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.