should my son grow up to be a boy that wants to wear nail polish I will love him just as much as if he doesn't.  Once he has the capacity to understand that not everyone will approve, and some will be quite vocal about their disapproval, I will allow him to make his own decision regarding his fingernails.  But while he's still young and impressionable, innocent, and completely unaware of how cruel this life can be... boys getting their nails painted... that's where I draw the line.

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