Friday, December 2, 2011

My Son Paints His Nails


Recently, I found myself in a confrontational situation.
This is not something I would say I am foreign to, or afraid of, and certainly not something I shy away from if it's an issue that is important to me-or especially close to my heart.
This confrontation was over just such a dear-to-my-heart matter: my son.
Most of you are familiar by now with my little boy, Jackson, who is often affectionately coined "The Jedi" on my blog, mainly so random strangers don't know everything about us, and come kill us in our sleep.
Fingers crossed.
Jackson is a sweet, spirited, funny, and super affectionate little boy, who's big for his age and loud for even his size, and has the best wild, shaggy blonde hair I've ever seen. In a word, he's the sweetest. In so many ways, Jackson is growing up to be your typical man's man. He likes to get dirty, run around, crash toy trucks into each other, have light saber battles, and do generally gross, weird, crazy things that boys like to do. He loves airplanes, motorcycles, and anything that will get him dirty. And he laughs at his own farts.
Yeah, he's a boy, for sure.
But there are a couple things that you might consider different about him.
For instance, he loves pink. Right now, I am pretty sure it's his favorite color. He sees pink things and says "That's so booty-full Mommy!" which of course, means beautiful. In fact, it's safe to say he just likes beautiful things in general. He likes my high heels because they're shiny, slick and come in so many colors! {No, I don't have too many pairs of shoes, damn it}. He likes Lainie's dresses because they are sparkly, shiny, twirly and fluffy. What kid doesn't like sparkly, shiny, twirly, fluffy shit?!
And he likes to have his nails painted.
When it comes to my kids, I have learned over the last 8 years to pick my battles. Is it worth fighting with Lainie over what she should wear to school, as long as she's not picking out things that are dirty/stained/wildly inappropriate? No. Should I definitely enforce the brushing your teeth before school policy, even if she cries about it? Yes. Get the picture?
So, when Jack started pointing out pink stuff he liked, or when he went through that phase of loving stuffed unicorns, I didn't fight him. First of all, why? What's the point? Why make my 3 year old cry over getting him a pink blanket instead of a blue one, when we go shopping for bedding? It's just a color. Why is it ok for him to like blue, or red or yellow, but not pink or purple? It's just a blanket. It's not worth my energy. Why should I deny my son that stuffed unicorn, and insist instead he latch onto a G.I. Joe, or a Toy Story doll, or whatever else? They're all dolls, after all, aren't they? They're all stuffed animals, they're all toys. If a girl wanted a Buzz Lightyear instead of a Barbie, no one would think anything of it. But because my son shreiked and laughed and hugged his stuffed unicorn, I got weird looks in Walmart. And if he'd been older, someone might have said something to him.
Fuck. That.
Now, as I mentioned before, my son likes to have his nails painted. And this is where the confrontation begins. At first when Jack saw me painting Lainie's nails, and asked me to paint his, I was hesitant. I almost said no. And then he crawled onto the bed, and put his hands down flat on the manicure board, and held so still, his little fingers outsrretched and waiting. He wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to do what we were doing. And, he just loved the bright pink color I was painting Lainie's nails. Why should that be wrong?! Again, if Lainie saw Jack and his uncle or grandpa playing football, and she wanted to play, I would lose my mind if they told her no, football is only for boys. So how dare I inflict the same double standard on my sweet boy?
I would not.
I painted his tiny nails, and when it was over, and they were dry, he smiled, quickly said "Thanks" and went outside to dig in the dirt.

Last night, I received in the mail my Birchbox, which I've mentioned here before briefly. Inside, was a bottle of a stunning dark metalic blue nail polish, that made Jacksons jaw drop when he saw it. He wanted me to paint his nails with it.

And I did.

This morning when I dropped him off at Daycare, another mother in his class, who happens to have twins {a boy and a girl} the same age as Jackie, saw his nails as soon as we walked in. It was like she honed in on them like a heat seeking missile. I knew what was coming. I took Jacksons coat off and shooed him off to play. I didn't want him to hear whatever judgmental bullshit was about to fall out of this woman's mouth. She smiled and said "Were his nails painted?"
"Yes" I said, returning her huge smile.
"Did his sister do that to him? Poor kid."
"No, I did. He asked me to. He loves nail polish."
Her smile fell a half an inch, and then she quickly hitched it back up again "Oh. You're ok with him painting his nails?"
"Sure, why not? He likes it. And it's much better than the peeing on everything phase"
"Don't you worry it might give him issues?"
"Like what?"
"You know, like cross dressing...or....."
"It might make him gay?"
"Well, do you think it could?"
"Trust me, {random woman who's name I don't even know, who is acosting me in my child's daycare over peacock colored nail polish}, I think it would be much more detrimental to my child's self esteem and world view, if I went around telling him that he can't be who he is, or find joy and happiness in something as simple as a beautiful color, simply because of his gender. Implying that he should  base his entire identity on the ideals, opinions and hang ups of others. That aside, I don't think I am capable of deciding, or even impacting my son's sexual orientation, and even  if I were able to 'make my son gay' or cause him to crossdress, or however you want to put it, the LAST thing I would want to do is imply his whole life that him being homosexual would be a bad thing. And don't you think that's exactly the message he got, if I made him cry over something as stupid as nail polish, telling it was worth it if it prevented him from liking boys? My main goal here is to raise a happy individual who knows he's loved no matter what he wears or who he goes on dates with when he grows up.  Someone who finds joy and happiness in simple, small things, regardless of how that gender-identifies him. You go right ahead and teach your children that nail polish and color schemes make up all the important parts of their identity, and living in your fantasy world where as long as boys do 'boy things' and girls do 'girl things' then life will never hit you or your children hard. I'll take my chances with the nail polish." And before she could say another word, I walked back to my car, and drove away.

See, the point here is that my son is who he is. Right now, he's 3. He likes a lot of things, including pretty things, and nail polish. One day, he might like electric guitars, black nail polish and garage bands. Or he might like football and cheerleaders. Or he might like boys.

He's my son.

I didn't give birth to him to make him who I wanted him to be.

I gave birth to him so I could watch him grow up, and have the joy of discovering who he decides for himself to be. And if this is all a sign that he's going to grow up to be gay, it doesn't matter. Me stopping him from painting his nails won't change the fact that he wants to, it will only cause more stress and struggle for both of us, and cause anger from him toward me because he can't be who he wants to be, even if it's not hurting anyone. No matter what he likes, or puts on his body, or who he some day falls in love with, he's my son. He's the birth of my soul, which grew legs and goes walking around in the world every day.

He can be whoever he wants to be.

Whoever that is, he will have a mother who loves and defends him to the ends of the earth.


  1. I absolutely love this!!! If only more parents would think this way, I believe that this world would be a better place with a lot less discrimination and fears of being rejected. I never understood how it could be so hard for people to throw out the stereotypes and stop trying to mold people into what they think should be normal. Sarah, my friend, you did a good job with picking this battle. ;-)

  2. Quite often people that have issues with others tend to be unconfortable with themselves and are insecure. Life is about choices, good ones and bad. Growing up is all about learning and exploring. It was cute to hear my brother say that he would like to be a mom when he grows up. Obvously he didn't become a mother but a very loving father of an autistic child.

    I believe that the greatest gift to give is unconditional love. Giving your son this love will help him share that type of unjudgemental attitude to others throughout his life.

    I enjoyed this post. Not many people are that open minded.

  3. WAY TO GO SARAH!!! :) I am SO proud of you!!