My three year old son asked me the other day if he could paint his nails like me and his sister and aunt were doing. I hesitated, said no, but then got out a paper towel for him to paint with a nail polish brush. A little while later, he says, “Look mamma!” as he holds out his hands for me to see the little blue dots of nail polish on each of his fingernails.
I couldn’t help but laugh while I grabbed a cotton pad and nail polish remover. I didn’t want him to feel left out but at the same time didn’t feel completely comfortable with him wearing nail polish (I knew my husband certainly would not be) so I wasn’t sure exactly how to explain why he couldn’t keep it on.
We told him that girls put on nail polish because they like to look pretty. To which he responded with a big grin, “And boys get to be handsome!”
As a boy with an older sister for an older sibling to be jealous of look up to, I’m sure he thinks girls have all the fun. They get to dress up in fancy dresses and shoes, adorn themselves with beautiful jewels, and play with makeup and nail polish.
I want him to be a boy but I’m sure he feels like I ruin his fun a lot when I tell him to jump on the floor not the couch, or run around and yell outside instead of inside, or when I ask him to please drive his cars on the floor and not on the walls.
There are many times I have to sit down and reaffirm to him that being a boy really is cool even though he shakes his head no and asks if he can be a girl when he is older. I was like him but only opposite. When I was little I wanted to be a boy when I grew up (I have an older brother and 2 younger brothers, thank goodness for my little sister!). I thought if I were a boy, then I could ride my bike around the neighborhood by myself or go for a walk without my brother to protect me from ‘strangers’. (I also thought that if I were a boy when I grew up I wouldn’t have to clean and cook and take care of anyone but myself and I would be some super rich executive who wore pants and worked in a skyscraper in a big city and told the men what to do.)
Today we were walking across the street from a cemetery with a sea of American flags flying in the wind since it is Memorial Day weekend. So he and I chatted a bit about what a soldier is and war and peace (in very simplistic terms mind you) and about how men who are soldiers protect and defend people. Then, as we were still walking, a fire truck and ambulance noisily sped by and so we talked about what firemen and EMS workers do to protect people and keep them safe. Then we talked about Daddy and how he gets to protect his family and me.
A few years ago, the world had an incomplete view of women and our abilities and responsibilities. Today, in our country at least, there have been many advances and positive developments in this area. But, in some ways it sometimes seems that men are now the ones on the back burner, except this time we don’t hear as much complaining. This isn’t a post about feminism or gender equality but as it came up in my thought process anyway.
I want him to respect women but more importantly, I want him to respect himself and I want my son to be proud of who he is, who God intended him to be. I want him to learn to cook and bake with me and clean house just as much as he learns to stomp on bugs, build tall towers, and just be goofy. I hope that he will never be a bully but also never be afraid to stand up against one for a friend or for family or for himself.
He was swinging a belt and who’s knows maybe pretending it was a snake?