Wearing Nail Polish

It’s sum­mer! It’s san­dal sea­son, and I don’t have great toes. I’m not sure what great toes are, but I’m pret­ty sure mine are not it. So, in an effort to com­pen­sate for what I con­sid­er my non-foot mod­el feet, I wear pol­ish on my toe nails dur­ing the sum­mer. I also have 3 and 4 year old sons.

Some peo­ple may won­der what one has to do with the oth­er. Many moms of sons or daugh­ters who are this age have prob­a­bly fig­ured it out. My sons like to do what I do. On the days I wear make­up, it’s not unusu­al for one of them to grab my eye­lash curler and pre­tend with it for a while. On days when I dry my hair, they are real­ly inter­est­ed in my hair dry­er. On days when I paint my toe nails, they want theirs paint­ed also. And, I do it.

In our house, I try very hard not to make gen­der state­ments or to assume that because they are boys they will choose one activ­i­ty or toy over anoth­er. We have both babies and cars. We have a stroller (which my Kael calls the “rac­ing stroller”) and we have tools. We have books, puz­zles, Dup­lo Legos, air­planes, emer­gency vehi­cles, and prob­a­bly a hun­dred oth­er toys. For his birth­day, Asa is going to get a ring sling for his baby and his mon­key which he cur­rent­ly car­ries under his shirt. My boys often ask for blan­kets to be used as capes or to be put on as dress­es so they can be princess­es. I nei­ther encour­age nor dis­cour­age any of these types of play. If they ask, I will help them be princess­es, but I don’t get the blan­ket out and say, “Asa, do you want to play princess?” Just as I don’t get out the fire trucks and say, “Asa, do you want to play res­cue heroes?”

I have to admit as I write this, it feels uncom­fort­able. I am uncom­fort­able with label­ing these things as girly or boy­ish even if it’s only by con­trast­ing one with anoth­er. I don’t like that they play they way that they do, but nei­ther do I mind. It’s their play, it’s not mine.

But. Yes, of course, but. There’s always a but, right? In this case, for some rea­son or anoth­er, I don’t want them to wear toe nail pol­ish. I don’t know what it is. Is it peer pres­sure? Is it gen­der stereo­typ­ing? Am I afraid some­one might say some­thing to one of the boys about it? Maybe it’s all of those. I don’t know. I am uncom­fort­able with the nail paint­ing, but I do it. I know that there are many gen­der roles and stereo­types in the world, but I don’t want to be my child’s first intro­duc­tion to the lim­its that soci­ety may place on him.

Am I alone in my feel­ings? Does any­one else hes­i­tate to (or not allow) paint their preschool boys’ nails?

I think the rea­son this both­ers me is that of all the things that my boys do that is not typ­i­cal of their gen­der, this seems so minus­cule in com­par­i­son. I want to be okay with it, but for some rea­son I’m not.


  1. As you may have seen on my FB Aaron has had paint­ed nails on a few occa­sions. We don’t do it often, just because I don’t usu­al­ly paint any of my nails, but when I do, he gets his done too, as does Ivy. He also wears tutus and steals my dress­es etc.

    I don’t have any prob­lem with it though I was curi­ous what the inlaws would say when they saw it, but so far as I know, they nev­er said any­thing, I am bet­ting MIL dealt with that with her boys too when they were lit­tle.

    I am also excit­ed to hear that Aaron is the only one that has turned the doll stroller into a “race car” of sorts.

  2. Well first, I think the boys will get plen­ty of gen­der stereo­typ­ing once they get to school full time so I think what you are doing is great. I know a Kinder­gart­ner whose favorite col­or was pink up until Kinder­garten when it sud­den­ly switched to blue.

    If the nail pol­ish both­ers you a bit have the boys pick out some mas­cu­line col­ors or get tiny stick­ers to put over the color…or get some mini tat­toos that they can put on.

    But I don’t see any­thing wrong with it! 🙂

  3. Good for you for exam­in­ing & think­ing through your feel­ings around this. I, too, don’t see any­thing wrong with it, and know some tod­dler & preschool boys who have paint­ed nails occa­sion­al­ly (I have 3 girls, so am com­ing from a dif­fer­ent place with this). I have been too lazy to do my nails often so so far my girls have not asked for it.

    For me, the col­or of paint would both­er me more than the paint­ing itself. Reds and pinks some­how seem more “sen­su­al” and I would not real­ly like my girls wear­ing that (its also not my pref­er­ence — I don’t tend to fem­i­nine things that way). Blue, sil­ver, or glit­tery how­ev­er, I would not feel bad about (and would wear myself).

    I know some folks on a list I fol­low were wor­ry­ing about the chem­i­cals in nail pol­ish & I think if I paint my girls nails I’ll try to get some thats on the “safe” list with regards to that.

  4. i would, and do paint my sons nails. any time he sees me paint my nails or even just sees a bot­tle of pol­ish he asks for me to paint his fin­ger and pig­gie nails. so, instead of using pur­ple or red or what­ev­er i hap­pen to have i bought him his own bot­tle of black nail pol­ish (which i also occas­sion­al­ly use) he loves it and shows his fresh­ly paint­ed fin­gers and toes off proud­ly to mi-ma, pop pop, or any­one else he hap­pens to see 🙂

  5. Thanks for the feed­back every­one! I know that it’s com­mon for boys to want the same things as their par­ents have. Because I’m the pri­ma­ry care­giv­er dur­ing the day, it obvi­ous­ly makes sense that they would want to do what I do. Maybe I should take them to the store and let them each pick out their own col­or. I did­n’t men­tion this in my post, but some of the col­ors that I have (and real­ly like) are in *tiny* bot­tles, and to be hon­est, I have a hard time shar­ing them! 🙂

  6. I wrote about this last week. My daugh­ter and I paint­ed our toe­nails, and my son asked to be let in. In the end, I paint­ed his toe­nails. But it did­n’t occur to me to offer. And I did momen­tar­i­ly hes­i­tate and con­sid­er.

    I feel very con­flict­ed about gen­der roles, and my role sur­round­ing them. I don’t want to impose an iden­ti­ty on my chil­dren, or make them feel as if their desires aren’t OK. But I also don’t want to expose them to oth­ers’ neg­a­tiv­i­ty. For now, with my not-quite-2-year-old, I can pret­ty much pro­tect him. This feels like a real­ly safe time to exper­i­ment. But I’m not sure how I would feel if he were 5 and start­ing kinder­garten. I like to think I’d still be cool, but we’ll have to get there to see.


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