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Last night, I let my three-year-old son pick out a color of nail polish for me at Target. Bright electric blue. My five-year-old chose the prettiest of lilac purple. “Mommy, you paint on my toes?” the littlest asked. “Absolutely,” I said.

When I became a mom, I didn’t really think about the gender wars. Blue vs. pink. Boys vs. Girls. Trucks vs. Dolls. Then when my son wanted to paint his toes like me, I hesitated. Why? I don’t know. Because I was afraid others would judge me. I was afraid his dad would become upset. I was afraid my son would be laughed at. 

My little boy didn’t care. He was excited. He had a fun color on his feet, too. He wanted to be like me. He would touch my painted toes all the time because it was smooth, shiny, and colorful. Now he had it, too. He loved it. Still does. He also likes to PAINT– pumpkins, the wall, his arms and legs, on paper. His toes are no different. Yet, at five, he is starting to believe that “painting” toes is for girls. I hear him say things like, “Mom, that is a girls show.” “Only girls wear pink.” 

My three-year-old was so proud of his blue toes last night. This morning, he wanted to take it off or wear his shoes because he didn’t want anyone to see. I have sent them both to their dad’s house and they come home with the polish gone. Next month, my son goes off to Kindergarten. I am dreading it some because I know he will lose a little more innocence every day. 

I am raising modern day men. I am teaching them that their emotions are important. I am showing them how to talk about feelings. I am sharing with them how to communicate in a healthy way. I am leading by example that the strongest, most courageous characteristic is being vulnerable with oneself and others. I am helping them express their larger than life personalities. I am raising them to be open and honest about who they are. 

In our house, we watch Shimmer and Shine, Sophia the First, Nella the Knight, Paw Patrol, PJ Masks, and PacMan. Superhero costumes are worn, wrestling matches are constant, and hugs and kisses are abundant. I love you’s are heard hourly. We admit when we are wrong, we apologize, we laugh, we embrace each other. I encourage them in their interests. Let’s play house, dress up, sword fight, bake cookies, wash the car, play baseball, or watch a Tinkerbell movie. My oldest has asked about dance classes. He loves music and our spontaneous dance parties when his favorite song comes on. So why wouldn’t he want to do dance classes too? I don’t tell my boys they can’t be friends with girls so why would I tell them they can’t do activities that girls (or boys) do? 

My sons are no less boys because they like more feminine things. Trust me. They are all boy. I have seen that when they are exposed to the more “girly” activities or shows, they are shown more. More ways to be compassionate. More ways to problem solve. More ways to accept others who are different. More ideas and thoughts. More adventures. More kindness and laughter. When my boys see or do something deemed “for girls,” they are being shown that females can do anything boys can do and vise versa. 

When I paint my two sons’ toe nails, I am teaching them more than they know. I am showing them we live in a world of endless possibilities. I am letting them embrace who they are. I have so many wants, hopes, and dreams for my boys. And the biggest one is that when they are men, they have the ability to truly love themselves. They are able to treat their spouse with love and respect. They can be strong, vulnerable, courageous, and sensitive. I want them not to run away from their problems or feelings. I hope they stand up for what is good and true. I want them to see people and their different qualities and quirks as gifts from God. I want them to respect women and their fellow man. 

So I paint their toe nails. Red, blue, yellow, green, pink, purple. Whatever color they want. And I don’t care what you think about it being too “girly.” My boys are only little once. Soon enough they will lose the magic of childhood and shoulder the responsibility of adulthood. Therefore, I will paint their toes. 

Katie Weber

A momma of 2 young boys whose days are filled with wrestling, running, and noise. A Nebraska native with a love of coffee, the Lord, music, a good romance novel, movies, and dessert. Just trying to figure out single motherhood, to navigate divorce and co-parenting, to live and thrive with depression and anxiety, all the while finding the lovely in this life. Follow along for more at Lovely in the Dark. 

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