For a while, Graham has been asking for pink shoes. He has two pairs of sneakers, one white and one grey, but the velcro on both pairs isn’t quit working, which is causing him a lot of anxiety. Finally, I decided we had no choice but to get him a new pair and when we talked about that he said he wanted them to be pink.
As a parent who hates the idea of gender stereotypes and expectations, this warmed my heart.
Graham hasn’t shown much of a preference for colors until recently. Sure, he’d prefer shirts with trains on them, but he never cared much about color. Recently he’s taken more of an interest in color with a definite affinity for pink.
For days Graham talked about going to buy new pink shoes and on Sunday the big day came. We braved the crowds at Stride Rite (that place is always packed outside of school hours) and while we waited for our turn I brought over some shoes for him to look at.
I stuck to pink, as he requested, and pulled a variety of shoes off the shelves for him to examine. Pink with brown, pink with white, pink with grey. Pink as the main color, pink as a background color. Hot pink, light pink, inbetween pink. It became clear quickly that he had strong preferences. Pink had to be the main color and the brighter the better.
He ended up with the pinkest shoes in the place: hot pink Hello Kitty Keds with sequins and sparkles.
He also declared that his next shoes will be Spiderman. The kid knows no gender boundaries.
Graham was so excited about his shoes. He wore them out of the store. He talked about them all day. I used them as a threat at bedtime. (“If you don’t go to bed, you won’t get to wear your new shoes tomorrow…” I’m evil.) In the morning he wasn’t crazy about the idea of getting dressed until he remembered he’d get to put on his shoes.
He talked about them lovingly. “They’re so pretty.” “They’re so cool.” “I’m so fancy.” It was true love.
He’d also picked out some socks to go with them and before putting on his hot pink shoes he put on pink leopard print socks.
While we waited for the bus he talked about his shoes. I suggested he say hello to his bus driver, who is the nicest person ever and always says hi to Graham with no response. He wasn’t wild about the idea.
The bus came. Graham climbed on, and when the bus driver said hello, Graham pointed down and said, “Look at my new shoes.” Victory!
Of course, I knew it wasn’t all necessarily a win. I was sending him into the lion’s den even if the lions were just plain old kids.
Sure enough, when he came home, his shoes were the first thing he talked about.
“They’re girl shoes,” he said. I felt my stomach sink. Is it too much to ask that he have one day at school without someone telling him his shoes are wrong? I wondered.
It took me a while to pry the information out of him. He wasn’t upset. The comment had come from kids in the other Kindergarten class. I told him, “They’re not girl shoes or boy shoes. They’re just kid shoes.” He didn’t seem to take much notice.
While tweeting about Graham’s shoes, someone linked me to this wonderful statement from, of all people, Kanye West.
It’s like a little kid, a little boy, looking at colors, and no one told him what colors are good, before somebody tells you you shouldn’t like pink because that’s for girls, or you’d instantly become a gay two-year-old. Why would anyone pick blue over pink? Pink is obviously a better color.
This has also got me thinking about myself. Sure, I’m thrilled that Graham is picking what he likes and getting pink shoes. But I realize that if Tessa wanted pink sparkly shoes I’d point her in a different direction so she wouldn’t be so girly. Which is completely hypocritical of me. I need to let my kids choose what they like as long as it’s how they really feel and not what they’re pressured into.
So Tessa, if you want to wear bright pink tutus, go for it.
And for that matter, the same goes for you, Graham.