To the Dad at the Salon Who Commented on My Son Getting His Nails Painted

my son's nails painted
Image Source: Julie Scagell

I was leaving the house to get my nails painted last week and my 4-year-old son asked if he could join me. It was meant to be a sliver of alone time for me, but I can’t say no to those stunning brown eyes. As soon as we stepped foot into the salon, he begged to have his nail painted as well — the smorgasbord of color choices too much for any child to pass up.

There he sat fingers splayed, quiet as a mouse, and beaming with pride. And that’s when I heard it. A man behind us whispering to his pregnant wife, “For your information, no son of mine will ever have painted nails.” I looked back and he was actually holding his wife’s stomach, I can only assume to shield his unborn child from witnessing the horror unfolding before him.

I am an educated, open-minded individual. I set boundaries for my children to protect them from imminent harm and to demonstrate a respect for rules. I also understand everyone parents differently and that we must, in theory, respect how others choose to raise their child. Dissimilarities are what make us unique and the ability to express them is a freedom not to be taken lightly.

But I’m curious what this father is planning to teach his son.

Is he saying boys shouldn’t represent anything feminine? My son likes painted nails and the color pink and trucks and dirt and frogs. That doesn’t make him confused about his gender, it makes him human. Children are not born with hate or discrimination in their hearts. In the great words of Denis Leary, “Racism [(or discrimination in this case)] isn’t born, folks. It’s taught. I have a 2-year-old son, you know what he hates? Naps. End of list.”

Is this father concerned that if you paint a boy’s nails he may become homosexual? I believe you are either born gay or you are not. There are hundreds of studies I could cite to help my argument. And there are hundreds more that would contradict me. Regardless of what side of the argument you fall on, painting a boys nails will most definitely not turn them gay. In fact, I don’t know many gay men who paint their nails. But even if they do, I am almost certain this was not a contributing factor in discovering their sexuality.

When does the role of a parent become less about projecting our fears onto them and more about allowing our kids the room they need to become who they want to be?
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Last year, J. Crew’s president and creative director Jenna Lyons included a picture in the catalog of her painting her toddler’s toenails. The photo received thousands of complaints, including one group actually calling the photo “transgendered child propaganda that pushes the celebration of gender-confused boys wanting to dress and act like girls.”

I’m sorry, but when did acting like a girl become so awful and offensive? 

I believe it is my job as a parent to make sure my child knows one thing: they are no better than anyone else. I want them to know that discrimination of any kind based on sexuality, race, disability, or gender is intolerable. Henry Wilde, who runs Acelero Learning said:

“Until adults collectively and proactively teach all children that assumptions about gender identity that ostracize or discourage kids for the choices they make are unacceptable, we run the inexcusable risk of diminishing the very confidence, independent thinking, and authenticity we should be cultivating in future leaders.” 

If we send our children the message that one lifestyle is “good” and the other is “bad,” where does it end? Where do you draw the line between passing down your principles and teaching them to hate? When does the role of a parent become less about projecting our fears onto them and more about allowing our kids the room they need to become who they want to be?

Maybe this father’s remark to his wife was meant in jest. A “masculine” response to a situation he was uncomfortable witnessing. Even so, every tiny comment we put out there has consequences. We are teaching our children that it is acceptable to believe our way of life is somehow better than someone else’s. And in the wise words of Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

I can’t imagine any parent wants to teach their child it is acceptable to cause suffering to another human being.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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