Last Friday when Benjamin and I picked Owen up from school, Owen ran across the playground into our arms shouting, “I WANT TO HAVE MY FINGERNAILS PAINTED LIKE KEIRA!!!”. His teacher smiled at me and said, “We told him he’d have to ask his parents about that one”. Owen’s eyes were twinkling.
Though I know for some people this might have been a difficult decision, for us it was easy. Just as I would never tell a daughter that she couldn’t do something (anything) because it’s a “boy thing”, I wasn’t about to tell my son that he couldn’t do something just because it’s typically a “girl thing”.
And so, on Saturday morning, in his monkey pajamas, Owen got his first manicure.
He chose a sparkly dark pink (since I didn’t have straight-up red, which is far and away his favorite color). I’ve never seen him sit so still in his whole life. He was in heaven.
I was all smiles too, until we headed out the door to the playground and I was hit with the realization that many people don’t share my love of letting my kid cross traditional gender lines. I am thankful to live in a state where most people wouldn’t bat an eyelash at an expression of individuality (and I would hope that most people, regardless of their stance on sex/gender issues, could accept that kids are kids and like to dress up and be silly), but still, my stomach tightened as I watched Owen running around the playground showing random kids and their parents his glittering nails. He was so proud. “Hey, guess what I have? <Holds out his hands and waves them in front of their faces>. PINK NAILS!”. I wasn’t sure if I should be more worried about the kids or their parents crushing his joy with an insensitive comment. I kept one ear open while I sat my super-pregnant butt on a bench nearby while he played.
After playing on a climber for a long time with a 4 year old girl and her older siblings (with Owen doing his patented “I’m just going to include myself in your game so you play with me” move), he showed off his pink beauties.
Little girl: You have painted nails?
Owen: Yeah. Just like Keira.
Little girl: Are you a girl or a boy?
Owen: A boy.
Little girl: Oh.
I think I let out an audible sigh of relief when I realized that the conversation was over after that. (Side note: Why can’t everyone in the world respond to others in the same way? “Oh.” It’s so simple, yet so powerful.). All the moms gave Owen praise for his color choice and told them his nails looked beautiful. I shot them invisible high fives and “thank you”s with my eyes. I saw a raised eyebrow or two, but in general, everyone was really positive and supportive.
Owen went to school this morning and nearly broke his face smiling so hard that his nails matched those of his favorite teacher. I am so happy to be able to give him that joy with a quick coat of nail polish.
I have no qualms about letting Owen experiment with “girl stuff”, whatever that may be. I let him try out my makeup if he asks (usually in an effort to distract him so I can get ready to go somewhere) and I wouldn’t dare tell him he couldn’t try something based on his sex. I know there are many parents out there who do not agree with me (remember the uproar caused by the J. Crew ad that included a mom painting her son’s toenails pink?), and some who even argue that boys not being “taught right” from a young age is the downfall of society, not to mention the reason for homosexuality. I can’t even respond to a mindset so far from what I believe to be the truth.
All I can say is that my kid is IN LOVE with his pink nails. And you better not be the person who makes him second-guess his awesome fashion sense and open mind. Or else.