One of the hard things about being a Mom to a toddler is figuring out age-appropriate ways to start teaching “big life lessons.” Like the idea that “no means no” or how the color you like doesn’t define who you are.
When his best friend showed up at the door with pink and purple sneakers, my son flipped. He ran a lap around the house yelling “PINK AND PURPLE!” and then demanded we get in the car and go get him some.
Well, the kid did need new shoes for school, so the next day we drove over to the local Stride Rite. When he bounded in the clerk pointed us to the preschool section. To her credit she simply asked “What color shoes do you want?” It wasn’t until we went over to the section that we saw emblazoned GIRLS above everything pink and purple and sparkly and BOYS above all the blues and browns and Spiderman.
I mean, seriously, why? It is a children’s shoe store, it is about 20fit across at the most and is already divided into sections based on age/walking ability. There is no logical reason why it also has to have a GIRLS and BOYS designation above the shoes. Heck, put them all in rainbow order and they could say the displays are educational as well as commercial!
Thankfully, my son is 2 and can’t read. He picked out a pair of neon pink shoes with green laces, blue blazes and a few other blindingly bright colors. He wore them proudly out of the store and skipped through the mall singing “pink and green SHOES!”
So, why did he want pink shoes? No, I didn’t secretly whisper to him that he should buck gender norms. Maybe it is because his best friend had some. Maybe it is because he thinks Princess Pea (from Super Why!) is the best character on TV. Maybe, just maybe, he simply likes the way they look.
I’m not the first to write this rant (and many others have had more painful or powerful experiences then this one) but I’m adding my voice to the mix. Stop telling my son what colors (or toys, or jobs, or shows) are “for him”
In case my voice doesn’t carry too far, what can I do at home, for him? As far as I can tell, all I can do is smile and get him the pink shoes.
As he gets older we can have the conversation about how those marketing people don’t know what they are about, that pink is TOO a boy color. Or how his friend is wrong, he likes pink and he is a boy so pink IS a boy color. And, if he wants them, I will keep getting him the pink shoes.
*An interesting observation about myself, I was a little nervous walking out with those shoes. It wasn’t because he was a “boy” wearing “girl” shoes but because I didn’t want people to think I was deliberately trying to make a statement with his footwear. He got excited about those shoes, we got the shoes….end of story. *