Little Boys in Pink Shoes
I have a 2.5-year-old boy who loves the color pink. He also hates wearing shoes. Recently, I was showing him a web page with lots of different shoes on it, trying to get him interested, and I asked him which of two pairs of shoes he liked better. He picked a pair of pink shoes he saw off to the side. Just for fun, I scrolled down the page and again asked him to choose between blue and brown. He again pointed to a different flowery pink pair off to the side. I tried a third set of choices, and again, he came up with pink.
Now this doesn’t bother me in the least. I don’t care if he likes pink shoes, or pink pants, or dolls, or whatever the hell he wants to like. I don’t think this makes him weird, or gay, or whatever society deems male children who prefer pink. It’s just a color. My problem is that I don’t feel that I can let him wear pink shoes because other people/kids will pick on him. I don’t want him to be picked on. Of course I don’t. He will be starting preschool when he turns 3 next summer, and I don’t think I can, in good conscience, send him to preschool wearing pink shoes. But part of me wonders, would he be more willing to wear shoes (in general) if they were pink? Would the daily shoe wars come to an end?
Am I being ridiculous? Should I just let him wear whatever color he wants and not worry about the reactions from other people? Or should I quietly just order the brown shoes and hope he chooses a new favorite color next year?
Since you have 3 boys, I am interested to know what you would do. I don’t want stereotypes to get in the way of his happiness, but I hesitate to have people label my son, who is too young to understand, let alone defend himself if I’m not around.
While none of my boy children ever developed an affinity for pink clothing, all of them at one point pushed a pink doll stroller around our neighborhood, and my six-year-old still takes his “babies” to his friends’ houses, with one of them decked out in her finest pink party dress and flowered headband that he picked out specifically for her. And oh yeah, I fought the ridiculous daily NO SHOES battle with all three of them at some point. So I feel confident in my “what would I do” response, even if it is technically a hypothetical.
Buy him the shoes he will wear. The pink ones. He’ll be fine.
In my (three time!) experience, the 3-year-old preschool classroom is not the junior-high meat-grinder atmosphere you seem to be envisioning. It’s a classroom full of very young toddlers who are still basically babies, many of whom will 1) cry, 2) have potty accidents, 3) suck their thumbs, 4) drag a blankie/lovey around with them, and 5) do any number of things their parents are completely terrified will result in teasing, because we all think everybody ELSE’s 3 year olds don’t still do those things for some reason.
My current 3 year old attends a mixed-age classroom, so some of his peers are technically kindergartners. He also has long hair (for a boy), and at this point is quite vocal that it’s his preference to keep it that way. I asked his teacher if…you know…she’d ever overheard anyone tease him or say anything along the “YOU LOOK LIKE A GIRL” lines. She stared at me, almost a little shocked at the question. “Of course not! I can’t imagine any of these kids saying or even thinking that. This isn’t that kind of environment.”
Obviously, I can’t guarantee that your son won’t be told pink shoes are for girls, or teased for his preference. But that’s the reality of sending your child out into the world. I can’t guarantee that any of my children won’t be teased at school today, no matter what “kind of environment” their teachers are doing their best to create. My oldest son is on the Spectrum and has serious social issues, my middle son prefers the company of girls and would rather play house than soccer, and my youngest has long blonde hair and insists on wearing at least one item of clothing backwards most days. (I don’t know. I’ve stopped fighting that particular battle as well.)
What matters more, I believe, is that my children know that when they come home, to me, to their father, they will be accepted and supported and loved unconditionally. They’re allowed to like what they like and be their authentic selves. By pointedly ignoring your son’s preference (after asking for his opinion/input) for the pink shoes, YOU will be the one sending him the signal that there’s something “wrong” with that preference.
If he comes home from preschool and suddenly no longer wants to wear the pink shoes, go ahead and buy him a new brown or blue or green pair, but don’t make it a huge thing, or panic that he’s been hurt and teased and scarred for life. Buy him some pink pajamas that he can wear and enjoy in peace at home, where he KNOWS his color preference is accepted and honored. And in the end, it’s your unconditional acceptance and love that will translate into self-confidence, and the ability for him to look a peer in the eye and say “I don’t care what you think, I like these shoes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
I always tell my boys there’s no such thing as “girl colors/toys” and “boy colors/toys” but they (at least the older ones) insist that I am wrong. The marketing gets to them eventually, so I usually just shrug, tell them they’ll understand the insidious, sexist nature of the gender stereotyping machine someday (WHOOSH OVER THEIR HEADS), and attempt to reinforce that idea that there’s nothing BETTER about boy things or LESSER about girl things. Everybody is allowed to like what they like, and we NEVER tease anyone about liking something “different” than us.
I’m doing my best to raise sons who would never, ever tease a little boy for wearing pink shoes. I really am. I like to think I’m not the only one.