Earlier this year I wrote about how I struggled to let K-Pants—then five—pick pink, bedazzled light-up shoes.
I was worried about the world making fun of him for wearing girl shoes, but we decided that was not a good reason to say no. And those pink shoes have been worn everywhere.
The pink shoes post inspired my good friend Kelly to let her preschool son pick out a My Little Ponies sweatshirt he craved. This picture is of him and his sister blissed out with their new shirts.
I was so proud to see this—to know that we can walk these paths together.
But this past weekend I found myself back in the shoe aisle with K-Pants, looking for a pair of bright sparkly shoes that weren’t girl shoes. It only took one day at his new, big elementary school for K-Pants to be made fun of. I was heartbroken.
I watched him get on the bus for school wearing the most awesome rock-star shoes, and I picked him up embarrassed, having been pointed at by other kids, telling me he didn’t want to wear the pink shoes again. He wanted “bright, light-up shoes that they would think were boy shoes.” But he still wanted them to be pink. I was crushed. These shoes don’t exist.
I wanted to report back to Kelly that K-Pants was paving the way. That making the decision to wear the thing that’s not normal emboldened and armored him, and that her son, too, would be fine. I wanted K-Pants to say to those kids, “I’m a boy and I can wear pink shoes because I love pink things. And shiny things. And if mostly girls like pink things that’s fine, but I can like them, too. And I love football and baseball and Iron Man, and girls can like those things, too.” And then I wanted him to keep wearing his pink shoes, and to have tons of friends, and be the champion of all the other kids who don’t fit the mold.
I didn’t want him to give in.
I didn’t want to buy new shoes just so he could fit with everyone who teased him. They won, I thought. They’re shaming him and he’s changing who he is.
We talked to the teacher and kids at Boy Woww’s Montessori school, where they feel like kids can wear anything they want and there are no “girl” and “boy” colors. They have the power to enforce this in their magical, forested bubble.
We talked to our neighbor who taught K-Pants martial arts two summers ago. “Do you like your shoes?” he asked. “Yes,” K-Pants said. “That’s what matters. Now you have to decide if what other people say is important to you.”
We saw the elementary school principal the next day and told her what happened. “You should be able to wear whatever color of sparkly shoes you want!” she said; and she promised to talk to K-Pants’ teacher and the school counselor, who likes to talk to classes about inclusiveness.
We looked at pictures of boys wearing pink shoes that our friend Mana found. I’ve never been so grateful to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for getting athletes to wear pink.
Every day I casually bring up something related to the pink shoes. But they still sit at home.
And so I am reminded: nothing is simple. Allowing your son to choose bedazzled pink shoes does not magically arm him to deal with criticism and feeling singled out. Even the nicest kid might ask, “Are you wearing girl shoes?” They’re not trying to bully. K-Pants would say the same thing about something else to another kid. I thought the hard part was making the initial decision to let him get the pink shoes. But I wasn’t thinking about the bigger context: How do I raise this kid to be resilient and tenacious? How do I teach him to notice and be kind to others in similar situations? It’s an advanced emotional intelligence course, and the kid is six.
I don’t think he’ll ever wear the pink shoes to school again.
My friend Ali had this wonderful message for K-Pants when I asked about the pink shoe problem on the Momsicle Facebook page:
I’m sorry those boys laughed at you on the bus. The bus is hard. Maybe you will want to wear your awesome shoes to church or to the playground with your family. It’s okay to choose different things for certain situations. I’m traveling for work right now and wearing some shoes that I only wear for work things when I have to show a certain side of me. But at other times I choose to let it all out.
And my friend Anne gave me this advice:
He may be strong enough to just shrug and say “Whatever” if he gets teased, or he may decide to have different shoes for different moods. For sure his shoes are a twinkly sparkly announcement that he is his on his way to being his own man. This will not be the last time he will have to decide whether to run with the pack versus howl at the moon.
So the pink shoes may not be the fight he chooses to live and die by.
But he has still worn them to church. And he got off the bus a few days ago and said to me, “I saw a boy with a My Little Ponies backpack in another class.” “Did you tell him it was cool?” I asked. “No. He was older. But it was cool. It was shiny.” K-Pants is evolving, and beginning to put situations like this into a file in his mind. He may not have been paying attention if it weren’t for the pink shoes. If it weren’t for the pink shoes, he may have thought, “Why’s that kid wearing a girl backpack?” So even though the pink shoes are shelved for school, they still have some magic in them.
Tell K-Pants that I know a boy in 6th grade (a really big kid!) who loves My Little Ponies. (My inner 80s-child is baffled by this new trend, but that’s neither here nor there.) I also think that point about wearing the right “shoes” for the occasion is spot on. Most of us grown-ups wear all sorts of shoes and clothes that aren’t really us or that we’re not comfortable in just to appear professional and be accepted at the office (or elsewhere). That’s not exactly good and pure and true to oneself, but it’s life and the way society operates. I guess having the wisdom to know what’s appropriate to wear at any given time is important. Finding an option that both fills the social-expectations AND make you happy and comfortable is the ideal – strive for that!
I have had college dudes that have serious MLP discussions – from the artwork to the storytelling, they are way into it. Love the magic of the shoes…you’re right, his pink shoes erased the boundaries that shouldn’t exist.
Given that the new ponies are definitely way sexier than when we were kids, I’m not totally surprised that the college dudes are into them. That doesn’t change the weird factor there, though. 🙂
Reblogged this on maney smiles back and commented:
“And so I am reminded: nothing is simple. Allowing your son to choose bedazzled pink shoes does not magically arm him to deal with criticism and feeling singled out.”
Beautifully written with a resounding call for inclusiveness, sensitivity, and love; which is what we all deserve, right?
Its so much harder for boys in this regard sometimes! I’m so sorry he was made fun of! Make sure to tell him from me that those shoes are awesome and he can wear them whenever he feels the occasion is right. It’s up to him and he should be happy about whatever decision he makes. I’m glad to see that the school is willing to address this and perhaps that will help make his decisions and love for pink sparkly shoes easier to get through the day with. Kids can be mean – it’s a product of how we raise our kids. I’m so glad you raise one to be an individual, not matter how tough it is on you and him!
The greatest line of all — there are no girl and boy colors! K-Pants you are my hero today!
Thank you! And I LOVE your blog’s name!!
Thank you- we plan to someday share the backstory—
“He may not have been paying attention if it weren’t for the pink shoes. So even though the pink shoes are shelved for school, they still have some magic in them.”
So true! It’s amazing how something can change our perspective, even when we’ve moved on from the original thing.
Your post just made me tear up. Beautifully said. My husband and I welcomed our first child 6 months ago and if I told you how many nights I stay up in an insomniac state thinking about the issues my child will one day face.. Well, you’d think I’m nuts considering she’s still a little baby. This post is so complex and applies to a range of topics. I’m so proud of your son and I don’t even know him. Whether he ever decides to wear them again or not, to show strong signs of courage and individuality at his young age is remarkable even if he does or did “conform” to kids poking at him. We’ve all been there and we’ve all backstepped on something. As he gets older and gains more self assurance he’ll push back harder, especially with a supportive parent like yourself. I live by the mantra that if we as parents continue to open doors for personal creative expression then a child’s confidence, gumption and assertiveness will inevitably grow as well. The greatest gift is for any person, not just a child, to be comfortable in his or her own skin. I’m different. I’m a bit of an odd ball. I’m extremely creative and introverted. I’m also very comfortable with these qualities and it’s not often ppl’s judgements of me get too far under my skin. I wish that for your child and any other one wanting to rock the pink shoes, the purple shirt or skinny jeans. Keep doing what you’re doing!
Hello from Houston Texas !!!! Down here boys And girls wear the whole rainbow at the same time. There is nothing to be ashamed of! I got to footlocker and buy boy shoes because they look cooler and jump right over to Macy’s for a pair of high heels. Diversity needs to be mandatory to teach starting on elementary school.
You are right: “nothing is simple”. The truth is, as much as we want to protect our kids from being bullied, we can never foresee what they will be bullied about – better to teach them to take pride in themselves and understand that bullies have worse issues.
My soccer-playing, rough and tumble son chose pink Converse Chuck Taylors in second grade. I purchased them, and he proudly wore them every day. If he ever got negative feedback, I didn’t hear about it. I was initially reluctant, but ultimately glad to honor his choice, regardless of others’ opinions. I’ve grown to know him as a young man who isn’t swayed by the crowd, and that is a very good thing.
K-Pants, rock those pink shoes! There’s no reason either gender should own a color.
As he gets a little older, hopefully K-Pants will begin to understand that associating a color of style of attire with a particular gender, sexuality or lifestyle is entirely arbitrary. It is the type of categorization that our little pea brains use to shove people into little boxes rather than getting to know them as individuals. It is certainly easier to run with the pack and abdicate one’s decisions to the whims of the herd. But it is deeply unsatisfying to do so and will forever leave he who capitulates with a pain in the heart that can never be healed. It is far better to go your own away and ignore the yahoos. As my mother said when my sisters and I were growing up, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do the same?” Sadly, for many of us, the answer is “yes.”
I think it’s awesome that boys are beginning to feel more confident and expressing their like for things that are traditionally considered feminine. My 9-year old picked out a feminine/tie-die back pack for the school year. He’s still using it happily!!!
I love K-pants and please tell him that my almost 11yo oldest son, rocked his Eunequa (sp?) costume for a long time between the ages of 2.5yo and 5yo, because he loved her so. And my now 6.5yo middle son, used to wear my bra all of the time and say “Bra on! Bra on!” when he was a toddler and I was getting dressed.
Thank you so much for sharing this story and the feedback you got from friends and others on this issue. My 6 year old son loves pink too and now is afraid to wear it to school because of one kid who said something last year. He’s afraid others will think or say something to him too. So he only wears his pink clothes now when he’s with us, and I even had to convince him that while he was with his parents no one would say anything mean to him. I like what your friend said about only showing a part of himself in certain situations like work. At first I really struggled with him basically hiding or silencing himself, but now I see that may be the only way for him to survive in this world until we can get to a place where “boys will be boys” means they can be whatever they damn well please, even if that means wearing pink (and the same for girls). I’m learning as I go so it helps to know there are other parents dealing with the same issue. Thank you! Onward!
Thank you! Great post!
I wish I had the answer for raising resilient and tenacious kids, I guess it all starts by being resilient and tenacious ourselves.
Thank you for this wonderful piece! I teach first grade and it is great advise for parents who have children who don’t color in the lines!
Thank you for sharing! Your story is just a reminder of how far behind we are in this country. I have lived and gone to school in other countries. I never witnessed the level of cruelty in England or Italy that I see here. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children to accept and not judge. I hate the whole color thing anyway. My 13 year old has a favorite shirt which just happens to be pink. I have told him to wear whatever he likes. Sadly, I have also felt the need to warn him about “colors” and how cruel children can be. He begged for contacts prior to entering middle school. Four eyes. That was his name at school. Only a handful of boys called him that but it felt like the whole school to him. I am so happy that we got him contacts. His confidence has grown. I am sad that at the age of eleven he felt there was no other way to face middle school.
I think you are a Great mom! I think it is great that you have gotten a lot of information and advice both for yourself and him. Really good advice at that. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better mom!
There are no boy or girl colours !! True
I remember being picked on for liking straight legged jeans, during the flares era, and making my parents buy nothing but flares. How our peers view us begins to bother us while we’re young, but then you reach that age when you just don’t care anymore.
Reblogged this on ArtFreak.
K-Pants, your shoes rock kiddo! Be who you want to be. Remember that, ok? You are strong and you got all of us supporting you.
Yes! There are no boy and girl colours! I would give a super like to this beautifully written article! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this! Take care!
Evelyn, no matter where K-pants goes or whatever he does, there is always going to be someone who will call him out on his choices.
Now, in situations like these, K-pants can retaliate and let it go or ignore it and pray for that person. I would choose the latter. Its important to teach K-pants to make his choices based on what he feels happy with, not what others feel happy with.
That being said, I recently had a class on sociology which looked at gender differences and came to the conclusion that it is society that has assigned colours to genders. We were not born with it. It was ingrained in us and as the society has become more cruel, many of us are afraid to break boundaries now.
I am sure K-pants will turn out okay. Keeping him in my thoughts.
My little brother is a Bro-ny. I fully support it. Growing up I loved “boy shows”. I loved Batman, Voltron, He-man, and Transformers. I was teased, but I eventually learned to not care. It takes time. Keep doing what you’re doing!
One part of me is saying, “you go boy!” Another part of me is concerned for him. We all know the lives of revolutionaries are sometimes less than glamorous. I’ve had this discussion with a friend of mine. Her son’s best friend is his female cousin, C. C has dolls, kitchen sets, and everything you can imagine from the animated film Frozen. He plays with those things when he’s with C. She told me if they were in a toy store and he asked for a stroller she would say no and point him in a “more appropriate ” direction. I disagree with her but I respect her decision as a parent who has her own views. If only our children were born with user manuals! We’re all figuring it out as we go along. K-pants, I admire your individuality. May you always have the courage to display it. Shutyamouthandcallmeugly.com
Your post is very inspiring to me. My daughter is just a baby right now and i wonder how i will handle these types of situations. I question myself all the time whether or not ill truly allow my daughter to be her own person at a young age. I know that for alot of people the answer is pretty easy. In this liberal society people are realizing the importance of loving people for who they are and recognizing that we all deserve the right to be our true selves. Coming from such a conservative up bringing , especially when it comes to gender rolls- your experience calms me down a bit. It lets me see that its ok to struggle with the decision to let your boy wear girl shoes. And its not because you think your son is wrong, its because you want to protect him. I love that!
Pink colour generalize the feminine perception. But there isn’t any girl or boy color. I hope someday, we might behold this perceptions, beyond extravagant gender rules we rely on.
The best part- continuation of pink shoe among his buddies. It made him stand out in the crowd for his unique appeal.
Loved this! Kids should wear and play with what they want it doesn’t mean anything these days if they play with dolls or wear pink clothes. Statistics show boys who play with dolls grow up to be better fathers
Very Nice post i must say !
I’m sure you have heard of the Bronies. If not, look them up!
This is beautifully written & hope he & you find the happiness & acceptance you deserve. Because I know K-Pants can change the world, one sparkly shoe at a time!!
I love Brene Brown’s work on shame- especially as it relates to kids. I have tried to teach my little ones that everyone’s opinion doesn’t matter, but if they say “no one else’s opinion matters”- that can close off their hearts. I think sometimes I have it easier with little girls, they can wear clothing from the boy or girl section without any teasing (so far). I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t like glitter, but sweet boys don’t have those options available to them within the confines of “boy clothing”. I struggle with staying open and vulnerable and learning how to deal with a broken heart, it’s easier to close myself off- I can’t even imagine that struggle for someone so small.
You’re right I think about it being easier for girls to cross over. Even though they may get comments, it’s more acceptable for girls to wear “boy” things. It IS hard to teach kids not to close themselves off, and to do the same ourselves. I just hope that he can keep some of the empathy that gained. It’s tough.
You’re amazing, mama! You’re the kind of parent who makes babies that change the world!
I think in most cases unless a bully child is over age 65 I do not think it is problem, after all, sometimes I were my brothers shoes many years ago.
What we are learning is when boys are hard on boys for not dressing like a boy, they usually are not fond of woman. That does not mean a boy like society boys clothes, he does not like woman; but he would bully a friend for dressing in something stereotype female.
The whole time reading this the only thing I could think of was where can I get a pair. I hope they do them for size 8 men of 37 years old 🙂
I can’t wait to run into you flashing these kicks! 🙂
Haha I wish!
Congratulations beautiful human being for being such a loving, supportive, concerned mother! Enjoy your son, all his choices, all your moments together. It’s so nice to see there are parents who understand and give wings to their kids and don’t try to impose them their own opinion
Well written! K-pants will remember those sparkly shoes. I still have fond memories of mine!
There are no boy or girl colours !! True
My youngest, also a boy, loved the color pink for years. Pink shirts? Had to have them. Pink Converse? Yes, those, too. His favorite rock band had a shirt that was unisex, and emblazoned with a pink logo? It was a must have. We never told him that pink was for girls, because we don’t believe that ourselves. Somewhere around twelve, his love of all things pink started to fade. That’s when he discovered that they made My Little Pony clothing for boys. That phase lasted about a year. He’s now almost 16, and while the majority of his shirts are black, blue, or gray (it’s allegedly easier to make sure you match this way), the pink is slowly finding its way back in. Maybe only in the laces of his shoes, or the pink bracelet his girlfriend got him, but it is there. Tell your little one to wear what he wNts, when he wants. People, and other kids, will forget about it after a very short while, and will accept it as normal. 😉
It’s really nice to hear your experience over time. I get caught up thinking that what’s happening now will forever alter the course of his life, but this growing up thing is a process. I hope I can look at the timeline as you can and see the ebb and flow. Thanks for sharing, Babette.
I used to think the same way, too. I worried that the comments made here and there, would destroy his sense of self. That the occasional strange look, would make him lose his sense of wonder, or forever make him hide his true self. If I’m being completely honest, it’s only been in the past year, that I’ve realized my youngest is quite capable of taking on the world. And, the hardest part, as his mom? That I don’t have to protect him from those who think his different, is some way wrong. He’s quite capable of not only defending himself, but convincing others to be themselves, too. He’s growing up, and I miss the days when our biggest worry was pink shoes, instead of what college to apply to.
Rugged individualism is a value superior to accommodating peer pressure – an gentlemen have always won pink shirts and ties!
I think no prblem with the color, beauty not only women or girl have.
I’m 17 and a brony… My friend who’s majoring in linguiatics in university is a brony … So it’s quite alright for a dude to like ponies lol… mlp has a big following even in south asian countries …
I did not know about bronies, and I’m pretty psyched to know it’s a thing. I’m thrilled to hear from so many people who affirm that it’s great to not fit the mold.
Reblogged this on jonathan dradford.
I read your original post about the pink shoes, I remember wondering how one kid could be so amazingly sure of himself. Kudos to you and your son !
I think your son is a beautiful, smart individual. I always find the people who refuse to conform to gender bias tend to do better in general. Not just better jobs, but a better happier adult life because they honestly do not give a damn about what others think about them.
Tell K-pants that his shoes are fabulous. People have to learn to accept and not categorise things into being for guys and girls.
I read this post a few days ago and it’s still resonating with me. As others have said, thanks for sharing. I’m sure K-Pants will continue to be awesome!
I appreciate and can relate to your post. I have an 11-year-old who, although his choice was not pink or necessarily gender-bending, it was a bit outside the norm. He chose to wear combat boots (of all things) to school and was ridiculed. Our experience has been much like yours. In the end, he picks the right look for the right occasion. I really liked your friend’s analogy to her own work life. I, myself, have my work-appropriate wardrobe and then the style more fitting for the rest of my life. I should have thought of that! Nice post and nice work, mom.
Love your story. My heart broke for you when he got off the bus. There are a lot of great lessons in this. So glad you shared it. Thank you.
As a weekend party princess I get little boys who want the sparkly makeover, nail polish, and princess dresses that all the other girls have at the party and sometimes parents scoff. Whenever I get a parent who scoffs… I remind them and the little boy that’s it’s “perfectly ok! I mean look at how magical he looks!”, and after that the boy is usually reassured and I really don’t care what the parents think. Let them love what they want to love 😊💕
This is parenting at it’s best! Be you, don’t conform and no matter what people say to you at school, we will always support you at home. I work with a bunch of Bronies. Pretty great documentaries out there about them.
No such thing as girl or boy colors! Great story!
I remember when those kinds of shows were popular to so many young girls and I thought they were the coolest shoe ever ..no lie! 😁
What else can bring joy to a child like wearing colorful things. Most especially one that suits his innermost feelings.
Nice post, K-pants seems like a sensitive child, i like the way you accept his choices it will definitely help him now and in future.
I love this, more and more I believe children should be raised without “gender rules.” Because it’s apparent many problems can be traced back to that. Kudos to you for raising your son with so much thoughtfulness in regards to that. I enjoyed this post!
i’m 52 and i get teased at work about pink…and i back down…and i despise that men are “supposed” to like dull boring colors!!! outside of work, with friends, etc…i wear pink but men shoe sizes don’t come in pink or sparkly…shucks…of course, some shoes can be custom made…but yeah, even at 52 i’m intimidated by social norms…idk how/why “girls are pink and sparkly” and “boys are blue and boring”… i’d wear pink shoes, just not to work
As a former preschool teacher you are a rock star as a parent. How many times did I have to explain it was OK for the boys to play in the dramatic play area. They loved the kitchen set and nursery area. I have many fonedmemories of the boys trying on dresses something they would have never been allowed ot do at home. Why are we so hung up about this I will never know. Just glad to read encouraging comments.
Ah, I love that your son enjoys pink.
I hate that it’s okay for a little girl to dress up like a boy and have a boy hair cut. When she does, she’s “tough” and a “tomboy”
When a boy dresses up like a girl, he’s made fun of. Because our culture says it’s shameful.
I hope your son continues to rock his pink shoes.
Wish there were more open minded parents in the world like you! Thanks for sharing this. I absolutely love it especially since I ha e a 3 year old son that loves everything! Even if it’s for “girls”
Wonderful! I hope he stays that way!
Thank you for sharing your nurturing of your son’s journey to self-confidence. It will certainly touch a lot of lives xxx
I am 14 and i know some boys who are like K-pants but i don’t think it’s wrong to be different after all i am also different .I know karate ,judo and i love video games and i am into sports too much.
I think different is good.
It’s great to know that there are other boys out there who support being different. Thanks for writing!
What a coincidence i have written a poem on my site related to this .
Your son is going to appreciate the fact that you didn’t discourage him from being himself. With that one act, he knows that you’ll support him no matter what and that’s very reassuring for a kid to know.
Self-expression is the greatest freedom that we can get, so for you to allow K-Pants that freedom at such a young age, it’s truly inspiring.
You’re a cool mom! Go Evelyn!
Wow, I am always amazed at the challenges our children are faced with at such a young age… I hope your son never looses the light that makes him him! Great post!
Love this. As a momma-to-be this post reminded me of what will be important to us and our family, and letting our children be who they want to be will certainly be at the forefront of our parenting style 🙂
It’s so beautiful that you’re letting and supporting your son to be who he wants to be instead of installing gender restrictions on him. The shoes are awesome btw.
I absolutely love these shoes. I’d wear them
Beautifully written. I have a similar story of my nephew and pink nail polish, so this post really spoke to me. Thanks for writing this!
It’s always dismaying to see such young kids already susceptible to rigid gender standards. A few weeks ago my daughter told me she didn’t want to play sports because “girls are more fragile”. As a lifelong tomboy, I hate hearing things like that. It’s great that you’re attempting to instill more progressive ideas about gender to your children.
Loved ur post. Extremely thought provoking!
Pink colour generalize the feminine perception. But there isn’t any girl or boy color. I hope someday, we might behold this perceptions, beyond extravagant gender rules we rely on.
Great story! I think at this is age they’re just too young to comprehend. And no one wants their kid to be bullied but that’s life. So with that said, time heals and with time knowledge and understanding increases.
“With time knowledge and understanding increases.” I have to remember that. It’s easy to forget when you are feeling like you are in the moment and will never get out. 🙂
Great post! My daughter loves Paw Patrol and wanted a pair of Paw Patrol tennis shoes. They only came in boys style, and she was ok with that. First time she wore them another girl made fun of her. She won’t wear them again. Sigh. I just want her to be her own person and confident enough to not care what others think.
Truly beautiful and very inspiring. May your son have a wonderful happy life
Thank you! And I love your gravatar and name!
My favourite line is ‘it’s never that simple’ and I like that. But remember that the simplest things give us great pleasure. 🙂
Can K-Pants’ Dad (or significant male role model) wear pink sparkly shoes in public and show him it’s OK? Sometimes we have to tell our kids that other people don’t think before they speak and they say hurtful things without realising the damage they inflict. Sometimes kids understand, sometimes they won’t, but we must continue to try.
I hope you can reopen his heart to find the courage to wear his favourite shoes again.
Creativity Rocks, individuality is or greatest weapon in this World.