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Now I’m Scared…

It’s not very often you (well, I) say, “My greatest fears have come to pass.”

But now, I’m scared.

My oldest son (he of the self-proclaimed Disney Princess “excession”) got unexpectedly melancholy, this afternoon, sat on my lap and (unprompted) said, “Some kids at my school say pink is a girl’s color.”

All the pink drained out of my skin pigmentation. I was crestfallen.

My worry-free cherub just exposed his first sign of social suffering.

I quelled suddenly-savage defensiveness and did NOT bombard him with statements like:

“Buddy, pink is the BEST boy’s color!”

or

“You wear your pink shirt and color your pink pictures and admire pink dresses all you WANT!”

I needed so badly to cover him with hugs and kisses and protect him.

As with so many other moments in his 4 ½-year-old life, it felt like the beginning of the end of his innocence.

Desperately measuring my response so as not to make a pink mountain out of a pink molehill, I said, “Really? That’s kind of silly, isn’t it? That kind of ‘yucked’ your ‘yum’, right?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Who said that to you?” I sweetly inquired, already planning to ring the little fucker’s neck at school on Monday.

“I don’t know. Some kid at my school.”

“Oh. Not someone in your class?” (Apparently I had prematurely prosecuted thirteen snot-nosed pre-kindergarteners in the previous twenty seconds.)

“No. Someone told someone else told my friend. We talked about it. At lunch. Because I had pink fruit snacks.”

Oh. Interesting: a lunch discussion spurred by some silly fruit snacks.

(Side note: those chemically-based gummies are the bane of my existence. Until this year, my kids had no idea they existed. Now, fruit snacks replace ice cream, cake or crack for my kids’ dessert. They’ll do ANYTHING for those processed baggies of crap.)

And now, fruit snacks broke the seal on something I’ve feared for the last 15 months of my son’s penchant for all things princess-y: his disappointment that peers will judge his passions.

So we had a 3-minute discussion of why pink is absolutely a boy color, too.

We kind of left it at “You like pink. So what?”

He seemed mollified.

Except that I felt myself uncharacteristically at a loss of how to convince him, since I felt so wounded on his behalf. (It’s all about me. Sorry.)

Plus, I was catapulted to childhood memories in which adults bent over backwards to reassure me in times of humiliation.

Like when I told my first grade teacher that another kid called me “gay” and she rushed to me with an open dictionary pointing to the first definition stipulating “happy” as the meaning of gay.

I knew she was wrong. (I didn’t know what “gay” meant, but I knew I wasn’t being called “happy”.)

Or when I was playing “Barbie” with a neighbor girl and her dad said, “You can’t grow up and play with ‘Barbie’ without getting beat up,” but her mom said, “Jim, shut up. He can play with ‘Barbie’. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

(But I knew there was something wrong with it.)

At a young age I knew I should assuage these adults standing up for me; if nothing else so I could get on with forgetting (repressing) these humiliations. I’d feign satisfaction. But deep down, I knew the adults were wrong and the kids were right.

It was bad to be called “gay”. It was bad to play with Barbies.

I hope my son won’t categorize me a Holden Caulfield “phony” after our pink discussion, today. But I need to “up” my game in the discussions of “Buddy, you LIVE your pink life however the hell you want. Ain’t no such thing as boy colors or girl colors.”

But he knows he likes “girl” colors. And until today, I don’t think the “girl” label meant anything to him. It’s that other kids told him it wasn’t OK for him to like “girl colors.”

And I’m afraid peer condemnation will mean everything to him.

I don’t know how to make peace with it, going forward.

I’ll shower him in hugs and kisses and encourage his over-use of the pink crayon while coloring sunsets, robots, cars and princesses.

Other than that…how do I deal?

I’m scared.

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17 Comments

  1. You’ll figure it out together. Your kids are grounded, surrounded and bounded by love. It’s not easy when you see your children are hurt at any age. How lucky they are that you’re their Dad. Just love these writings – especially the part about ringing the little f’ers neck LOL

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  2. Jane Brackney says

    Being a parent can be so wonderful AND heartbreaking. Your being there to love and support him as you do will help him get thru the tough challenges life offers up. Your kids are lucky to have you in their lives.

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  3. Keely says

    It’s something, isn’t it? Going through it yourself without a net was one thing. Watching your kiddos is a whole new game. I’ve learned to ask them questions, “well, what do you think about it?” Then, they usually say what’s in their heart, which contradicts the other kid, and then I say, “so why should what they think be more important than what you think?” It’s teaching them to think for themselves and weed out the herd. My 9-year-old was recently called stupid for believing in God. Just like your “pink” encounter, it’s testing what they believe. It’s our job to give them strength to back their beliefs. Even when the popular culture says otherwise.

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  4. Here’s something that might give your son some confidence in dealing with the kids that tease him. There’s a book my 6-year old son really loves. It’s called “Victor’s pink pyjamas” and it talks about a boy who loves his pink pyjamas (originally white but colored in the wash). He persistently wears them (even at a school party) and tells everyone why pink isn’t just for girls. Ihttp://www.amazon.com/Victors-Pink-Pyjamas-Laura-Alary/dp/1770645713?ie=UTF8&keywords=pink%20pyjamas&qid=1462961164&ref_=sr_1_2&s=books&sr=1-2

    A trick my son (who loves al things girly: dresses, jewelry etc) came up with all by himself is making beautiful girly drawings to give as presents to the girls he likes in his class. They really adore him for it!

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  5. Show, don’t tell. Where’s your favorite pink shirt? Got a pink tie to go with that smart suit you surely have somewhere? Show him it’s okay to like what he likes, even if it’s a stereotypical “girl” thing. He’ll get the message. Keep doing good. 🙂

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  6. Caroline says

    My son sounds very similar, he has an attraction for all things pink, sparkly and beautiful. It’s a fascinating journey and has me at times worried sick but mostly heart burstingly proud that my little guy loves what he loves and is out and proud about it. Our children are just doing a remarkable job of learning to be themselves and little do they realise how they are re educating those all around. Little girls can be Tom boys and society totally gives them the thumbs up but sadly little boys get a less easy ride. It’s great, if as a parent you have the confidence to give them that freedom, I’ve not found it easy, but I take my cue from my son – he’s wearing it and airing it, it’s just a colour, it’s just a dress……

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  7. Chris says

    Oh how I relate to this blog entry!!! This is something you won’t forget anytime soon.
    I say this because I still recall this very kind of thing from my 30-something son and daughter’s childhoods. You just want to drive over to his house and hang the kid from the nearest tree. Good for you for resisting the urge to vilify the mean boys. I think the above advice from everyone is excellent….but also, use it as a teaching moment about how he needs to treat people down the road who don’t follow the crowd. “How did that make you feel” is a cliche but I’ve never found a better phrase for getting people to express their deepest feelings. “That made you feel sad…is that the way people should treat each other….I’m glad you aren’t the kind of person who tries to make different kids feel bad.” When the gut tells us to “Hit back…. an eye for an eye….or tell them to ‘go suck a prune'”, the well- parented kid knows that there’s another option. A braver
    more humane option. It doesn’t sound like he tried to “hit back” but some day he
    may want to, and he’ll have to decide if that’s what he wants to do or if he wants to take the high road. It’s hard but you are up to it.

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  8. Also maybe some chat about how “girly” is an honour not an insult. To be likened to a girl, make choices like a girl, look like a girl, these are things society says are insults and need challenged if boys are ever going to be free of sexist repression.

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  9. So odd preschool kids separate the color pink more than 13 year old boys. My son (13) rocks hot pink shirts. One of his favorites said real men wear pink, he cut the sleeves off and wore it to football practice regularly. His team and most of our local youth football teams wear pink socks and under shirts and so on all October long. The coaches have them do it to help the youth players identify with the pro players who wear pink (for cancer awareness). Even outside of football many boys in my son’s class rock pink. Tell him 5 years from now everything he thinks he’s learned or his preschool friends think they know will no longer be right. Lots of men wear pink. It is easy to find examples (certainly a 270 pound pro football player isn’t going to be getting called girly… why should a pre school boy?)

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