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5.29.2013

Let Them Wear Pink! {a mother’s thoughts on encouraging our children’s unique selves}

This blog post isn’t about crafting or cooking or decorating your home.  It is about allowing your kids to be who they are, not who society tells them they SHOULD be. 

My ten year old son likes pink.  Yup, pink.  He loves it, actually.  This is a boy who isn’t a typical “boy”.  He is a very creative, sensitive child.  He doesn’t much care for ball sports, though he does like the outdoors and more solitary activities like rock climbing, running, swimming, etc.  Because of his dislike of team sports, I have been worried that he will have a hard time fitting in with other boys.  I have tried to encourage him to at least play sports recreationally, but he hasn’t been too keen on it.  He really isn’t all that coordinated.  He is NOT a natural, if you know what I mean.  Well, recently he came to me and said he wanted to play soccer.  I was shocked, but also happy that he was warming up to sports a little.  I quickly registered him for a soccer camp that starts next week.  He is excited about it.  I doubt he will ever be great at soccer, but I think it is great that he is willing to give it a go and have fun doing it. 

Well, he needed soccer cleats and socks and shin guards.  Saturday, my husband took him out to the store to get some.  I was not too pleased with my husband when they came home with these:

[www.remarkablehome.net] Pink isn't just for girls!

First, I privately chastised my husband for allowing the purchase.  The cleats I could kind of handle, but the socks struck fear into my mother heart.  Here was my son about to go to a camp with a bunch of boys that have likely been playing soccer for years, while he is just a beginner at the age of 10 (almost 11).  What would they think of his hot pink socks?  I could just see the fingers pointing and hear the snide remarks about the kid in pink socks who doesn’t even know what a header is.  I could see my son’s heart breaking as he tried to bravely act like their comments didn’t matter to him.  I went up into my son’s room and had a little talk with him.  I told him of my fears.  I told him I think boys should be able to wear pink all they want because it is just another color, but that I was afraid he would be made fun of.

My sweet son reminded me that when he started school this year after our move to Utah, that kids made fun of his clothes.  Boys here typically come to school in athletic shorts and T-shirts.  My son wears skinny jeans, button down shirts, and sweater vests.  He likes to create stylish ensembles for himself.  He had us buy him a double-breasted wool pea coat for winter.  When the teasing started I reminded him that it doesn’t matter what other people think and you should just be yourself.  Despite their rude comments, he continued to dress in his unique way.  Eventually, the teasing ceased and some of the other kids even began wearing button down shirts  and sweater vests to school.  But still I was worried about the pink socks.  I left the room, instructing him to think about it and make a decision.

After our talk I felt guilty for not agreeing that his opinion was the only one that truly mattered.  I felt bad for not encouraging his uniqueness.  I talked to a few friends and asked their opinion.  Two of them said pink cleats were ok but didn’t think the socks were a great idea.  Another friend, in Vegas, said she has seen boys wearing pink socks.  That made me feel better about the situation.  (Just last night a friend texted me a picture of a boy wearing the exact hot pink socks that my son had purchased).  The next day my son put on the socks and then came and told me he had decided not to wear them because he didn’t like how they looked with his shin guards.  I am not sure if I believe him.  I’m not sure he didn’t change his mind because of my warnings of being made fun of and lack of encouragement about being his own person.

The next day was my 3 year old’s birthday.  He was turning 4 and I asked him what kind of birthday cake he wanted.  At first he said chocolate, but then he changed to wanting a pink cake with pink frosting and pink sprinkles.  He was adamant.  I guess he loves pink also.  I had no problem making a pink cake for a 4 year old.  I happily made a two layer cake for him with lots of pink frosting and hot pink sugar sprinkles. 

IMG_3128

These “pink” events got me thinking about two things.

First, why in the world has our society decided that the color pink is not acceptable for young boys?  Men can wear pink shirts and ties.  They sell oodles of them in stores.  So, if you are a man pink is ok.  But if you are a kid then you are a sissy for wearing pink.  It is ridiculous.  PINK IS JUST ANOTHER COLOR!  God put ALL colors on the earth for ALL people, pink included.  Pink is in sunsets and flowers and fish and seashells, leaves and rocks and dirt and birds.  Pink is NOT just for girls.  Just like blue is NOT just for boys.  How come girls can wear blue at any age and not be considered masculine, but a boy wearing pink is considered feminine?  I am guessing it has more to do with us parents than anything. WE are the ones teaching our kids that pink for boys isn’t cool.  WE are the ones squashing their preferences for a color.  They aren’t born that way.  I wonder how many boys secretly love pink but can’t even choose it as their favorite color for fear of ridicule.  I would bet it is a lot!

Second, as parents we need to do a better job of championing our kids’ individuality.  Let’s allow them to be their own person, even if it doesn’t fit with society’s idea of what is “normal”.  Let’s allow boys to become dancers and girls to become auto mechanics, if they so desire.  And let’s spend more time talking to our kids about accepting others for who they are.  Let’s teach them not to tease those who are different, but to embrace those differences in others.  Let’s teach them that if every child were the same with the same likes and interests, the same clothes and hairstyle, the same talents, the world would be a very boring place.  Let’s teach them that pink is just another color and that colors are for everyone, and that you can’t judge a book by its cover (or shirt color).  As adults, let’s stop assuming that a boy who likes pink and doesn’t like sports will be gay or that a girl who doesn’t get all dolled up for school must have a mother who doesn’t care about her or has no fashion sense of her own.  Let’s stop fighting with our kids over what they choose to wear.  Let’s let them go to school in clothes that don’t match if that’s what makes them happy. Let’s encourage them to be independent and make their own choices and NOT follow the crowd.  Let’s stop being fearful about the judgments of other kids and parents.  And let’s stop being judgmental ourselves!  I am so grateful that I had a mother who encouraged uniqueness in her children.  In grade school, I remember feeling that I was unique and that that was an asset.  I was proud of my red hair, even though kids teased me about it.  I was proud that I was smart, even though I wasn’t good at gymnastics and dance like most of my friends.  I don’t ever again want to make one of my sons feel like they can’t be their true self, even if it means they might be subjected to teasing for their choices or interests.

I will let them wear pink and I will be proud of them for being who they are!

14 comments:

  1. Well put! What a fantastic article!

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  2. In Early Childhood Education we talked about this one day, because pink is a color that doesn't occur as much in nature (usually just flowers) its one of the colors all children are drawn to more frequently than colors like green, blue that are seen more often in nature. Orange is another one. Especially bright versions of those colors. Boys especially like pink at young ages (and in our cases with no daughters in our households, its not a color they're around a lot) making it something different, and fun. Boys are conditioned not to like it, so most give up things like that, dress up, playing kitchen, etc. as well. None of these things are quote girl things. Men cook, men dress up (in uniforms or fancy clothes), men are creative. Parents and teachers need to be more fearless in encouraging kids to be themselves, or like things for themselves, as long as these aren't dangerous or a negative influence, we should be encouraging all they do. Thanks for the reminder!

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  3. Thank you for this article. I feel like there is so much emphasis on female empowerment that we forget about the boys and the gender pigeon holes they face. Even when you as a parent try to support them, it is difficult when other people force thoughts. This past fall, while visiting a children's area of a museum, both my kids found themselves busy in the folk dancing area. There were vests and skirts for kids to wear while they mimicked a video of the dancing. Both my children chose the voluminous skirts because they are much more fun to dance around in than a vest. I had several people comment on my cute "daughters" and ask how old they were. I responded, my daughter is 3 1/2 and my son is 18 months. The looks I got from the response were astounding, but I didn't care because he was having fun. I do wonder how something similar would affect him if he were older and aware of the looks.

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    1. You are so right, Lindsay. As society has pushed to empower girls and help them succeed, boys have kinda been left in the dust. Boys are failing in education and we are turning out too many young men with no direction or drive. It is a big problem. My very creative son has loved to dress up in girls' clothes for a long time. Girls' clothes are alot more fun than boys. Their heels click on the ground, the skirts twirl, their accessories allow for creativity. boys' clothes are boring in comparison. He hasn't done it lately, but I am betting its more because we tried to discourage it for a time. He also likes to play the girls' parts when acting out a movie or in pretend play. Girls are the heroines of our animated and children's movies and TV shows. There are so few great boy characters. Princes are important, princes are just a side character.

      Society doesn't bat an eye when a girl wears a typically male outfit or engages in typically male activities, like playing with legos or participating in sports. But if a boy wants to dance or play with dolls he is considered feminine.

      It's definitely something that needs to change in society. Let kids be who they want to be! My oldest son played with dolls as a child. And guess what! He isn't gay or feminine in the least. But he is very loving and has a tender, nurturing heart. We need to stop judging kids. That's the bottom line.

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    2. that's princesses are important...

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  4. In the 1800's pink was for boys and blue was for girls.

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  5. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that if a girl wore pants (mens clothing)people thought something was "wrong" with them - if their parents even allowed it. Coco Chanel was a champion of changing how women dress - with comfort and style - but it took quite a while for people to think it is normal. What I don't get is - if you look back say, 500 years, men wore heels and skirts and dress type garments all the time - to include wigs! Heck, the "Forefathers" of the United States wore heels!

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  6. Great post Emily. You should check out Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies. It is a great site that talks about empowering boys and girls. One of my favorite phrases fro there that I have taught my young kids to say is "Colors are for everyone!". Alisa

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  7. My grandson is very much a rough, tough, skateboarding, daredevil and wears pink with even thinking about it being "pink". When I pick him up from school it is not unusual to see other boys wearing pink too. I don't think the wearing of pink has the stigma as much as it use too. Also, as some one else pointed out pink use to be for boys, it was a marketing scam to designate pink for girls, blue for boys.

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  8. I just found this page doing a google search for "how to incorporate pink into a boy's cake"! My son is turning three and he says he wants a pink cake! IHe loves pink. I've been trying to figure out a way to use pink and still make it look "boyish" but the heck with it, maybe I should just let him have a pink cake regardless of what extended family might say :)

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  9. I just found this page doing a google search for "how to incorporate pink into a boy's cake"! My son is turning three and he says he wants a pink cake! IHe loves pink. I've been trying to figure out a way to use pink and still make it look "boyish" but the heck with it, maybe I should just let him have a pink cake regardless of what extended family might say :)

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely Emily! It's just a color! Direct your family to this article. I hope he has a great birthday and loves his pink cake!!

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