The Bean came home from school and drew a picture of a face with a big red frown. When asked about it he said that he was sad. The reason was painfully clear. The Bean had been teased at school about his polished nails.
Last fall Sprout expressed a desire to paint her nails, which prompted the Bean to want to paint his as well. Normally it was Sprout who copied every mover her big brother made, but this time little Sprout found herself the leader. Soon my kids were decked out with vibrant matching nails. The Bean really liked the look and his fingers have been periodically adorned with paint ever since.
WonderWife™ and I have always supported the Bean's decision to wear nail polish. We strive to be the kind of parents that let our kids, even if that means letting out of the house in mismatched shoes, covering their torsos in temporary tattoos or painting their nails bright pink. In fact, there have been times when I've found myself having to defend his choice.
And while the Bean has become sensitive about showing certain sides of himself in public, for instance he doesn't like to let others see him cry, he has remained blissfully carefree about his finger nails. In the few times he's come under scrutiny, the Bean has handled himself with integrity. He hasn't cared about social conventions or gender roles. I've been immensely proud of him for this.
The Bean's world became a different place upon entering kindergarten. School used to be a safe, nurturing environment where his days were spent playing. Now school has become more serious as the emphasis is on learning and homework. Kindergartners suddenly seem older and savvier about the world in unexpected ways.
It was the Bean's second week in kindergarten and he seemed to be doing well. He had made a few friends and there was even a girl whom he had taken a special liking to. But I was secretly worried the morning I walked him to school, his sparkly nail covered hand clasped in mine. It would've been impossible for his classmates not to notice. It would have been improbable for someone not to say something.
Sure enough, as the Bean tells it he had been teased by "everybody". He did stand up for himself bit that wasn't enough and he went to his teacher. By the end of the day, he was feeling pretty awful. He came home and drew the picture, which resulted in a good dose of nurturing from his mom. This made him feel better.
My heart broke as WonderWife™ told me this story. As I began to contemplate what to do next, she told me she asked the Bean what he wanted to do about his nail polish. After thinking it over for a minute, he decided that he wanted to keep it on. Once again, he has made me very proud.
I am glad that in this case the opinions of others hasn't deterred my son from being who he is, but I know the road of independence will not get easier as he gets older. All I can do is stand by him and encourage him whether his finger nails are blue or he wears rain boots on a sunny summer day and hope that he will have a thick enough skin to endure those that will not.