This story below has been on my mind and I can’t stop thinking about it. I have had similar things happen, but not to this extent and I just need to share it.
A man’s son (a 5 year old in kindergarten) wanted his nails painted and then got bullied at school for it. Before I say what my feelings are and why this resonates with me, I want you to read what this dad said.
When I read this I wanted to hug this little boy and high five his parents. This poor kid gets bullied and picked on by his peers for something as small as painting his nails. It breaks my heart.
My youngest is 5. He will be in Kindergarten in the Fall. And this boy loves his nails painted, tutus, skirts and all things glittery and sparkly. His favorite book is called “Just Add Glitter”. Now some people might say that he likes these things because he has two older sisters, or because I, myself, like to have my nails painted and LOVE glitter and sparkly things. But (1) his sisters are not very girly. Their dress-wearing is sporadic, they have buzzed undercuts on their hair, play hockey and softball and are both tough as nails! And (2) he just likes them. He isn’t pressured by his sisters to wear skirts, he just chooses them when he picks out his own clothes. Because they spin and sparkle and make him happy.
I also have a daughter who is 9 and she loves sports, video games, has short hair (because it makes her feel awesome!) and loves to ride her bike and rollerblade and go skating and skiing and is one of the funniest people I know. But she has been told that she “looks like a boy” because her hair is short. WHAT?! It makes me so sad.
Who are we or these kids to judge this and say it isn’t ok? Even into adulthood, women especially are judged for how they look or what they wear if it might not fit into the norm or just doesn’t appeal to one person. I am almost 40 and in my head I don’t give a damn what people say or think about me, but I know that I do to some extent.
And my son and this boy above are 5! I’m an adult and I can handle it. But these kids are just learning who they are, finding themselves and learning to love themselves. So it makes me so sad that this happens.
I know this happens. I am naive enough to think that “this won’t happen to my kid” or “things will change” or “it’ll be ok”. It can hurt. And it sucks when my kid comes home and tells me that someone said “skirts are for girls”. No they freaking aren’t. They are for anyone that wants to freaking wear them.
Let me digress briefly about toys being gendered. This makes me INSANE! My kids (both girls and boy) play with EVERYTHING! They dress up, play with pretend food, play all kinds of games, play with doll houses, play with dolls, play with cars, play with LEGO, play sports, play video games, play with PlayDoh, etc. And never once have they said they can’t play with something because it’s “for a boy” or “for a girl”. I know my husband and I would have a conversation with them if they did, but we raised them to know that TOYS ARE TOYS. There are not boy-toys or girl-toys. Just like it is nonsense that blue is for boys and pink is for girls. I have many male adult friends I have seen wear pink. And my girls rock blue all the time!
The picture at the beginning of this post was from a couple weeks ago. I was working and I needed my son to play by himself for a while. I snapped a couple pictures and a video of him playing and it was so sweet. I loved listening to the way the parents talked to the kids, the voices he used for mom, dad, kids and just how he made everyone interact. It really shows what goes through their heads as you see them play with these things. The parents were nurturing, the siblings in his pretend house we helpful and I was so proud of the interactions I overheard. And I never would have gotten this sweet moment if I had told him “Alex, that dollhouse isn’t for you to play with, it is for your sisters.”
It is hard to talk to your kids about these things. And not hard in the sense that I don’t know what to say, but hard that I HAVE to tell them “don’t worry about what people say”, “don’t listen to them”, “you can like anything you like”, “you are beautiful”, “you are you and you are amazing and spectacular”, “tell those kids that it’s ok to like what you want and it is ok that they don’t like the same things”. And for the most part, this works, We have very emotionally strong kids, but it still makes my heart hurt that these things even need to be said.
We need to get our heads out of the clouds and stop thinking in this way of the past. It is 2020. We should be above this. Shouldn’t we have bigger things to worry about than what color our kids are wearing, what toys they are playing with or if they want to accessorize themselves?
So stop and listen to yourself when you are talking to your kids. It is not ok to put this pressure on them. They need to see they are loved and accepted for any choices they make. Someday they will be older and have much bigger and harder things they are dealing with than whether someone says they shouldn’t wear nail polish and you will want them to be able to come to you about it and not be embarrassed. So step up your game and make sure you are teaching your children acceptance. And maybe it will be a good refresher course for you as well.