Lily has always known exactly what she wants. She’s very picky about what she wears, and I did not know the definition of the word “preen” until I put this girl in a poofy Christmas dress. She actually spun around, and that is not something I ever showed her how to do. She doesn’t have a favorite color, but if it’s frilly and sparkly, she’s all over it. And because the majority of frilly, sparkly things for two-year-old girls are pink, the majority of her wardrobe is pink.
Nati, on the other hand, doesn’t like to be tied down. In fact, it took us a really long time to figure out if he was right-handed or left-handed, because he was always switching it up on us. He eventually started to favor his right hand, but he still goes back to his left pretty frequently. (It makes me wonder if the fact that I’m pathologically indecisive is actually genetic. Mom?) For the past year or so, his favorite color has been, “It changes.” And it does. One week he loves and wants everything green. The next week it’s orange.
He likes to dress up, whether it’s in “tall man clothes” (a suit) for my sister’s wedding, or as “Tony” (Iron Man) for Halloween. But he also always has an eye on all of his sister’s pink, sparkly paraphernalia. He couldn’t wait to try on the plastic tiara she got for Christmas, and we used one of Lily’s flower hair-clips as a makeshift boutonniere for Easter. So it came as no surprise that when Lily got a new pair of hot pink sneakers, he wanted a pair just like them.
I wanted to say no. I looked down at his sweet, hopeful little face and thought, Honey, you can’t wear pink shoes. People will tease you. But I refuse to tell him that he needs to dress the way his friends dress if he wants to be treated with respect. So I told him that when it was time for him to get a new pair of sneakers, he could pick out the color. That day came just a few weeks later (he’s growing like a mutant weed), and he was still set on hot pink. But they didn’t have hot pink in his size, so I showed him all of the other color choices: blue, green, grey, black, orange, and purple. He chose purple with hot pink accents.
The first day I sent him off to preschool with is new shoes, I was nervous. I kept telling myself that they were really almost blue, and that four-year-olds don’t care what color sneakers their friends wear. When he came home at the end of the day, he was happy, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But over the next few days, he would mention in passing how everyone told him they were “girl shoes”; how So-and-so said that she wouldn’t invite him to her brother’s new playground if he was wearing those shoes.
The good news is that he doesn’t seem to have been traumatized by it. (He’s much more bothered by the classmate who won’t keep his hands to himself during circle time.) He has another pair of shoes, but he still picks the purple ones to wear to school.
The bad news is that he used to call them his “new shoes” or his “purples shoes”, and now he calls them his “girl shoes”. I try to tell him that they are not “girl shoes”, they are purples shoes, and that it is okay for boys to wear purple shoes.
Yohannes and I are trying to figure out the best way to handle this. Since he seems to be taking it in stride, should we just watch to see how it plays out and hope his classmates get used to the purple? Or should we ask his teachers to intervene somehow if they hear people picking on his shoes? What do you think?