Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Litte Acceptance Goes A Long Way

Every morning since Carter has started school, dropping him off has been about the same. After about a week of going through the car line he started asking for me and Elise to walk him in to school so we did. Each morning we walk him in, he goes over to his class, and then he gives me and Elise each a hug and a kiss and we leave. No crying, no fussing, just hugs and genuine excitement to be at school. This morning was different. After our hugs he wanted a second round of hugs. Then he watched the entire time we were leaving and kept waving at me so I'd wave back. Normally he turns to his friends and starts talking. Once we were outside, he was banging on the glass of the window and waving at us again so I kept waving back and blew a few kisses as we walked. When we got to the car he was still there, face pressed to the glass waving. I started to feel upset and waved one last time as I buckled Elise into her seat. When I reappeared Carter was still at the window waving so I waved again. I saw his class lining up so I stepped into the car with tears welling up in my eyes. I watched his teacher try to get him in line and he still wouldn't go so she picked him up and held him tight and carried him to class. It was hard. So hard.

I knew from experience as both a teacher and as a parent from dropping Carter off at daycare when he was little that typically within 30 minutes, kids are back to themselves. But I couldn't help but feel hopeless as my heart sank in my chest. I sat and thought over the morning. What was different today? Why was Carter not himself this morning? That's when I placed what it was. This past weekend Ty's parents came to visit. Leina brought special Valentine's Day nail wraps to do Elise and my fingernails. When Carter saw he wanted his done too. Ty and I discussed way back when I was pregnant with Carter that we didn't want to force gender roles onto our children and wanted to allow them to play with whatever toys they wanted so we've always said it was okay for him to get his nails painted. As we were walking into Carter's school he told me, "I can't wait to show my friends my nails," with so much excitement. Elise was lagging behind because she wanted to carry Carter's backpack so I didn't get the chance to remind him that some people think fingernail polish is just for girls. We've talked it over in the past when he wanted his nails painted, but I didn't talk to him about it again this time. As Elise and I caught up to him, he was standing in front of his friends and they were all laughing and throwing themselves on the ground being silly. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but it was fairly obvious they were laughing at Carter. I originally thought he must've made a joke or something. I gave him extra big hugs and then he turned his sad face to watch me and Elise as we left.
My cute, little guy and his colorful nails.
When I picked Carter up at school I asked him why he had a hard time this morning and he told me he was sad to see me leave. Then he went on to say that he was sad because he had showed his fingernails to his friends and they had laughed at him. He was proud to tell me his best friend had not laughed and seemed to like them. I felt my heart drop again and I couldn't stop thinking about it. There are so many times in a day where we have to tell our children no for their own health and safety. No, you can't eat macaroni and cheese for lunch every day. No, you can't have Oreos for snack. No, you can't play outside by yourself. No, you can't go down by the water without me. Why should I have to tell my child no about something that brings him joy and doesn't cause any ill-effects? Why should I have to tell him next time he has to watch us get our nails painted without having his done? Why is it not okay for boys to enjoy having colorful nails? Every time I look down at my nails I smile because they are pretty and different and I enjoy them. Why should that same happiness not be extended to my son? There are some things that frustrate me about our culture and our country, acceptance being the big one. Why is it that we feel the need to force our beliefs onto our children and onto other people? Who decided that nail polish was only for girls? It makes me sad that we tell our children they can't do something simply because of their genitalia. And it all starts so young. If you have a baby boy it's all sports related clothing and if you have a girl, it's pink and sparkles (both of which I love, by the way, but Carter also loves too). I wish I could allow my child to love the things he loves and be the person he was born to be, but then there are the social ramifications. If I let him wear nail polish or pink or grow his hair long then he will get made fun of. I want him to be who he is because I think he is absolutely amazing, wonderful, and unique. But I also want him to be happy. I don't want him to feel ashamed or embarrassed because other kids are laughing at his choices. And no way would those kids be laughing if their parents hadn't taught them it was wrong and they did so simply because their parents told them it was wrong and so on and so forth.

Parenting is hard in so many ways. Today was my first experience of other people's beliefs being forced onto my child and I really didn't like it. And I have it easy, Carter is a white male, there will be far less of that for me than there is for other people. It made me take a step back to think about all the people in our country who are having the beliefs of the white male middle/upper class forced onto them right now. It makes me so sad what so many people are going through and how many people are judged simply because they belong to a "group" and that "group" is different than what other people believe to be the "norm". Having shared my feelings, I feel a lot better. Now if we could all work just a little bit harder to be more accepting and to teach acceptance to our children, this country and world would be a better place! And by the way, I'm going to let Carter keep getting his nails painted as long as he asks. I'll just remind him that some people think it's just for girls. I'm sure eventually he won't want it anymore simply because none of his friends do it, but for now I see no reason to take such a simple joy away from him.  
Showing off our fingernails at lunch time.


  1. Oh, that made me sad. I wondered when I saw him so excited waiting his turn, because I knew he'd be getting that kind of treatment sometime. I was hoping it would be later, though. I remember boys laughing at Jeremy for carrying Bertie Bobby to the park, and he asked me why they were laughing.

  2. Pretty sad blog. I might have to paint my nails for the next time we see him.

    1. I need to write an update, he's resilient and loving!