a confession

At the beginning of fall, my sweet son and I were looking to order some rain pants for this wet wet climate we seem to have moved to. I asked him what color he wanted, reading off the colors on the screen: yellow, red, blue or black. He, however, was actually looking at the screen and saw the one color I had neglected to mention: pink. "Pink!" he said. "I want pink!"
So I did what any well-meaning, modern, liberal mama would do, and gently steered him away.
"Pink, huh?" (keeping my voice very neutral) "Hmmm. You know, if you got yellow, it would match your raincoat."
"Ok, yellow. Let's get yellow!"
Phew. "Yellow, yellow is great!"
We got yellow.

The yellow is bright and cheerful, and it does match his raincoat, but I have felt a little guilty ever since that I steered him away from his first choice. Why not pink? Of course we know why not, we know the risk he runs in getting teased, we can imagine the raised eyebrows from even other adults. There's a group of kids who wait for the bus on our street, and though they aren't particularly mean, they loudly comment on anything Finn is doing/wearing/riding as we pass on our way to preschool. I know they would have plenty to say about pink rain pants.

Not too long after this little exchange, I read an article in an old Mothering magazine about another little boy who loved pink. His parents let him love it, his dad even dressed in pink in support, and he eventually grew to love other colors, though the fondness for pink remained. This article even claimed that once upon a time, pink was the color for boys (a gentle form of red, considered very manly) and blue was for girls (in honor of the Virgin Mary.) In any case, it's clear that the whole pink/blue thing is quite arbitrary, and I was inspired by these parents' willingness to just let their boy be himself.

So I was a little more prepared when he decided he wanted a tutu. A green tutu. He has some long john-style pajamas, complete with feet, that make him feel like a dancer. The very first moment he put them on, he danced around the room, then asked for "one of those things that dancers wear. That stick out?" "A tutu?" "Yes. A tutu. A green tutu!"
I didn't steer him away this time, though I admit I did procrastinate a bit, hoping it would simply fade away. Matt and I talked a lot in the meantime, about what were our fears, why the hesitation. Could we protect him from getting made fun of? Should we, even if we could? If he had one, could he wear it outside? Wear it to the dining hall? To school? Matt discussed it with his students, and it was one of them, finally, who got our attention. She was a dancer herself, and was so adamant about the importance of supporting kids' interests that we knew she was right. After all, we wouldn't in a million years tell Willa she couldn't do something or couldn't pretend to do something or couldn't, for gosh sakes, wear something just because she was a girl ... so how could we do that to Finn? Sometimes you just have to let the boy be the boy.
And the desire didn't fade away, so lo and behold, one Sunday night found me googling "handmade tutus" (these are the instructions we followed--so easy!) and then Monday morning found us at JoAnn's buying green tulle, (did you know it's headquartered here in Hudson?) and the next morning when Finn woke up, there was a tutu by his bed. Alas, he wasn't wearing his dancing pajamas, so he immediately changed into them, and then put on the tutu, and danced all morning. It was great fun to watch him ... so much fun, in fact, that I only paused momentarily when he asked to wear it to town, riding his bike to the library (and pulling the wagon behind.)
And now? He still has the tutu, still puts it on occasionally (mostly when he's wearing the pajamas) and I still love to see his eyes light up when he dances. I also still fear his getting hurt, fear his getting made fun of. He comes home from preschool talking about girl toys and boy toys--an idea he had never encountered before. And I'm sad about this, sad to see him entering, somewhat reluctantly and confusedly, a boy world that involves bad men and batman, hitting and competition, all things I wish we could just hold off a little longer (or a lot longer.)
But today? Today he admired--for the zillionth time--Willa's tights. "Pants with feet" he calls them. And so when we went to the thrift store this afternoon, I picked up some brown tights, size 3. They'll be perfect for wearing under his pants this winter, or for playing Robin Hood, or even for wearing under that tutu.


HeatherB said...

This one is my favorite. Dance, Finn!

Tuan said...

Ok, this is tooooo precious. And he's a walking billboard for Mr. Taco truck!