April 19, 2013

Poll: To wear pink or not to wear pink?

Last Sunday we were headed out the door for church when I looked down and realized Silas was wearing Jannika's pink flip flops.

Those pink flip flops are his go-to favorite.

Before he started preschool this year, pink was his favorite color. Now? Blue. Go figure. He and Jannika have endless annoying conversations about color - why he loves blue, why she loves pink, why most boys love blue, why most girls love pink. And there's me from the other room, interjecting a random, called-out "Boys love pink, too!" "My favorite color is green!" and "Dad loves purple!" every once in a while.

Silas will swear up and down he love blue the best and hates pink the most. And then he'll go and put on the pink flip flops.

And then there's toenail polish. Silas YEARNS to have his nails painted. If there's one thing I've learned in parenting, it's that you choose your battles. And you choose battles that matter. Silas wearing toenail polish? Not even coming close to resembling a battle in my mind. Not even an issue. I paint my toes, I occasionally give in to requests to paint Jannika's toes, so of course Silas is going to ask me to paint his. Would I deny Jannika a blue shirt? A present request of matchbox cars or dinosaurs? A short haircut? Well, yes, if she's obnoxious about it and being bratty. But would I deny her those things because she's a girl? No way.

So I paint Silas' toenails. And Rob, raised in a more traditionally Southern way of thought, has learned to roll with the punches thrown by an off-the-wall, Northern born-and-bred, decidedly more liberal wife. At first he blanched, the next time he grimaced, then he rolled his eyes, and finally he requested I keep the polish to more purple (less hot pink) hues. Silas was game, so we now have a compromise.

So really? I don't care if Silas wears those pink flip flops with purple or green (or hot pink) toenails. For goodness sake, pink was a boy color at the turn of the last century, as it was considered the baby version of red (a "manly" color) while blue was reminiscent of the virgin Mary (who was - news flash! - a female).

But the rest of the world? Well, they sometimes do care. The last time Silas wore those pink flip flops to pick up Jannika from school, two girls started pointing and laughing, calling out to Jannika to take a look at her little 3 year-old brother. It wasn't done in meanness - nothing could be further from the truth as Jannika's school is full of some of the most caring, gentle-spirited children I've ever met. Those girls simply found it funny.

I could sense an immediate change in Silas, however. He knew. He suddenly cared. He shouted out, "I don't even LIKE pink!" and laughed, but then was quiet on the way home, and those shoes sat unused and abandoned for the next few days until the sting wore off.

There's a reason I have him wear socks and tennis shoes to preschool, even on his non-P.E. days. I can deflect the comments about painted toes and pink shoes when I'm around - I laugh them off, I change the subject, I protect a little boy from hurt. But when I'm not around? I can't do a thing.

Here's the thing, I want him to wear those shoes if he wants to - just like I don't discourage Jannika from wearing the navy blue pirate flip flops she picked out last summer. He likes pink? Fine. I could care less. I want both of my kids to follow their hearts and stand up for what they like. Because if they can learn to stand up for what they like, then they can learn to stand up for what they believe. And if they can stand up for what they believe, they can learn to make a difference in this world.

But when does protecting your child from outside ridicule trump allowing him to do what he likes? He is too young to stand up for himself - I know that he will soon denounce both those pink flip flops and toenail polish as soon as he faces scrutiny and pressure...just as he gave up his favorite color during the first few weeks of school this year.

So that Sunday I encouraged him to change out of the pink flip flops and into Jannika's navy blue pirate ones, explaining to him that the blue ones matched his shirt better.

I have been thinking about it all week, especially as my kids have both put forth 5839483 requests this week that their toes be painted. It's flip flop season here in Texas. People will see. Some people will point. Some people will laugh.

Do I let Silas follow his innocent wants and say "pooh" to the silly "pink is for girls; blue is for boys" trap we've set for our kids? Or will the teasing and ridicule do more harm than good? Do I instead protect him, but in turn continue this absurd mindset that girls can be "girls" but also do "boy" things, but boys certainly should never be "girly"? (Or what our culture now currently deems "girly" - because it changes, folks, in case you're not aware!)

He's only three. I am genuinely interested in what you all have to say about this. It's been plaguing me all week! Leave a comment here if you will!

Much love,

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