Givin’ them something to rebel against

            “I’m jealous,” Zachary announced to his father.  He is our first child, so we have made the mistake of teaching a four-year-old the word “jealous,” an error we will attempt to avoid repeating with the other two.  He definitely overuses that term.  He continued: “All the Gesher girls get to wear nail polish.”  Gesher is the class above his, and he has become quite the hot item with the five-year-old girls.  “Why don’t I get to wear nail polish?”

            Now, there are a couple of ways J could have answered this.  He could have informed his child that rules vary in each house and life is unfair.  However, Zach has already figured this out, as we unfairly refuse to buy him things that everyone else has.  J also could have parroted what I always say about dresses, which is that he is welcome to wear one to school is he would really like, but he is likely to be teased.  He actually has no interest in wearing one, having decided that he is a boy and boys don’t wear dresses, but he does think this is an unfair rule imposed arbitrarily upon his gender.  (One that, I suspect, he would enforce nonetheless were his brother to wear a dress.)

            J and I have never talked about nail polish.  We have talked about the makeup and ear piercing rules, which, although they largely fall to me, we agree upon.  Children do not wear makeup or earrings, so when you are an adult, you may have those things.  Bar/Bat Mitzvah age, in other words, because we have no hope of making them wait till legal adulthood.  We have avoided being asked about makeup and earrings because I rarely wear them and J never does.  Nor do I wear nail polish, but apparently I am no longer the child’s standard of feminine beauty.

            “In this house,” J replied, “you cannot wear nail polish until you are thirteen.”  I suspect that means we’ll be hearing about the unfair rules for the next nine years, but I don’t care.  Makeup and nail polish are sexualizing items, used mostly (although of course not exclusively) by women to demonstrate their sexual attractiveness.  I think they are completely inappropriate on little girls, and around here we don’t discriminate on the basis of race, sexual orientation, or gender.  The rules in this house apply to everyone.

            Later, J told me the story, and I was delighted that, without even discussing it, we were on the same page.  “You can also tell him,” I added, “that nail polish has toxic chemicals that we don’t put on our bodies.”

            Dude was way ahead of me.  “I told him that, too.”

            And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love my husband.  It’s a good thing I do, because in a few years, the kids are all going to hate us.

15 responses to “Givin’ them something to rebel against

  1. Okay. So i’ve decided we need to swap husbands. I’ll send mine right over.

  2. The things Zach asks to do crack me up.

    I once had a friend who lost a nannying gig (as in, one day she spent several evenings a week with a family, the next day they asked her never to come back without discussion) because she painted the little boy’s toenails. I suspect the parents were more angry about gender than toxic chemicals, though.

    And I completely agree about sexualizing children. It is obscene. Why in the world would people allow their little girls to wear the clothes they do? Don’t they understand that the goal of those styles is to attract the attention of men, and that it works? I think mothers of little boys have a much easier road when it comes to style and fitting in. Unless you’re Zach’s mom, that is.

  3. I agree about the sexualizing, but some of it is engendered by our adult perceptions of the world. Maybe grown ups use nail polish to increase their sexual attractiveness, but little girls don’t even know what sexuality is. And what about earrings? Many cultures, like the one I grew up in, pierce their baby girls’ ears. Is that cultural tradition? A form of sexual exploitation?

    I think every parent has to work out their own guidelines, since the lines are so slippery, and stick with it. I’m always interested to see where parents fall around those lines, because it’s never consistent.

    My 5 year old put make-up and nail polish on her male buddy over the summer and his parents were horrified. It was funny, to me, actually. Especially because the fact that the kids didn’t think twice about what gender got the make-up meant they didn’t think of it in sexual terms. It was like painting on canvas, like art.

  4. i think it’s easier for us to draw those lines b/c i don’t wear makeup.

    my nanny stopped wearing nail polish b/c the boys were noticing (not at my request)!

  5. When my son was about five he became fascinated by nail polish. I never wear it on my fingers but I do paint my toes once in a while and I guess this made a big impression on him. It was all he talked about for days. I told him that we could paint his toenails too if he brought home a week’s worth of good behavior reports from school. For three weeks he was a perfect angel at school and for three weeks he got his toenails painted. Then he got bored with the whole concept and decided it was more fun to be a stinker at school than it was to have pretty toenails.

    Nowadays we’re using painted toenails as a reward for the three year old. It’s amazing what this kid will do for a little dot of nail poish.

    I’m pretty disturbed by the sexualization of children (well, girls especially) in our society but I don’t see nail polish as being a bit problem in that regard. I guess it depends on context. Bright red, inch long fingernails would be a problem. A dot of blue or green or pink on her toenails is just some harmless fun (in my opinion). It’s just like when she uses her doctor kit or her play kitchen or her pretend laptop or when she “nurses” on of her baby dolls. It’s just a fun way for her to get a little tatse of playing “grown up”.

  6. Oh, I should add that I certainly don’t think it’s wrong to not allow nail polish either. I think it’s one of those “no hard and fast right or wrong” kind of things. Unlike Bratz dolls.

  7. Awesome Answers! We have made my 14 year old wait for a lot of things, ear piercings, cell phones…and we have also told her that it is ok if she doesn’t always like us very much because it is not our job to always be liked.

  8. Nail polish was definitely one of those we allowed since a) it wasn’t going to be bright red talons and b) once they figured out you had to hold still to get ’em painted AND wait for ’em to dry the fun was pretty much gone. Still, now and then we’d do polka-dots or tiny flowers or whatever just for fun. I used to come home from university to find my son with a beaming smile and pony tails sticking straight up off his little skull (18 months old, stick straight hair – looked more like a spear of asparagus than anything, very funny) which didn’t bother me in the least and left his father scrambling for a camera for future reference. I agree with the sexualization of children – tiny miniskirts and belly shirts horrify me – but I think at this time of year I’m far more horrified by the gender disparity in advertising toys to children. Grrrrr….

  9. It’s great that you and J are on the same page about this.

    It’s funny, while I think I might have some qualms about a four or five-year-old girl wearing nail polish for exactly the reasons you mentioned, when my son was about that age and asked to have his toenails painted, I went along. (and, at the same time, painted his father’s toenails the same lovely shade of blue).

  10. Thanks for the comment over on 22 ft!
    Congrats and so glad everyones better and welcome back to America and it’s a girl yay! and the boys are so funny and a million other things to say – where to start?- a lot happens in 9 months, doesn’t it?
    I missed you!

  11. Many girls in mini’s nursery school wear nail polish and lip gloss even! Despite her protests I have told her that only grownups get to do that. Glad I’m not the only one there, we were feeling a bit alone on that one.

  12. It’s so nice to be on the same page.

    Interesting idea of not any longer being the child’s ideal of femininity. Huh.

    No make-up or earrings until at least 13 here, either. I don’t know about nail polish. To me that’s a little more like dress-up. I never wear it, and am faintly horrified about nail parlors and the whole being-tended-to-be-Asian-women thing, but my mother-in-law is always putting nail polish on it seems like (of course we only see her two weeks a year in the summer in Sweden, but we’re moving there, so it’ll be different eventually) so I can see her wanting to do it for fun at five or so, and I don’t think I’d argue as long as she doesn’t wear it to school and takes it off after a couple of days.

    I am very particular about slutty children’s clothes. The things they sell! The things people buy!

  13. I totally agree with no piercings (I hate seeing babies with their ears pierced!)…… until age 13-14ish and no make-up until at LEAST high school (exact age to be determined later)….. but I really dont see any problem with nail polish. I regularly paint my 7 yr old nieces finger and toe nails and put little flowers on her toes etc. I must say the finger nail polish never lasts more than a day or two…

    My sister is however, very particular in the clothing she buys her. I happen to think she is adorable (and adorably dressed) but she has gotten teased at school A LOT by other little girls for not dressing “girly” enough. My sister does not send her to school in skirts and dresses (she has PE 2-3 times a week and recess daily so it just doesnt make a lot of sense) and she wears the RECOMMENDED tennis shoes so that she is not tripping all over herself in gym class or at recess. I am always amazed at what I see when I go to have lunch with my niece…… YIKES

  14. My neighbor’s daughter consistently wears nail polish. And more than once I’ve seen her in heels. She’s 6. It creeps me out. I was babysitting her once when she asked if she could paint Monkey’s nails. Um, hellz no, dude. Leave my baby girl’s nails alone, thankyouverymuch.

    The ear piercing doesn’t bother me so much, but maybe it’s b/c I’m full of piercings 🙂 I say when she’s old enough to ask for a piercing and gives me a better answer as to why she wants it other than, “Because every one else has it” then I’ll hear her out.

    But if she wants to wear nail polish before she’s a teenager? No way. I don’t even own any. I hope to instill into her how toxic that shit is.

    And makeup? Totally inappropriate for children. When she’s a teenager, we’ll talk. But again, I probably wear makeup just a few times a year so it’s not like she’ll be confronted with it at home at least.

  15. Thats a smart idea… totally leave out the gender part. By the time he’s old enough th choose to wear it or not, he’ll be old enough to understand why mostly girls wear it! (Although, at Monkeyboy’s school, for a while all the boys were into wearing black nail polish. It was weird. He was only in fifth grade at the time, too… and they’d bring it to school and put it on at recess, and if they weren’t allowed to have it on they’d just color their nails with black marker!)