Q&A: toddler boys and toenail polish

Adrianne writes:

"One evening I was painting my toenails and my son asked for his to be painted too.  He said pink toes were pretty and he wanted some pretty pink toes like mommy.  He has a doll baby, so I thought I would try painting the doll's toes pink first and maybe that would satisfy him. Of course, it only made him want pink toes even more since now mommy AND his baby had pink toes.  So, figuring there would be no harm in it, I painted his toenails pink.  He laughed, was so excited and it made him so happy he called grandma to tell her about it and he even took off his shoes at church to show his friends.  I thought it was cute and funny and adorable that he was so into his pink toes, however, my husband just about threw a tantrum over the whole thing.

Now I know this isn't the most life altering issue, and definitely not anywhere near as serious as many, however, I'm just looking for some opinions on this situation.  Was it wrong of me to think it was ok to paint my 3 year old son's toes pink?  Would anyone else out there paint their son's toes?  I try to nurture his interests, give him a wide variety of toys and experiences and let him try and do things his way (within reason, of course) and I just don't see the harm in a little nail polish on a boy's toes."

Oh, boy. (No pun intended.) I've been through this one, too. Both of my boys love to have their toenails painted, but dads in general just don't seem to get that.

I think this is one of those gender divide things that we just aren't going to understand each other about. I can't possibly see what could be bad about painting a 3-year-old's toenails. Heck, I can't see what would be bad about painting a 10-year-old's toenails, or a 20-year-old's toenails. To me, this falls into the same category as (for kids) coloring with marker on their bodies or (for adults) experimenting with wacky haircuts.

But I think for men over a certain age, nail polish is something that signifies "Not Man" and they just can't deal with it.

I think you have a few options here. You can keep on painting your son's toes, and just laugh off your husband's objections. You can ask your husband exactly what it is that scares him about the nail polish, and get him to break it down and realize that there's nothing really for him to fear. You can go with a buff blush color of nail polish so your husband will never notice it but your son can keep wearing the nail polish. Or you can cut your son off and give him his first lesson in "how we socialize kids to conform to a narrow range of acceptable options no matter what they like or don't like." I hope you don't end up having to choose the last one, because it sucks to have to squash your kid down into society's little box.

What did you all do? I know there have to be tons of us whose sons like nail polish. Mine used to make their own with marker if I didn't hop to it and paint their toes the instant they demanded it.