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What Hate Feels Like

What Hate Feels Like

How do you articulate things to your children that you just feel are right? Especially when you want to do so without hurting anyone with differing opinions, even if they’re so much louder than you? I don’t know these answers, and so I try to keep quiet in most instances. I try to smile about the chicken sandwiches and bathrooms and whatnot, because I couldn’t adequately put into words why I felt the way I did.

And then THIS happened.


[sws_pullquote_right]I learned, through my son’s eyes, what hate feels like. And my God, I will speak louder to keep that as far from my world as possible. [/sws_pullquote_right] Although I very rarely wear polish on my hands, my toes are always painted in the summer. I do them myself, because I have this very unnerving reaction to pedicures: I laugh uncontrollably. I don’t know why, but I do. I don’t think I like people messing with my feet seems to be the root of it, but mostly it’s that I feel downright guilty that someone has to touch my feet, and then it tickles, and the awkward laughter, it does not stop.

Anyway, so I paint my own toes and I have quite the (obsessive) collection of polishes as a result.

I don’t know why, but as we’ve neared my sister’s wedding, Tony has asked me many times to paint his nails. I’ve resisted for a long time, but finally, last week, I gave in. He wanted to pick the color and – God help me – I steered him toward a more masculine color. He settled on a dark green, although that was not his first choice.

Pink was.

So we sat in my bedroom floor, he and I, sprawled out with limbs everywhere. I painted his tiny toenails and sat back. “No, Momma, my hands too!” he begged. “I want color EVERYWHERE!”

I consented.

He danced around the house, so pleased with his color. He sat back every five minutes or so, admiring his new nails. He LOVED them. “I can’t wait to show everyone!” he beamed.

I was late getting home the next night because of work stuff, and when I walked in, Bryan threw me the be gentle with him glare.

“Momma,” he said. “I have to take my color off.”

Why, baby?

“Everyone laughed at me. Said I looked like a girl. But I like it, Momma! But they laughed.”

It’s worth noting that this was The Wednesday. You know: The Day of Chicken.

I may have been a little sensitive.

So we sat, again, in my bedroom floor. Limbs sprawled out. And we talked about how harsh words can be. As I dabbed at his tiny fingernail polish with soaked cotton balls, we talked about how everyone is different, and we all like different things, and that’s okay. We talked about how the color on your nails means nothing more than your preference for that color on that particular day. I did all of this with a solid, comforting voice.

I started to dab his toes with the polish remover and he said, “No, Momma. Don’t. I really like my color. And I can wear shoes, right Momma? So no one will know? I can hide it so only I know, and that would be okay, right Momma?”

Aaaaaand then I lost it.

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No one should have to hide who they are. Or what they love. Or who they love.

They should not have their personas beaten out of them.

We should not have to pray that away, any more than we pray away someone being left-handed. May I pray that they find the strength to ignore the urges to use their left hand, and that they find the strength to only use their right hand.

I don’t care if you judge me for painting my son’s nails. I don’t care at all. And quite frankly, if you do judge me, it says worlds more about YOU than it does about me. Do his nails affect you in any way? Do they impact your life? Are your morals shaken by his painted nails?

I emailed this story to my friend Kim the next day, to let her know that I thought about her through all of this. We both agreed that we have to believe – we have to believe, for our own sanity’s sake – that people don’t understand what their actions are doing. That they don’t understand the hate the other side – us – sees.

I learned, through my son’s eyes, what hate feels like.

And my God, I will speak louder to keep that as far from my world as possible.

Update: the next night, Tony asked me to paint his nails again. I let him choose the color. He chose a pastel pink, and wanted sparkles on top of it. I painted his fingernails and his toenails. He loves them – says they look like little birthday cakes. He says he knows they may laugh at him, but his bucket will stay full.

Teach your children well.


View Comments (58)
  • Your post had me in tears. ADULTS taught those other children to make fun, and that is shameful. They are the ones who put pink on their daughters and blue on their sons the second they were born, and forced them into rigid gender roles. Childhood is about play and exploration, whether that is little girls refusing to wear pink and playing with rockets to little boys wanting to try lipstick and nail polish or play with dolls. It’s about allowing a child to realize who and what they are and feeling confident in their beings and in their choices.
    You are a good mother. And your son is very lucky to have you.

  • I completely agree with Cyndia! My 3 year old loves his trucks and batman and all things boy. But, if he sees me putting on makeup or lipstick, he wants some too. What color cupcake will he choose when we go to Gigi’s? Pink. Why? Because he thinks it is strawberry, and he loves strawberries. I’m sure if he saw me polishing my nails, he would want his done too. And, yes, he would probably choose pink.

  • I’m so glad I read this. My son also loves polish and I too tried to steer him into masculine colors. But it doesn’t stop here-he loves to play princess, to sing, to dance, to do gymnastics. And you know what? I don’t care! But I do worry what other people will say to him. It’s such an ugly world and to a 4 year old little boy, it’s all the same to him-pink versus blue, football versus tap dance classes. He’s overheard ‘friends’ of ours say they’d never let their sons take dance, etc., and I know it’s very confusing for him. I can already see some of the influence of girl/boy things around him and it’s heartbreaking to hear him say he can’t do something because that’s what girls do.

    I think as parents we should encourage any positive outlet our children are interested in. Thanks for the article-it made my morning. 🙂

  • Love this. You’re right, hate isn’t something that we’re born with it is something that we’re taught. Who cares if a boy has painted nails or if my daughter is called Lu and plays with trucks or if my gay brother wants to marry his boyfriend?

  • In regards to CFA – Not sure how I feel about this. I don’t like being labeled a hater just because I don’t agree with something. BUT whether or not your son wears nail polish – I think its awesome you’re encouraging him to be his own person.

    • It’s not hate…it’s ignorance. It’s only understanding what is concrete for genders and the absolutes that feminine design is for females and masculinity is for males. As a female that has always been drawn to the masculine side of style, I was labeled a “Tomboy” as a child. I embraced it and was one of the boys. I had a friend in preschool that was labeled a sissy because he liked the feminine clothes and his mannerisms were like a girl.Keep in mind…this is the early 70’s. He came “out” in the early 90’s, but we always knew. Am I gay? Nope. It’s ok to explore. I still prefer dressing like a guy and God gave me 2 boys because I’d be lost with a little girl. We must stop labeling people with hate though….Children tease what they don’t understand or what is different. Bullying is mean and I had my share but it was over things like…my nose, my freckles, my curly hair, my smile, my legs, my height…I could go on. Let’s not return anger to the other side for being mean…thats been going on forever. Let’s just teach our kids to love themselves and know that they can please some of the people some of the time, but they will never please all of the people all of the time. Let us love, forgive and enjoy peace within ourselves.

    • Hey, Melissa!

      I want to say – first and foremost – I don’t think that everyone who enjoys a #1 with extra pickles is a hater. At all. Because I am a huge fan of the #3. (Can you tell I’m having withdrawals?)

      But for folks who oppose the organizations that CFA was so loudly supporting, that Wednesday was a very trying, hard-fought day.

      We are all welcome to have our own thoughts and beliefs, right? God bless America – and I will defend the right for us to have our different beliefs until death. It is one of my favorite parts of America.

      I guess I’m trying to lightly step around the fact that I don’t judge you for enjoying that Ice Dream. But I certainly am glad to hear you offer the same support when we pursue a different path at my house! 🙂

      • I know what you mean about trying days. Trying days for us (supporters of CFA) were when the mayors of San Francisco, Chicago, DC and others stood at their platforms and claimed CFA “would not be welcome” and they would “do everything in their power to keep CFA out of their city.” It’s not only the fact that I enjoy the original chicken sandwich. I have nothing against how people want to live their lives. I have everything against elected officials trying to keep people and businesses out of their jurisdictions simply because they hold different beliefs from them. I do hold to traditional marriage but let’s not pretend that was the only issue at play on that Wednesday.

  • I rarely paint my nails as well. My son is 19 and is awaiting his first child. I always painted his nails whatever color he wanted. He even loved to dress up in his cousins dresses. I don’t think children have any kind of “identity” until they decide, which is so much time to some parents. My 8 year old loves girly things and said he hoped his sister would join a pageant so he could wear her tiara. I love all my children equally and they know whatever they choose is the right choice.

    …I was also in tears…

  • I totally agree with you and support everything you said. I loved your story and thanks for sharing. I teach my child that everyone is different and that is okay. We will be discussing your story tonight.

  • Good for him for coming right back and not caring what other people think! Just a little FYI, a lot of MMA fighters paint their nails to keep them from breaking. Is your son in that Toddler Fight Club I heard about in the news awhile back? Great article.

  • So sad not only how we judge and treat people poorly but how we are teaching our children to do the same. Way to go mom for supporting your son and his pink glittery nails! May he always grow up being who he is rather than who the world around him thinks he should be.

    ~Mom of a truck and mud loving little girl

  • I cannot love this post enough. What a gracious and caring mom you are. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Thank you so much for this post. There’s a lot of pressure on little boys, especially living in the South, to exhibit appropriate “boy” behavior, as though all boys are the same! My 2-year-old son often gravitates toward pink things…at the moment his favorite (washable) marker is pink and he loves drawing on his hands and arms with it :). Honestly, the whole CFA thing just…ugh. I feel like apologizing for all those who participated that day in a way that hurt an entire community. Jesus’s message is love, period.

  • I’m sorry, but this isn’t hate. Hate isn’t something that children grow up knowing, it’s something that they are are taught. This was a bunch of kids reacting to an anomaly in established gender roles. These roles, and I’m sorry to offend your sensibilities, are NOT a bad thing. There is a reason that we act and react the way we do; why boys act like boys and girls act like girls. I can’t figure out why it is suddenly such a terrible thing for people to act within the established norms of behavior. Why is it wrong for a boy to act like a boy? And why is there a war on boys these days? Why is manliness considered wrong or oppressive? These kids didn’t laugh at him because they hated him, they laughed at him because he was acting out of the normal parameters of what boys act like. People laugh at the unexpected… and this was certainly unexpected.

    It’s not hate. Hate is something we teach our children, not something that they’re born knowing, and if we teach our children to look for hate, that’s what they’ll find just as quickly and easily as they find love.

    I’m sorry, but there are norms. Norms create understanding and safety and they are a basic stop gap against chaos. Individuality is great, but there must be limits on it as with everything: Liberty, pleasure, personal interest. I think you mis-read this situation… but I guess you found what you were looking for.

    • Hey, Allen!

      I totally see where you’re coming from here, and to be honest, I’ve had family members say the same thing! Gender identification is good, right? And I don’t disagree, nor do I think four year olds are truly “hateful”. I’m not sure they have it in them.

      But what the situation did for me was exemplify how we need to teach tolerance – even at this age – for folks who are exploring outside of the “gender norms”. I have no issue with manliness or the gender construct of boys, but I don’t think they should be confined to that box, nor should they be teased for wandering outside of it.

      I appreciate your reading this and your comment, though!

      • i appreciate your kind and thoughtful reply. I don’t relish the thought of revisiting the paste and crayon scented hallways of childhood, as children do have the capacity for cruelty, although I think it’s because they’ve not yet come to understand how their reactions might hurt others.

        However, I worry about children being (and this is certainly not the case in your example) pushed into a direction by their parents’ sensibilities. Some deviations are great, it would be a hideous world if we were all cookie cutter copies of one another. However, such things should be tempered with prudence… particularly in some cases for boys who might be beaten senseless by their peers on the playground in a sort of primitive dominance or protective behavior, and by protection I mean protection of the status quo. Something that happens in nature to insure the preservation of the heard, the tribe, or the species.

        Anyway, I’m bloviating at this point, and I’ve taken far too much of your generously offered time and space already.

        Warmest regards.

    • Oh, I definitely think there is a war on boys, although I’m not sure we would be speaking of the same thing. I don’t see anyone telling a four year old boy to stop “acting like a boy.” Ever.

      You know what I DO see? People telling boys they should run faster and play harder because *girls* are beating them. You know what that’s doing? That’s insulting everyone involved. I do see people telling boys that they need to play with the truck. The blue one. They don’t want that pink pony. That’s for girls. And don’t play with dolls! Don’t dress up! Don’t be a normal little kid that learns about their world (all parts of it) through play!

      As far as trivializing and rationalizing the other children’s laughter because her son was outside of the “norm”, well that’s just wrong. Maybe it wasn’t “hate,” but you know what? It was mean and unnecessary. There are a lot of people that don’t fall within “the norm.” Would you act like it wasn’t a big deal if they were laughing at a child with a disability?

      A child with a disability and a little boy with painted nails are two very different situations, but it still boils down to the children not being taught to be accepting of others and differences.

      And these norms you speak of, shouldn’t be these hard rules that adults are forcing children to follow. Children learn through play and trying out different roles. They are innocent and like what they like and don’t see why they shouldn’t. If a little boy wants to play with trucks, fine! That’s great! A pony? That’s great too!

      What if the norm was accepting people as they are? What if the norm was allowing your child to be who they are and like what they like? And more people actually taught their children that often times other people like different things and that’s okay? Would that not create a better understanding and sense of safety?

      Children should be free to be themselves, know that they are loved, and be taught to show others respect.

      The *proud* mother of a creative, soft spoken little boy that would much prefer the pink pony over the truck, and a nature walk over sports.

      PS- I’d be proud of him if it was the other way around as well. Because he’s free to be himself, and enjoy his interests, whatever those may be at any given time. I support him and his play.

      • Hey, Joyce!

        Funny you mention this – my child actually has a disability! (Okay, not HA HA funny, but you get it.) He has a foot deformity that leaves one leg significantly shorter than the other. THAT teasing, I was prepared for! But this kind of blindsided me, obviously.

        And I agree with the “insults everyone involved”, too! I mentioned to Tony that “looks like a girl” hurts MY feelings.. because it is bad that he looks like me? Of course, at this point, I realized I was expecting a lot of my four year old. 🙂

    • I’m just wondering how your logic here would work for hermaphrodites, and/or intersexed people? Your view of sexual identification seems pretty narrow, and exclusive. Chaos? Really? Having little boys like dresses and little girls like trucks leads to chaos? Maybe perceived norms pacify some individuals’ fears of not “fitting in,” but I don’t think that’s a justification for teaching a child it has to behave and think only perceived gender-specific things!

      Your proposal that these children’s behavior wasn’t/isn’t hate-based, is ignoring that this culture we live in has established these strict ideas, and they permeate our culture to the point that children of this age HAVE already learned to “hate’ differences in others.

      The reason these specific gender oppressive ideas are “wrong” was explicit in Sara’s post. They hurt and oppress others, even at the tender ages exemplified here. You seem to want to ignore that point. Thank goodness Sara and other parents are secure and brave enough to be logical and kind in the way they allow their children to be.

      There is no war on maleness happening anywhere in this post. That is something you are bringing to the table out of some perceived threat, maybe? Have no fear, white, conservative males are still the dominant and rule-making class of this culture. (Even on women’s medical rights) But get ready, that is changing. You might have to revise your ideas of what is “normal” when that change arrives.

      Your second post here, seems to advocate mob-rule ultimately. When has that been proven as a stable and civilizing experiment? I think, and hope, that our society is learning and changing in positive ways so that ideas like yours that parents have to “show prudence” in how much they allow their children to be themselves out of fear for their child’s safety on the playground can go away. By the way, THAT is exactly what Sara’s point addresses as saddening and just… not right…..

      Your comments seem to be denying that this is true out of fear. And, I believe all hate originates in fear.

      • The above reply was directed to “Allen.” But it isn’t appearing that way on this flow here……. sorry for any confusion….:)

    • “Norms create understanding and safety and they are a basic stop gap against chaos.”

      These “norms” you are so proud of lead to the murder of many transgender people every year, just because they don’t conform to them. There’s no “safety” out there for a transgender person who lives with a constant threat of violence just because they choose to adhere to the gender norms that feel right to them rather than those assigned to them by society.

      And I’m not sure what “understanding” will be lost if we abandon a rigid gender binary. I understand it will make *you* less comfortable. This might be shocking to you, but that’s actually not the most important concern there is. Really not sure how and why anarchy would ensue.

  • LOVE, love, LOVE this! You did a fantastic job putting into words what so many of us couldn’t. It is so sad that there are so many people out there who can’t see the beauty in each others differences. I may not be a church-going member, but I know in my heart that the God up there would not agree with us judging others for what we perceive to be ‘right’. I have been in the South long enough to just say to those who judge others, “I will pray for you”… and yes, I know what that REALLY means down here! 😉

  • When my daughter was getting lots of questions about adopition in kindergarten i asked her if she wanted me to go into and talk about it (and she did). and it seemed to help. Maybe you could offer to come in and read a storybook about acceptance and tolerance and ask the teacher to talk about acceptance and how everyone is different?
    The Cow that Went Oink by Bernard Most
    Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
    It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr
    Yoko by Rosemary Wells

    • Lee Anne – thank you so much for the recommendations here! We recently gifted a copy of “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” to the school and you would not BELIEVE how that resonated with the kids. I’ll look into these other books as well!

    • Great article. I think this gets to the heart of the matter quite nicely: “We could be preventing future bullies by teaching them to be open-minded now.”

      And it ends perfectly:
      “Well-intentioned parents might feel like they’re saving their sons from bullying by pointing them away from traditionally feminine toys or behaviors. But Goldman said that encouraging them to change for the sake of others protects the bully and not the child.
      “In the short term, they might protect the child from being taunted, but in the long term, it shows the world that who he really is isn’t as important as the status quo,” she said. “Those are the kids who are really tormented because they’re not allowed to express themselves.”

      Thanks for sharing your experience with this, Sarah. I can already tell it moved people and it certainly resonates with me.

  • “Boys act like boys and girls act like girls”– or they are taught to behave a certain way or else face condemnation in a small minded society? It’s really easy to put things in a black and white box but once you factor in that we are not all the same (and thank God for that!) and in fact some people are lesbian, gay, transgendered and others simply don’t fit (or want to fit) in stupid gender norms then it’s not that simple. If everyone had that mentality that we would never have female doctors, soldiers or police officers and you would have never met a male nurse, teacher or fashion designer. And I certainly would not fit in this world of dainty, quiet, simpering women in pink. Gender ‘norms’ are the reason that women have had to fight for the right to vote, the right to attend college, the right to work and the right to be in the military. Sometimes ‘norms’ are made to be broken.

  • What a thought-provoking, heartfelt piece. Thanks so much for sharing. As for “norms,” I don’t care two bits for them. They so often become boxes to shut people in according to the demands of others. Let your children be true to themselves and find their own joy. If that bugs other people, you are right that it says more about THEM than it does about you or your child.

  • I am the mother of a 7 year old boy and a 2 year old girl. Personally, I do not and have never liked the color pink. When my son was in his toddler years, he decided he didn’t like pink because Mommy didn’t. I sat him down and had a talk explaining that it was up to him to decide what he liked and did not like and to not let other people including Mommy stop him. I have many friends who practice alternative lifestyles and my son grew up around them. I remember being in a Wal-mart one day and my son wanted some canvas sneakers which were obviously meant for girls. They were black and had different colored stripes going down the sides. When I asked him why he liked these particular shoes, he said they were the only ones that had his favorite color on them. When I asked what his favorite color was he said rainbow because you can make every color with the rainbow. I consider myself to be fashion stunted and so I told him to do what I do and ask a random person if the shoes were for boys or girls. He asked the cashier who replied “oh those are girls shoes but at his age it doesn’t matter.” She was so right.

    Of course, I had to deal with people making comments about my son’s shoes, but he loved them so much he wore them to bed. Next he wanted a doll and my father had a problem with me getting one for him. My reply was “what is the purpose of a doll other than to teach a girl how to be nurturing and prepare her for motherhood later in life. Perhaps more boys should play with dolls to teach those same qualities and prepare them for fatherhood later in life. Maybe then we won’t have so many dead beat dads out there.” That didn’t go over so well, and I was told that my son would not be allowed to play with a doll at my parents house. I said that was fine if you don’t want to see your grandchild because at the age of 3 he wants to play with dolls like his cousins do then that is fine. If his doll is not welcome at your house neither is he and neither am I. Immediately, there was a change in opinion and it was ok for my son to play with a doll.

    I don’t wear makeup or paint my nails, but I’m sure if I did, my son would want to as well, because I am his role model and he wants to emulate me. When he started school, he didn’t want to get his hair cut for fair that people would laugh at him. So I taught him to love himself and to not care what others thought of him. On a kindergarten field trip that I was chaperoning, there were two little boys that were assigned to be with us. On the way back to the school, they told my son that they didn’t want to sit with him on the bus because he was a weirdo. My son’s eyes were glazed and I could tell he was about to cry, so I simply said hey sweetie come sit with me, I’m a bit of a weirdo too. My son smiled and came and sat with me and told me we could be weirdos together. As we were driving towards the school, my son was playing a game on my phone. The two little boys noticed and asked if they could play as well. Without missing a beat my son said sorry this game is only for weirdos and since you’re not a weirdo you can’t play.

    Although he seemed to miss the rest of the exchange, the vice principal heard this remark and told my son that it wasn’t nice to call people names. I then had to explain that he wasn’t calling the students a name, but was in fact turning a negative comment made to him into a positive aspect and he was embracing being weird. The children asked if they could be weird a swell so that they could play the game and my son who forgives easily allowed them to play.

    I know this was lengthy, but my point is to teach your child to love themselves and that other people’s opinions don’t matter. Which brings me back to a quote my high school friend used to say all the time (I don’t know who originally said it) “Every man has the right to his own opinion, and every other man has the right to knock him down for it” Although I don’t agree with what the CFA hullallaboo is all about, I respect their right to have their opinion and I respect everyone else’s right to respond in kind. Just because we have freedom of speech, doesn’t mean we have to verbally utter every thought that comes to mind. If we all raise our children with that thought in mind, it will go quite a ways towards promoting tolerance on all levels.

  • I can SOO relate to this article! I have five sons, and my middle son, Joshua, is my “princess boy.” On top of collecting vacuum cleaners (he has 56) and enjoying Starbucks lattes (he’s 8), he also loves the color purple, violin and piano, and makeup. These interests are not fiercely popular with most 8 year old boys here in Madison. I was born in Pennsylvania, lived in DC and Europe, and moved here from California, and while I try not to judge southerners or Alabamians, I must say it seems there was FAR more acceptance of differences in these places than here in the Bible Belt (where it would SEEM there would be LESS judgement calls.) Sadly, my son has endured judgement calls (and even bullying) at school, and I myself have even encountered moms and other groups wherein parents talked about how boys should ONLY play sports and girls should ONLY dance. Ack. I’m grateful to have an open mind and heart when raising my sons, and I’m proud to be their mom. I’m also grateful for the support we DO have from friends and family members who accept Joshua. Kudos to the Madison Starbucks store for donating items for his birthday party, for James Dyson of Dyson Vacuums for becoming his penpal, and for Cheryl Kilodavis for writing “Princess Boy” and speaking on the Today Show about her own son who loves things considered “girly.” Here’s to acceptance. We’re ALL the same on the inside; live and let live. ♥

  • Who wouldn’t want beautiful colors on their bodies? Why do we allow some group in our society to decide what is an “appropriate” gender role for our unique child?

  • Best article AND set of comments I have read on this site. Everything I wanted to say while reading the article has already been said in the comments. I love that even those who disagreed with each other did so in such a respectful manner. That is rare these days where “news” shows encourage 2 sides to engage in screaming matches rather than civil discourse.

  • Look at you!… being all smart, and wise, and good, and good for the world! What a poignant and articulate relation of your personal life bringing clarity to a universal (human) issue. Your family is VERY lucky to have someone of your caliber in their corner…. Loving you (and your sexy husband too of course:) really hard right now. Oh, and I’m sharing this link.

  • This is an awesome story. Children are still learning how they define who they are and that requires some experimentation. My daughter loves overalls and trucks, but she spent all day Sunday wearing boots and a ballet tutu. Good for you, mom. Good for you!

  • Awesome story and you are an awesome Mom and Dad. Nail polish is pretty and there is nothing wrong with boys having it on there fingers or with little girls having red dirt under theirs. The issues here happened in a classroom and the teachers have control over this environment. It is their duty to teach tolerance. At about age four children do start to identify gender roles. Thats when parents and teachers should step in with the tolerance and equality messages. Teachers also set the rules. I am a retired pre-school teacher I tried to also foster tolerance and to not tolerate teasing or name calling. It can be done. within a short time I would notice that there was very little of it going on and the kids were telling each other not to do it. One of the discussion I remembered was the year I had 15 boys and one girl. One of the boys said he wanted a Barbie camper for Christmas – for his Ken dolls. Many cries of Barbie is for girls went up- he defended himself and I intervened. “Does Alison play in blocks?” ” Yes” Do you tease her for that?” “No” . then why cant Matt want a Barbie camper?” Not more teasing was heard- they got and understood the message.

  • The exact same thing happened to me 20 years ago. My son wanted red toenail polish so I put it on – didn’t think anything of it. Later that day, after he got back from playing with the neighbourhood boys, I found him scraping the polish off with a stick. Really people. Can you not teach your kids to stop judging others on such a trivial basis? or better still, stop judging altogether.

  • While I completely agree that everyone is entitled to be different and the lesson you were teaching him, I don’t agree completely with the message I think you are implying. We are all entitled to our opinions, and because I don’t agree with someone that does not make me a hater. I DO NOT have to teach my children that they have to accept/agree with everything someone does or is. They do need to learn to interact with others in a respectful and kind manner though. So I guess to make it blunt in regards to chick fil a. I don’t have to accept/or agree with it being ok to be gay/lesbian, but I would never be mean to someone that is. I’m so tired of being labeled a hater because I think it’s wrong. I don’t hate anyone. I don’t label people that don’t agree with me as haters. It’s really starting to get on my nerves.

  • I would like to add to the reading list William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow. It is an older book. Library should have it.

  • thanks for this article… it’s hard, sometimes, as a dad, to realize that your kids see the world differently…

  • This article is beautiful. Being a parent to both a boy and a girl, I strive to forego “gender roles” and just teach my kids that every person is beautiful and if it call to your heart and makes you happy then it’s okay to express yourself however you feel. This reminded me why I dislike our society’s “norms”. I hope your little one never lets go of the things that make him feel great.

  • This was just such a heartbreaking and wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing, Sarah. Last year, my son’s second grade class was allowed to choose their own folders at school. One of the little boys chose a Disney Princess folder and Cooper came home perplexed, “Mom, why would he do that? He’s a boy!” While I was happy to have the teachable moment to share with him that sometimes boys like princesses and girls like Cars, my heart ached for the other little boy. I did not want any of the other kids to say anything cruel to him. Tolerance and understanding starts at home, and your sweet, thoughtful little boy is lucky to have you.

  • What a great article. I believe in what Chik-Fil-A did. They supported what they “believed”. We all have beliefs of our own that we support. You may not agree with mine and I may not agree with yours, but they’re our own beliefs which we have the right to. I also don’t think it’s wrong for children and adults to express themselves though. When my son was 3, I painted his nails bright orange. He is now 13 and I still have those pictures. While others thought it was so wrong of me to do this such thing, I had a bonding moment with my son. We had a “nail” day that day. We now have a bonding moment because I sometimes bring that day up and we enjoy all the moments. You’re not going to get everyone’s approval. So what! It’s what you believe and enjoy, do it. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You only live once. Your son will Love you!

  • How did I miss this? Great article! I have a little boy and though he loves his tractors and tool bench and matchbox cars, he also loves Dora, picking out nail polish colors for me, and pushing a baby in a carriage! It’s all about acceptance, people.

  • What a wonderful post, Sarah Lena! Thank you for sparking what I believe should be an ongoing conversation about gender roles as well as tolerance. I work in diversity and inclusion and have found it extremely difficult to articulate this message with ADULTS. I particularly liked the questions you posed in reference to whether your son’s painted nails impacted those who might criticize you for your choice. That’s always my first question that pops into my head any time I find someone who reacts angrily to gender identification and sexual orientation/preference. Some people see it as a personal affront, which I often find puzzling. And I’m well aware of and can appreciate the significance of gender roles. In fact, as an Afrian American woman, I’ve found a healthy amount of intolerance for deviation from these roles in my community, some of which were a part of my own upbringing. However, I also understand the cultural his/herstory behind that resistance in certain generations of people who share my racial/cultural background. That being said, I am a proponent of people being exactly who they are. My opinion is if God truly didn’t mean for someone to be “that way” (as some folks might say), by all means, let God worry about it. I would choose to pray for tolerance instead.

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