I was thrilled earlier this summer when I was asked to put a ponytail in my child’s hair. As the mother of 3 boys, it was something I didn’t count on. My 11 year old has grown his bangs out to look like a Youtuber named Dan TDM. The bangs were getting in his eyes so he asked if I could pull them back with a ponytail holder. My girly self was so excited to be “doing hair” that I immediately complied. Recently, he asked me to bleach his hair and dye it blue. It was so much fun to bond with my son and allow him to find new and interesting ways to express himself. His hair has now faded to an interesting shade of gray blond.
His next foray into self-expression was with nail polish. He liked the iridescent gray color I was using so I painted his fingernails the same color. The next thing I know my 5-year-old son asked me to paint his nails, too. They loved their manicures and wore them with pride. The little guy even said, “I want you to do my nails every time you do yours, Mommy, and I want the same color.”
My boys have asked for make-up when they saw me applying it. They’ve tried on my shoes, they’ve carried my purse, they’ve worn dresses and they’ve even pretended to be pregnant.
In a world of the “You Do You” mentality, I never expected either of them to get much flack for this choice. Maybe a question or two from a peer, but that’s it. So I was very surprised when Harry, my 5 year old told me his camp counselor said “I want to take that stuff off with nail polish remover.”
I was livid when I heard this. How dare this young man make my son feel bad for painting his nails? He’s 5. This is not a gender statement, and even if it was who cares? It’s not his place or his business to pass judgment.
For the record, my boys have asked for make-up when they saw me applying it. They’ve tried on my shoes, they’ve carried my purse, they’ve worn dresses and they’ve even pretended to be pregnant.
That’s what children do. They experiment. They try on roles to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The nail polish situation probably bothered me more than it bothered my son. Still, it had to be addressed. The camp director was surprised and very apologetic, and she assured me it wouldn’t happen again. I was satisfied with that.
The next day when I took my two-year-old shoe shopping, he chose shoes with a picture of Frozen heroines, Anna and Elsa. When he proudly walked into school the next day wearing his “princess shoes,” he got nothing but compliments.
Like all children, my sons are going to make a lot of choices and they will encounter positive and negative feedback along the way. I know I can’t protect them from everything. I wouldn’t want to. Like all parents, I have to ride the line between when to intervene and when to let them fight their own battles. As they get older that line will become more and more blurry. My goal is to continue to give them enough love and acceptance so they feel safe to express themselves now and in the future.