Tough Enough to Wear Pink

An article in the New York Times has been making the rounds this last week on Facebook, Twitter and various online networks. If you haven’t read “New Challenge For Parents: Children’s Gender Roles” go ahead and take a moment to read it now. It’s a realistic take on the new understanding of child gender roles and how parents are trying to maneuver their way through acceptance and understanding in a society that still has a hard time minding their own business. It’s certainly not the first time in recent months that the topic has become a hot bed of conversation and controversy. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s daughter, Shiloh continues to prefer dressing like a boy, while a family in Canada generated a buzz after deciding to raise their baby Storm, without divulging his or her’s gender outside the immediate family. J Crew came under fire by critics and was applauded by supporters when they published an ad where a mother was painting her son’s toenails pink.

Personally I find it odd that so many people still find the idea of a little boy in a dress so upsetting.  As a former family daycare provider and student of early childhood education, I learned the importance of allowing children to explore toys marketed for the opposite gender without holding them back.

In fact when the state came into inspect my home so that I may receive my daycare license, they checked to make sure that I had toys for both genders as well as a large amount of gender-neutral toys. Most early childhood educators learn in early childhood development courses that for most young children, exploring gender roles is one hundred percent natural and something to be encouraged. I believe that some daycares could even come under fire for discouraging boys from playing with dolls and girls from playing with trucks, because it considered harmful to the child to make those discouragements.

Letting children play and explore the world is the most important job we have as parents, teachers, caregivers, aunts and uncles. If my son asks for pink nail polish, I don’t worry about him becoming gay anymore than I worry about him becoming Darth Vader when he swings around a light saber. He’s a kid and he plays, explores and likes what he likes. I feel the same about my daughter. And if either of them grow up to be gay, it won’t because I let them explore toys and dress up clothes from the opposite gender, it will be because they are simply grew up to be who they are. And as they grow into adults, I will only love them more. Not despite who they are, but BECAUSE of who they are.

Over the weekend I took my kids to the local Rodeo. The theme of the day was “Tough Enough to Wear Pink.” Granted it was about Breast cancer awareness, but the truth is that the Breast Cancer message was lost on my kids. All they saw were a bunch of rough and tumble cowboys wearing pink and riding bulls and broncos. And guess what? Wearing pink didn’t make those cowboys any less tough. And it certainly didn’t make them look any less cool.

So whether my son becomes a rough and tough cowboy wearing pink or a just a man who wears pink nail polish, I will love him. Again, not despite who he is, but BECAUSE of who he is. And the same goes for my daughter.

Of course if either of them do actually grow up to Darth Vader, I may feel differently. But that’s another issue entirely….

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