I am intolerant of your intolerance.

painted nails

I love painting my nails because it quiets my mind and allows me to focus on one thing. My mind is usually running as fast as the little hamsters can go, and there is something about brushing a layer of polish on my nails that makes it all stop for a few minutes. If I had the time, I would paint my nails every day.

When I was pregnant, I painted my then-husband’s toenails. He didn’t want to go to work in the warehouse with painted fingernails, so I settled for just the toes. I couldn’t reach my own, so it was really kind of him to give me those extra few minutes of a quieted mind.

I had my baby—a boy—and was thrilled when he started to show an interest in my colorful nails. It wasn’t long until he was requesting his nails be painted to look “like mommy’s.” Not only did it give me a few peaceful moments, but it gave us a chance to bond. In his younger years it was difficult to get him to sit still long enough for the paint to dry. His paint would often smudge within a few seconds of getting painted. As he’s gotten older, he’s learned to place his hands on his knees for a few minutes until they have dried. We usually take this time to chat, or watch an episode of Doctor Who.

He continued to request painted nails, even when the kids in his kindergarten class teased him. He started requesting more blues and greens at this point, because he noticed the boys only seemed to tease him if he had pinks or purples on his nails.

That was the same year he wanted to wear a dress to school. That was the year I realized how brave my little monster could be.

He has moved on to first grade this year, and is in public school. There is a larger student population for him to deal with, and the nail polish is becoming an issue again.

He has been told that he has “girl fingers” by another boy at the school, just because his nails are painted red. He has been laughed at, teased, and made to feel as if he is somehow less than others at the school.

No matter how many times we have the same discussions about self expression, being who you are despite what others think, and the fact that colors are not gender-specific, he is still struggling with the frustrations that come from being teased.

I find myself angry about this topic. Whenever I read an article about a mom who allowed her son to wear pink shoes, or a boy who prefers to wear skirts, my blood boils at the thought that we are still having to defend our children’s choices at this level.

My son is six years old. He knows that some people are gay and some people are straight. He knows that boys can wear nail polish and girls can play with trucks. These things are non-issues in his mind. Until he comes into contact with another child who makes them issues. It is only then that it becomes a half-problem.

It’s a problem because he’s being teased about it. It’s not enough of a problem for him to change. He never wants to take the polish off because he was teased. He doesn’t even choose “boy colors” any longer. He picks the color that he wants. The color that he likes.

The one thing that calms me when I come across this issue (again and again) is writing about it and sharing my thoughts. If I post about it on Facebook, my friends and family overwhelm me with their support and encouraging comments for my son. If I write a blog post about it, I am lucky enough to only receive positive comments. I feel the support wherever I turn.

And I will continue to write about it. I will continue to remind people that it’s not the children at my son’s school who are to blame. I will continue to remind people that it is the adults in those children’s lives who are responsible. When it comes to gender-specific colors, toys, perceptions, it boils down to nurture over nature. These children are learning intolerance.

And I am intolerant of this intolerance.

Update: I received an email this morning from BlogHer.com informing me that this post is being featured on the BlogHer Family page. I am beyond honored.


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39 comments on “I am intolerant of your intolerance.”

  1. Kristi

    My son asked me to paint his nails like his uncle. After I finished his toes, we proudly went off to show his grandma. Upon seeing the black nails, she called them “ugly”. He was so upset.

    Nail polish comes off. Words and teasing stick.

    Boy, did she get a mouthful from me. It is adults who put ideas in their heads that they can’t do something. My son kept his nails and got an apology from grandma.

    Not at my son. Not at your son. You fight, mama. I’ll be supporting you and your “monster”. oxox.

    • Roxanne

      I think it saddens me even more when I find out the teasing is coming from family members. I am truly so lucky that my family accepts differences, even if they don’t always understand them. Your son will also learn a lot hearing you stand up for him, and getting an apology from grandma will teach him that even adults aren’t always right in their behavior. Thank you for your support Kristi. XO

  2. Pragmatic Soul

    I am sorry to hear about the trouble your son is having with the teasing.

    Anything that is out of norm will be tortured. I’m a handicap, so I got more than my share of endless teases..

    • Roxanne

      It saddens me when anyone “different” gets teased. I think it’s our differences that make us all so wonderful. I celebrate anything outside the norm, and I hope my son sees what I do and learns from it. Thank you for stopping by. Your words and support mean so much to me.

  3. Shell

    I’m sorry your son is having to deal with the teasing.

    You would think we all would have moved past judgment of such insignificant things by this point. But I know we haven’t. My oldest gets teased for not wanting to do all the “boy things” during recess. He’s more of a creative soul than the rough-and-tumble.

    • Roxanne

      It still surprises me that we haven’t moved past it yet. I wanted to say THANK YOU Shell. Not just for stopping by, reading, and commenting, but for giving me a place like PYHO to share these ideas and give my words more of a platform.

  4. Kir

    OH Rox, I love your son. I love that he is WHO he is and that you talk to him about tolerance and simply living the life that feels most comfortable on him.

    I too, worry quite a bit about Jacob and his love of Harry Potter, Narnia, Church. He is vocal and proud and not at all concerned about how people see him. He wears his Potter Robes or ties to church or the grocery store, he will sing songs to people in Walmart and he is always ready with a story for , well, everyone.

    I worry that the teasing will come(It has in some ways from friends but he brushes it off for now) , but I will channel you and know that we are raising good, amazing young men who are creative and know who they are. That , in and of itself, is enough.

    WOW. I loved this.

    • Roxanne

      We are raising amazing little boys who will grow up knowing that they have the support of their mothers in ALL of their choices, and everything that makes them so special. Oh how I wish we could get our boys together. The stories they would weave! 🙂 Thank you for your support and friendship. XO

  5. Kerry Ann

    I love how your kid doesn’t care. I love how you reassure him that it’s okay. While my son doesn’t paint his nails (he’s learned from me–I’m terrible at giving myself pedicures)I wouldn’t care if he did. We fought a similar battle when he was your son’s age about hair. My son has wanted long hair (shoulder-length, not even Celene Dion’s kid’s long locks)since he was four. It’s hair. Okay. His grandparents tormented him. Called him a girl. And a weird hippie (yeah, really). Changed his name to the female version. I was irate. And I stood firm. So did he. He still has long hair, and those others have gotten over themselves. Keep up the good work.

    • Roxanne

      I’m glad to hear that you stood firm. Teasing always seems a little worse when it comes from loved ones. I understand that older generations might not be as understanding, but they need to get with the times. It’s OK for boys to have long hair and painted nails. Thanks Kerry Ann!

  6. Mindi

    This makes me so angry…. I am glad he is being himself, and that our group of friends are supportive of tolerant ideals. 🙂 Love that you put this out here.

    • Roxanne

      I think it makes a big difference that he can come home and be surrounded by friends and family who LOVE him for who he is. Even though the school day might be hard to get through, he has ADULTS and KIDS who are completely accepting of his choices. And we love you for it! XO

  7. Kimberly

    I love you and I love your son.
    I love that you allow him to explore and do what he wants to do.
    He’s like the honey badger…he don’t give a shit.
    I think it’s disgusting that kids tease him. Where are the teachers?
    And why aren’t these parents teaching their kids that we are all unique and that it doesn’t matter what you look like, what you love, etc.
    People, this is 2013. Grow the fuck up.
    And you my friend, keep fighting for your son. I know he holds his own, but you keep being that voice behind his strength. xo

    • MimiLou

      Kimberly, the teachers don’t even know. Bullies KNOW what they are doing and that it is wrong, so they fly under the radar. Other kids find it difficult to stand up for others because they are afraid that they will be next. It is a HORRIBLE cycle.

      • Roxanne

        It’s true that the bullies know what they are doing is wrong. They also want some sort of response from my son. This is why I have to teach him to stand up for himself to put an end to it. Just finding the right way to do that can be tricky.

    • Roxanne

      THANK YOU Kim. Support from friends like you will show my son that he is LOVED and ACCEPTED because of who he is, not in spite of. I’ll keep fighting and helping him find his voice so he can learn how to stand up for himself through his words. XO

  8. Julia

    It is the parents who are installing these ideas and this intolerance in their children, you are 100% right!

    • Roxanne

      I think that’s the part that worries me the most. They are learning this behavior. Thanks for your support!

  9. Adrienne

    We had a similar issue when my youngest was a couple years younger. He played t-ball with a hot pink bat and almost ALWAYS gets “girl” toy at Mcds. I always get so mad when I have to say “girl” toy. Why can’t they just be Hot Wheels or Littlest Pet Shop? I think it’s cool he wears it anyway!

    • MimiLou

      I SO agree with you. I have always been furious with McDs about their “boy/girl toy” crap.

    • Roxanne

      I refuse to request a “boy” or “girl” toy. I’ll say “Hot Wheels” or “Pet Shop” (or whatever the toys are). It always makes the cashier pause for a moment. But it’s my own personal rebellion. 🙂

  10. just JENNIFER

    You are absolutely right that painted nails shouldn’t matter one little bit. Do little girls who DON’T want to paint their nails get teased for that? Probably not.

    • Roxanne

      Of course they don’t. It’s NAILS. I still can’t figure out why these children care so much about something that doesn’t even affect them!

  11. Malissa

    Bravo for you and especially your little guy for not giving up what he likes for peer pressure. It’s a shame that with all the trouble in the world that people still focus on such petty BS as this. I bet they don’t worry about the teasing. I’m glad you are making waves by writing about it so others can learn and that you’ve experiences awesome support!

    While I understand that some kids don’t learn all bad behavior from their parents and may just be mimicking other kids they play with and their parents don’t know about the behavior there is still some weight to be put on adults in general. Kids learn from adults and some adult somewhere is teaching and supporting this type of behavior and it just gets spread around like a disease.

    So sorry your little guy is going through this, but it sounds like you’re doing a great job handling it and supporting him. I love that even though you are hurting for him you don’t try to persuade him to not wear it just to avoid issues. Again, I just have to say great job! and great post!

    • Roxanne

      Thanks for your words and support. His teacher actually suggested he stop wearing the polish to avoid problems, but I’m so against that! He should be who he is and not have to compromise for the other kids who are really having a problem with HIS nails. I am so proud of him for not giving in to that pressure and leaving the polish on for as long as HE wants. He’ll decide when he wants to take it off, and whether he wants to paint them again or not.

      • Malissa

        I agree with you completely! I don’t know his teacher, but asking the child who may get picked on in NOT the way to solve bullying issues. Teach kids to not pick on others for their differences period! I’m sorry teachers are put in the place to enforce these types of issues, but they are and avoiding a problem will not solve it. ohhhhh! I can imagine how proud you are of him. I’m not even related and I am completely proud of him 🙂

  12. Malissa

    Ok. I followed your links back to your post “He is the brave one” and read the line from your son saying “I used my words and told them they weren’t being nice. And then they stopped.”

    I couldn’t help but tear up. This is such a lovely post and just leaves me at a loss to say how awesome I think he is and your parenting skills are. If all the people could be more like this the world would be such a better place.

    I know that’s kind of “cliche-ish”, but I really do have that strong of feelings about it.

    I have to thank P.Y.H.O for being there to help me find your blog!

  13. MiccaRus

    Yes to all the positive comments! What a well-rounded adult he will be! And THAT is what being a parent is all about! Raising them right!

    • Roxanne

      THANK YOU! I am so glad to have received so many positive comments about this. So much love and support – just what I was looking for. 🙂

  14. Danielle

    My son likes longer hair. He get harrassed by older family members much more than by other kids. I don’t get it! How can so many completely different people all consider themselves the Standard of Normal? It’s arrogance, really.

    And your son is only 6! Why does society want to limit boys’ choices while ever expanding girls’ choices?

    Freedom for all kids!

    • Roxanne

      Exactly. He’s only SIX. Why do people want to care so much about their choices and whether they are “gender appropriate”? That doesn’t even exist anymore. At least it shouldn’t. Let them be who they are, whether it be long hair or painted nails. Thanks for reading!

  15. Sara Healy

    I love your title and it fits perfectly with your writing. People, young and old, have a need to create conformity in a society. Fortunately, there are always the exceptions — the ones who are willing to be who they are, even if they don’t quite fit the norm. I greatly admire this in a child, especially one as young as your son.

    I’d say his attitude is tribute to you as a parent. You’re teaching him to think for himself and make his own choices about what he likes and doesn’t like. I imagine your son will grow up to be like you, “intolerant of intolerance.”

    It would be nice if more schools offered classes about intolerance. In some situations, it might be more important than other subjects.

    Congratulations on having this post included on the BlogHer Family page:~)

    I came here from the weekend linkup at Write at the Merge.

    • Roxanne

      Thank you Sara! I appreciate your comment. My one hope is that my son will be able to grow up to be who he is, intolerant of intolerance, and maybe the kind of person who will stand up for what is RIGHT and reject conformity for the sake of conformity.

  16. Piper Punches

    It truly is heartbreaking to know that our children are subjected to cruelty and misunderstanding at such an innocent time in their lives. It is even worse that as a parent you cannot let your children express themselves without worrying how they will be treated by their peers and, I hate to say this, but their peers’ parents. I think it is amazing that you are allowing your son to explore his likes and dislikes without barriers. It sickens me that there are still so many gender roles that our children must overcome. Stay true to your heart. You’re son is lucky to have such a wonderful mother!

    • Roxanne

      It does break my heart that he has had to deal with this teasing so early. I was teased as a child, but I don’t remember it really starting until middle school. Thank you for reading, commenting, and being so supportive. It means the world to me.

  17. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf

    Wow. This is amazing. I think about this a lot. My son (who’s also 6) used to ask to have his nails painted when he was younger because he loved the colors. That’s what is was about for him – the colors and expression. He likes some typical boy things but he’s also more sensitive and doesn’t like the superheroes, rough and tumble stuff. I worry a lot about the teasing and I worry that it will break his spirit at some point which would break my heart. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Roxanne

      You’re very welcome Christine. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment. I think it’s important to be there for our children, to make sure they have a safe place/person to go to when others tease them. Children will find any reason to tease another, but if we teach our children to stand up for themselves, then maybe it won’t break them so hard. Thanks again, and good luck with your little one.

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  19. Becky

    Love love love this! I think it is awesome that you are allowing your son to be who he is. It makes me so sad that there are so many intolerant people out there who teach their children to fear and hate what is different.

    Keep up the awesome work!

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