Fingernail paint

August 6, 2016

When my three-year-old son first came home from daycare requesting to paint his fingernails I promptly dismissed it from my mind.

Not necessarily because I was morally opposed to it, but because I was busy at the moment, and if I had any nail polish in the house it was at least a dozen years old and buried somewhere in the depths of the bathroom cabinet.

Several days later in line at the pharmacy he pointed to a nail polish display and excitedly exclaimed, “Fingernail paint!”

Anyone who has ever waited in line at the pharmacy with a restless three-year-old knows it is a very vulnerable position.

I do quite well telling my children “no” when we’re cruising through the grocery aisles. But being stuck in line at the pharmacy is even grueling for 39-year-olds.

The nail polish display had replaced a Hot Wheels selection that had been there for several months.

My son has a hotrod road grader and a souped up ambulance from waiting in the same line.

And that is how my three-year-old son became the proud owner of a bottle of blue nail polish.

And I was okay with it, until I put that first stroke of polish on his big toe. Suddenly, nearly 40 years of gender conditioning smacked me in the face.

Then I saw my son’s delighted expression, and I took a deep breath and let it go.

To my son, this wasn’t a gender thing. He sees nail polish for what it actually is. Paint.

To my son, this was no different than when he colored his leg blue with a marker while I was cleaning up the kitchen a few weeks ago.

When I entered the room, he looked at me proudly and said, “Isn’t this blue refreshing?”

His favorite pajamas are blue. He wants to paint his bedroom blue. He was frustrated when the blue paint he smeared all over his orange dump truck turned brown.

Three-year-olds know nothing about gender politics or sexuality or any of the other baggage adults carry around. And thank God for it.

All my son knows is that other kids at daycare get to paint their fingernails their favorite color, so why shouldn’t he?

One of the greatest gifts I can give my children is to allow them to be kids as long as possible without burdening them with adult concepts they do not yet have the capacity to understand.

My son loves monster trucks, sirens, road construction, and trains. He also loves Peppa Pig, rainbows, and picking flowers. If the world has a problem with that, the world needs to get over it.

Later that evening while we were mass producing traffic cones out of playdough my son said, “I want to be a police officer for Halloween.”

I was struck by how innocently this police-loving little boy with the painted fingernails espoused two of the most hot button issues of our time.

I responded, “Last week you wanted to be a superhero.”

He shrugged and said, “Well… they all rescue people.”

And I wondered, who would judge this beautiful little boy in his blue racecar jammies and matching blue fingernails? People he aspires to rescue, that’s who.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on August 6, 2016.