Wet Paint

December 22, 2010 at 5:00 am | Posted in Giggles | 17 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As I type this, Giggles sits on the living room rug running his train around its circular track. He has blocks piled high in one car and coins in another. A plastic yellow dump truck is in the middle of the tracks, stuck at a perpetual stop sign as it waits for the train to pass. One of his train cars overturns. Shiny pennies spill on the floor.

“Oh, no! I’ll get it!” he says and rakes the pennies into a pile with his fingernails. His pink fingernails. 42nd Street Fuchsia, to be exact.

I watch him carefully coordinate the clean-up and marvel at my little blond-haired contradiction. He loves his trains and tractors. He loves to hit things and spit. He’s never met a rock he didn’t want to stuff in his pocket or a pile of dirt he didn’t want to scoop up. He often leaps across the floor like a frog.

But he also loves to play “dance class” with his sister. They can spin for hours (or until someone gets dizzy and bonks their head on the coffee table). He cares for baby dolls, feeding them bottles and burping them before singing them a lullaby and putting them gently in a shopping-basket-turned-crib. He shares his peanut butter and jelly sandwich with his favorite stuffed mouse.

He is rough. And gentle. He is tough. And kind. He is rowdy. And nurturing. He is all boy. And he is more than that.

As his mother, I want to keep it that way. I want him to always feel comfortable being himself, and I want him to know I love him. Without condition. And with pink nails.

He’ll have so many people in his life telling him how to act and what to be. He’ll face the same gender expectations that we all come up against. Soon enough, he’ll realize that boys don’t paint their nails.

But not for now. And not from me.

How do you encourage your children to explore all their interests? How do you help them navigate the expectations society places on them? And what’s your favorite nail polish color?



This post is part of Amber’s new Non-Judgmental Parenting meme, where she invites us to share one thing we are proud of doing as parents. Join in the conversation at Making the Moments Count.



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  1. So for a LONG time my son wore pink. Pink was his favorite color. Today his is a hunter and the star basketball player. He is, as you said, “all boy.”

    I guess a part of me wants to ask why we say this.

    Why is it not “all boy” to wear pink? I want a man who is soft to be the father of my children. I want my daughter to be able to be the star basketball player.

    What really matters about gender? That which we decide. I’ve decided very little really matters. Certainly not nail color.

  2. And our two biggest boys had a favourite game of fairies fishing…their fairy outfits were (one) bright yellow and (one) bright pink. Number three loves dancing, and I have his fairy dress all ready…bright purple. I love that they don’t care.

  3. i feel the same way. Andrew just colored his own nails with an orange marker. So funny. And he loves pink. And Dora. but he also loves trucks and cars and dirt and dragons. Let them be who they are! Sweet and tough, thoughtful and rough. Whatever and whoever. 🙂

  4. Mr3 loves to do ‘ballet’, twirling around the house, but when I asked him if he wanted to take lessons he said that it was ‘for girls’. Preschool is both a good and bad thing. II told him that there were places where boys could have lessons too. He’s very interested… I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

  5. I love it 🙂
    Fynn just took a leopard print purse filled with his trains to an appointment yesterday…

  6. I’m too tired to try to say anything intelligent today, so I’ll just tell you about my nails.
    A couple of weeks ago I got the greatest pedicure. My nails are dark blue, and the esthetician (?) painted perfect white snowflakes on my big toes, then put a ‘diamond’ in the middle of the biggest snowflake. They are so pretty… well, they WERE so pretty, like I said it’s been a couple of weeks.

  7. He is perfect with his pink toes and love of dirt.

    Emily only wears purple and pink, but she loves trucks, balls, and to climb on top of everything. She is the most active of all her little friends, usually leading them into trouble. She is my pink wearing wild child. And I love it.

  8. I was a tomboy growing up and I’ve never been a fan of “girlie” things, so when I had my daughter, my first instinct was never to pick up a pink outfit just because she’s a girl. I gravitated towards neutrals, greens and even blues. Even then, she somehow managed to pick pink as her favorite color, demanding pink socks, cups, bowls, you name it. And yet she can rough house with the best of them. Gender expectations are going to continue to influence their young minds, I have no doubt, but you’re right, as parents we don’t have to play a part in that.

    I don’t normally paint my fingernails because I’m such a klutz that I’ll probably leave the salon with a chipped nail, but I prefer nudes on my toes. Less obvious when I’ve gone too long without a pedicure, which is often the case. Thank goodness for socks!

  9. I love the image of him with his nails painted. My daughter doesn’t get her nails painted by Mommy, her Daddy paints them. She thinks that is how it is supposed to be. They set up a play nail salon in our bathroom. I believe that is what she will remember when she is grown, that her Daddy wasn’t too afraid to paint her nails.

  10. 42nd Street Fuschia? I love it! (Was that color named before or after they cleaned up Times Square, do you think?)

    Like Giggles, Big Boy is all about his trucks and trains (not to mention dinosaurs and Star Wars). With the exception of his penchant for Dora bandaids, he doesn’t really gravitate toward traditionally feminine clothes and accoutrement. He is, however, incredibly sensitive, and I worry all the time about how I can cultivate his sensitivity all the while raising him to be comfortable in a world that still seems to say that boys have to be tough. My hope is that there are many more parents out there like you and me and your previous commenters, raising kids who are confident and comfortable being exactly who they are.

  11. Secretly Maxi knows that I know that he would prefer to play with his LIttlest Pet Shop collection over Ben 10 anyday – just don’t tell his school mates that!!

    And Cappers favourite colour is blue, even though her room is pink, pink, pink. If she didn’t have an older brother to ‘differentiate’ herself from, that one would shun pink in an instant.

    They are gender-specific no matter what we do. I think it’s part of finding their ‘tribe’. x

  12. I encourage my kids to pursue their interests — no matter what they are. It’s purposeful, but not pressuring. My goal is to show them through my support and participation that their creativity, imaginations, and desires are good and right. (Well, except for the farting jokes. I just can’t support the farting jokes.)

  13. I’ll be curious to see my son’s reaction when his older sisters want to polish his nails. Or maybe he’ll suggest it himself when he’s old enough! i have an all-boy, very athletic nephew (age 7) who occasionally wears nail polish, too. I think it’s silly the way people get caught up in the superficiality of things like polished nails and baby dolls and pink v. blue. Kids are kids and their job is to play and explore, not worry about gender stereotypes. As a parent, I have bigger fish to fry (i.e. the elusive work/life balance). Good for you for letting giggles be all child. 🙂

  14. That’s awesome! You are such a great mother to let your son be the person he wants to be!

    My two sons used to love to play dress up, cook, and do art projects. Now that they’re 11 and 13, they don’t do as much of those things. I guess they have outgrown those stages (or else they’ve learned from peers that it’s not cool).

    It is so important to let our kids experience the things they want to experience in life. It’s when parents forbid something that kids start to obsess and yearn for it.

  15. My boys both went through nail painting stages. Currently, my eldest has hair past his shoulders and is constantly mistaken for a girl. And he doesn’t care. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

  16. You go Mama! I don’t actively break through gender roles but I don’t enforce them either.

    Merry Christmas 🙂

  17. I remember my little brother painting his nails pink when we were little and I harassed him constantly about it…now as a mom of a boy I really do want my son to be whoever he wants to be. Three years ago he “loved” pink and last year he prayed he would get a Barbie doll for his birthday so that he could play alongside his best girl friend. But you’re right – somewhere along the way society starts beating our kids down with gender restrictions. Now my son thinks pink is “eww” and he is all boy (at age 6). It is hard – I want him to be gentle and all and yet at the same time I know he has to learn to be a “guy” in order not to be ridiculed or bullied…it is sad…

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