Every parenting newsletter I get tells me that it will help build my son’s confidence if I let him start making little choices. I usually give him two options: Broccoli or edamame? Goodnight Moon or My Many Colored Days? The playground or the library? Edwards or Obama?
Lately, the color of bath water is one of his favorite daily decisions. He went through a brief and surprising anti-bath period a few weeks back, so I got those red, yellow and blue bath tablets in hopes that the excitement of orange water would bring him back to what had been one of his favorite rituals. It’s worked almost too well. He wants a bath in the morning after he had one just before bed and he hates to get out. I’ve taken to draining the water while he’s still in the tub, so he can flop down his belly, watch the water swirl down the drain and say “bye bye green bath.”
Pink is a favorite. Purple too.
I don’t have any hang-ups about boys and pink, although I have caught myself accommodating other people’s hang-ups on occasion. As a baby, unless he was wearing some kind of sports-related outfit (which was rare – I don’t like inflicting an athletic destiny on him any more than I would want to inflict a pageant destiny on a daughter), Declan was often mistaken for a girl. I always stumbled over whether or not to correct people, and felt dopey when I did. Honestly, he wasn’t even aware that he was an individual yet, he was a sweet ball of rosy cheeks and big eyes, why project an identity crisis onto him? Still, it usually prompted dramatic apologies, as though they had emotionally scarred my son by implying he looked like he could be the same, apparently inferior, gender that I am.
He once joyfully picked up a pink ball at Target and started carrying it with him, and a strange grown man lauded the sporty interest but questioned the color choice. When we told him we didn’t see the problem, he suggested “well that’s fine for now.” Implication: An affinity for pink will destroy him once he is old enough for preschool. My husband gets indignant: “It will always be fine!” he told the pink-phobe.
When I ask Declan what color shirt he wants to wear today, the answer is often pink. I’ve scoured the piles and piles of hand-me-downs we have for a shirt that had the slightest trace of pink on it – maybe a sunset or a flamingo. No luck. I’ve scanned the racks at Target, Old Navy and Kohl’s for a plain pink t-shirt, a pink oxford, maybe a golf shirt with a pink stripe… there is nothing. Meanwhile, in the girls’ section, where the racks look like a massive strawberry confection exploded, everything has a hoochie-mama vibe — spandex fabrics, low necklines, capped sleeves, cheap ribbons and sparkles. Does anyone make gender-neutral clothing for little ones?