It all started with a pink pool toy. It was just an ordinary toy, but this one pool toy made me question my values and my deeply held beliefs. It took me down a peg. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a little bit. 

During the summer, my husband, one-year-old son and I took a short vacation in a nearby town. We were staying in a hotel with a nice pool and I had bought the perfect pool toy for our son. It was a small boat, with holes so he could stick his legs through and float around the pool. There was just one problem. I had left that toy at home. 

Determined to enjoy the pool, I sent my husband across the street to Walmart to buy another one. He came back shortly and tossed the bag on the sofa. I opened the box and my heart sunk. 

It was pink. Bright pink. It was not just a pool float toy either. There was also a shirt with a built-in flotation device. It was also very bright pink. With flowers. 

“I’m not sure this will work,” I said

“Why not?” he asked. “It will fit him, I think.”

I didn’t want to say why not. So I tried another excuse.

“Maybe he can just use the bottom part?” I thought out loud. “Oh no, you need both pieces. Hmm, maybe we can just carry him.”

“Okay,” he said, taking another look at it. “It is really bright pink. I didn’t see that when I bought it.”

“What was the big deal,” I asked myself. My son certainly wouldn’t care. But I did. I didn’t want to care, but I found, to my dismay, that I did care. What was I so afraid of? Sure, I would probably have to explain that he was a boy if there was anyone else in the pool. Maybe it would be awkward for a minute, but I would probably never see anyone at this hotel again. 

I knew this, but I still hesitated.

Every part of me wanted to say that it was not a big deal – that it was just a color. Every part of my brain told me that I should just put my kid in that darn toy and go to the pool. I knew this, but that pink pool toy remained in the box. It remains there to this day, unopened. Every time I see it, I feel the shame creep over me. 

I am absolutely embarrassed by my visceral reaction to this toy. I consider myself a very educated person about gender issues. My master’s thesis was about gender in music, for goodness sake. I spent two years of my life reading everything I could about gender issues. A pink pool toy should not elicit such a response from an educated and accepting person like me. Or, the person I thought I was. What if I wasn’t that person at all?

You see, it is one thing to think you will champion a cause or be completely accepting of a new idea in theory and quite another to do it in practice. I am the first person to rant about the unnecessary gendering of children’s toys, but when I was challenged to put my ideas into practice – to reject the idea that pink is for girls –  I failed. The pink pool toy, in five minutes, has changed my perception of myself. I failed and I am ashamed. 

So, what is a flawed parent to do? Well, luckily, I also have a good memory. I will remember this experience. I will remember those feelings of discomfort and shame and use them to become better – not just in theory but in practice. 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Liz Parker-Cook

Liz is a mother of three children under four and has the dark circles under her eyes to prove it. She is also a high school music teacher, which is much louder than parenting but has much fewer dirty diapers. When she gets any time to herself she writes on her blog: Newbiemomsite.com. She lives in Toronto with her husband, children, and dog. 

Spanking Made Us Parents We Didn’t Want To Be

In: Faith, Motherhood
Silhouette of mother pointing finger at child

Fourteen years ago when my husband and I were preparing for our first child, we felt we already had several tools in our toolbox. Both of us worked with children and youth, and we felt prepared for parenting. We decided early on that we would never spank unless we were completely out of options.  As our bright, sweet, bubbly firstborn entered the terrible fours (yes, he was a bit delayed in his toddler rebellion), we were surrounded by a community of people who believed in “controlled spanking” with hugs and grace afterward.  RELATED: These 6 Words Transformed Discipline in Our...

Keep Reading

Let Your Kids See Your Feelings Too

In: Motherhood
Mother and daughter hugging on couch

I’m a mom to two exceptional kids–one with big emotions and one with a big heart. What that looks like in our house is an older child who is prone to outbursts and a younger child who’s always trying to help him through them. As we witness our younger son become more empathetic in response to his brother’s tantrums, we find ourselves constantly worrying that he is feeling overshadowed, relentlessly reassuring him there’s enough room for his feelings too. RELATED: Mothering a Child With Big Emotions is Heavy And what I’ve come to realize is that one of the best...

Keep Reading

Once Upon a Time You Got All of Me

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife on wedding day, color photo

First there was us, and now it’s them. We have four little hands that need us, and it’s so hard to get lost in parenthood and forget that at once upon a time it was me and you. I promise you, it won’t always be like this. It won’t always be this hard. I remember when we would go for leisurely walks and long Sunday brunches. Now it takes us an hour to leave the house for a 15-minute walk. I want so badly to spend hours lying in bed, talking like we used to, but now I’m so tired...

Keep Reading

I Was Raised by an Easter-Only Mom and I Want More for My Kids

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and daughter read Bible

Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted, and women tend to look to their upbringing for guidance. We may not even realize we’re doing it! But being a godly mother is even more difficult when you weren’t raised by one. The questions are endless: How do I model forgiveness? How do I set the right priorities for my household? How do I explain baptism to my 6-year-old? Is it okay to have undiscipled friends around my children? Do we have to pray over every meal? Is the occasional swear word acceptable?  These questions may be less intimidating if you were fortunate enough...

Keep Reading

We’ll Get Through Daddy’s Deployment Together

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother, father, daughter selfie, color photo

“I didn’t think we did that anymore.” I wish I could attribute that to one person, but I’ve heard it from multiple people when I’ve mentioned that my pilot-soldier National Guard husband is deploying overseas. Yes, we still do that. Men and women still suit up every day to carry out various missions, both valuable and confusing, around the country and the world. And for the whole of 2023 that includes my husband. My partner, my co-adventurer. The one who will use our flight and hotel benefits from his day job to visit Hawaii for three days on a pre-deployment...

Keep Reading

Our College Visit Disaster: What You Should Learn from My Mistakes

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Mom and teen daughter selfie, color photo

With a song in my heart, I got in the car to drive my daughter to our first college visit.  We drove two hours to a school nestled in the mountains. It was a state school, not too big, not too small.  She knew plenty of alumni from her high school who attended there, and I was convinced it was going to be the perfect fit. We pulled up to the student center, and I jumped out of the car. I glanced around for her and realized she was still sitting in the car.  “Mom, I’m not getting out. I ...

Keep Reading

I Was Never Good Enough for My Mother, So I’m Done Trying

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman walking away

I’m on a path in life that is so different from what I ever imagined growing up. It’s a path I’m not even sure I consciously choose. And it’s a path that exhausts me. I grew up with a narcissistic mother, and I was the scapegoat. No matter how I tried, I could never gain my mother’s love. It was love that was tainted with conditions and taken away at any time—and that was often. And thus, I tried harder. Best grades, best behavior, cleanest room. It never worked. I was too fat. My thighs were huge—make sure they were...

Keep Reading

Even When it Feels Like I Can’t, I Keep Going

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom holding toddler

When I feel like I can’t do one more thing. When I am overwhelmed and touched out and lost in the logistics of it all. When my physical and mental energy are depleted. When the length of my to-do list needs more hours than I have. When I am so bone tired that I’m sure I just can’t go on. And there is still more to do. And the only choice is to keep going– I keep going. I dig a little deeper and find strength I didn’t know I had. RELATED: Check on Your “Strong” Friend, She’s Faking it...

Keep Reading

I Am an Immigrant Mom

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and toddler in sunshine

I have many moments of What did I get myself into? during the day, especially when one of my kids is screaming at the top of his lungs and the other is having a make-believe experiment in the kitchen. We’ve heard countless times that raising kids is hard, but raising kids as a first-generation immigrant is harder. Obviously, there is no competition for who has more struggles or whose life is harder because child rearing is hard. Period. But this piece is specifically aimed at shedding some light on the unsung heroes, our so-called, first-gen immigrants raising kids in a...

Keep Reading

What Happens When She Wants Another Baby and He Does Not?

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife, pregnancy photo, color photo

I am on my knees, folded over, with my head resting on the carpet. I am in my closet, which doesn’t see much of the vacuum, and it is the only place I can find to sob out of sight. I feel hollowed out and defeated as if I have run a marathon and was cut short at the finish line. I cry out in prayer, pleading with God to soften the heart of my husband. I desperately want another child, and he desperately does not. I take a deep breath and dry my eyes because my 4-year-old outside the...

Keep Reading