Allowing kids to express themselves without gender restrictions on clothes and color.
This is my nugget. He’s four and stays at home with me. In the fall he’ll be going to school. He loves his Jesse (cowgirl from Toy Story) t shirt, his Tinker-bell sunglasses, and his pink rain boots. He chose those boots, even though there were cool Spider-Man boots and a pretty, bright blue and green pair also available in his size. I was surprised by his choice. Not because he chose pink, but because he didn’t choose Spider-Man. He LOVES super heroes! He also loves power tools, trucks, guns, Power Rangers, baby dolls, and real babies. I mean this kid loves babies. He also loves playing “house” in his little play kitchen.
I’m not sure how well he’ll fit in at school because of his diverse interests. I love that he has no sense of gender specifics for toys, colors, clothes, or even jobs for grownups. Anyone can do or be anything in a four-year-old’s world.
I am sad that at some point, someone is going to ruin that for him. It almost happened the other day when a police officer saw him dressed like he is in this photo, told him he had the wrong boots on. I don’t think my little guy heard the officer clearly, or understood what was meant, because he just flashed the cop a confused look and just kept on walking. I didn’t address it, or even respond to the officer because I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. I was worried that if I said something, then my son would start to doubt his choice. I know the officer didn’t mean to offend, but his words were disrespectful and potentially harmful. That one little statement could have caused insecurity and confusion. I don’t think anyone should tell a 4 year old that he’s wrong for liking pink, or playing with the wrong toys… or “wearing the wrong boots”.
One of my friends thinks I’m wrong for letting my son wear pink boots. It caused quite the debate on my personal Facebook page. I had posted a little status about the officer’s comment, and friends quickly reacted. Most were annoyed by what the officer said, but one friend just couldn’t believe that I let my son wear pink boots! She felt I was setting him up for getting picked on, and she said she would never let her son wear pink boots for fear that he’d be bullied.
I understand and even respect my friend’s perspective. I know she just wants to protect her own kids, and is a little worried about mine. But I disagree with her on this. We should encourage our kids to be confident in their choices, rather than making them feel insecure about liking something. Just because pink is usually associated with girls, and blue for boys, we don’t need to perpetuate it. I don’t want my kids to be picked on either, but I refuse to tell my child that he can’t wear his pink boots in public because other people will pick on him. My concern is that it will cause confusion, and he’ll start to doubt the things he likes. I’ve also noticed that when we tell our kids they can’t do something, they then tell their friends that they can’t do it either. That may come across as picking on, or bullying. We have a little friend, who is a boy, who wears pink sneakers. What if my son tells that friend his shoes are “girly” simply because he’s been told he can’t wear his pink boots? If my son resents not being allowed to wear his pink boots, then he’s going to transfer that anger/unhappiness to his friend, and it can easily come across as picking on or bullying. I believe that I then would become part of the problem.
I know it’s likely that at some point, someone else is going to say something negative to my son about his pink boots. I’m happy that so far most people just say “I love your boots!”, and it made me sad that the first negative comment came from a police officer. I sort of thought it would have been an older kid though, and not an authority figure. If my little guy had caught on to what that man had said, it might have made him not like cops very much.
I want my kids to feel confident in their choices, provided they aren’t hurting anyone. Remember way back in the day when only women were nurses, and only men were doctors? Or when flight attendants were only female stewardesses? I’m so glad that society is changing. I don’t hear the term “tom-boy” as much as I used to. It’s becoming more acceptable for girls to climb trees and play with trucks. There’s also a few online clothing companies that sell pink clothes for boys! Check out these 12 brilliant clothing companies that say NO to gender stereotypes!
I think we need to encourage our kids to play with all different types of toys. In fact, studies have shown that playing with male stereotyped toys can make kids more aggressive, and higher levels of play complexity resulted when children played with female stereotyped toys. I try to avoid phrases like “you’re such a boy” with my kids, and give them freedom to explore many different types of play.
My oldest son was taught by the girls in his kindergarten class, that pink and purple are girl colors. It stuck with him, and now he even says that “My Little Pony”, a show he used to love, is for girls. Thankfully, he hasn’t said anything negative about his little brother’s pink boots, which is good, because the little guy wears those boots every single day!
In the comment thread of that Facebook post the other day, one friend said I should have told the officer that my little guy wears pink to support breast cancer awareness… LOL
What’s your opinion on gender stereotypes and boys wearing pink?