Do I look pretty?
“Yes, you look pretty. So, so pretty.”
Here I am with another 3-year old going through that “Pink Phase.” This time around, however, I’ve given in to the pink. I’ve surrendered.
I’m encouraging it, even.
The first time around, I bought my daughter blue, green, and purple clothes–even black. I urged the wearing of pants, the breaking of stereotypes, and the development of a self-image independent of “pretty.”
She had other ideas.
She insisted on wearing long dresses, and after too many morning battles that made me late to work, I gave in and bought a bunch of secondhand holiday dresses with ruffles and bows, fit for a princess. Yet despite believing she was the most adorable creature ever, I shied away from calling her pretty and beautiful. I focused more on what she did and said than on how she looked. I wanted to protect her, while I could, from the social forces that mold girls into either carbon copy “in girls” or social rejects. I didn’t ban Barbie or Disney, but I didn’t allow them to take over the joint either. I bought her trains and tools and blocks in primary colors. Cars. Balls. “Boy toys.” (But not toy guns–because I don’t see a reason to teach kids that it’s fun to kill each other.)
In fact, I have deliberately shielded both my kids from the toy aisles so as not to infect them with the messages they so clearly send: pink, barely-there dresses, and babies are for girls; guns, cars, and fighting are for boys.
Now, five years later, I’ve found myself scouring secondhand racks for another generation of pink, ruffly dresses. Hair bands. Flowery shoes. Tight shorts.
This time around, they’re for my son.
He’s very particular about his
clothes costumes. Sometimes he wants to be a “soccer guy” and wears a soccer uniform, socks pulled up to his knees, and my daughter’s old cleats. Other times, he wants to be a “basketball guy” and wears head-to-toe Nike. For a month last winter, he ONLY wore Nike, and had screaming fits whenever I washed his favorite green shirt and red shorts. The separation was so painful for him that he slapped and scratched himself while the laundry was running. He’d sleep snuggling the outfit at night. It took a family-wide effort to get him to expand to, first, other Nike clothes, and then, finally, to other sports clothes. Even then, he’d pull out every item of clothing from his dresser drawers until he found the perfect coordinated outfit, leaving a pile of rejects in the middle of the floor.
Even then, there were days he wanted barrettes in his hair like a girl.
Even then, he’d exhort me to “spin, mommy, spin” when I wore a skirt.
But now, he just wears his own skirts and spins whenever he wants. He’s worn dresses about 3-4 days out of the week lately. Sometimes, all day. Especially the pinkest, frilliest one with the bow and tutu.
He wants to know if he’s pretty, and I tell him, “Yes. Yes, you are so, so pretty,” without a single qualm.
Sometimes, he changes into “boy clothes” and asks me if he’s awesome. “Not pretty, mommy! Awesome!”
Apparently, girls are pretty and boys are awesome in his rigid worldview. I want him to be free to be both. Sometimes he tells me that he is a boy AND a girl. I suppose time will tell.
At school this morning, he decided to change from his favorite pink tutu into his spare “boy” clothes, and was a little perturbed that his shoes were the non-matching flowered sneakers, because they weren’t “awesome.” I told him he can be pretty and awesome. Fortunately, he got over it and happily wore the non-matching shoes.
I hope he grows up knowing he can be both pretty and awesome, as can my daughter, as can any kid.
As can any body.
UPDATE: Lately, he’s been calling people “pretty AND awesome.” And he’s still wearing dresses. We just got some sparkly pink shoes this morning. He’s so pretty and awesome, and I love him so much.