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“I just want a pink one”

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This morning I asked Tea what color backpack he wanted (because school doesn’t start for 5 more days and I plan ahead like that).  Without hesitation, he said “Pink!”

Um, pink?
He has never, ever shown any interest in anything pink.  While I was trying to think of the best way to respond, I must have looked concerned, because he asked, “What, Mama, is pink only for girls?”
“Well, Sweetie, pink can be for anyone, but *usually*, boys don’t have pink backpacks.  If you have a pink one, I’m afraid some of the other kids might tease you or be mean about it.”
(Very matter-of-factly) “That’s ok.  I want pink.”
“Are you sure?  Why pink?”
“I just want a pink one.”
“Um…do you want to see pictures of different backpacks on the computer to help you decide?”
(click click click) I brought up a page with all different colors of backpacks.
“Ooh – Mama – that pink one there.  That’s what I want.”
(inner sigh)  “If you *really* want pink I can get it for you but I am afraid someone is going to hurt your feelings if you have a pink backpack.”
We talked in circles like this while I kept glancing at Kyle for input.  He shrugged and suggested to Tea that maybe I “wouldn’t be able to find pink”.  In that case, Tea said he wanted a red one.
So I had an out.  But I felt terrible about the thought of lying to him.  I wanted choosing his own backpack to be part of the excitement of getting ready to start school.  I have no problem with him having a pink backpack, but I am stuck with two conflicting feelings.  I want to protect him from the world.  He’s only 4 and he’s my baby.  Alternately, I hate making him think he made a bad choice or that there’s something wrong with him liking pink.
The subject was dropped with a “We’ll see what I can find at the store” and 10 minutes later Tea came up to me and said, “Mama, you can get me a red one.  I don’t want you to be sad if I come home from school and tell you someone hurt my feelings.”  Ouch.  He was much more mature and grown up about the whole thing than I was – he clearly changed his mind for me, not himself.
So today was a Big Parenting Fail.  I came home from the store with a red backpack.  I wish I had been brave enough to get him the pink one he wanted.  I haven’t cut the tags off yet.  Maybe I’ll change my mind.
What would you do?


11 responses »

  1. I feel your pain. I’m very against boy things and girl things. Ian wears “girl” socks because once his feet reached a certain size they stock making cool “boy” socks. I’m okay with that – like I’m okay with him wearing necklaces and such. But the backpack brings in a whole other set of opinions….like you said other kids hurting his feelings. I think you can make it up to him with some pink socks or a pink ribbon or keychain to attach to his backpack. And you’ll never have to tell him you picked red over pink!

  2. That’s a tough spot to be in…you know how kids are yet you want your own to be independent. I say go for the pink…see what happens.

  3. Well most of the pink backpacks are very girly with princesses and so forth all over them. If there was a way to find a backpack with pink and other colours as well (rainbow coloured perhaps?) I’d go for it and add a pink dangler of some sort.

    You are right – he might well get teased and while he doesn’t care about that now, he probably will later when it happens.

    Keep the red for a backup and go find the most un girly pink one you can get?

  4. Can you get one that has pink on it, but isn’t totally pink? If you do purchase a pink one.. I’d have a backup red one in case he comes home upset.

    • Also, have you seen the Very Hungry Caterpillar backpack with personalized embroidery?!?! Lord.

      Also, in first grade I convinced my dad to get me a star war’s watch after seeing the movie. It was a boy’s watch b/c there were no girls’ versions available. When I got to school a boy named Robbie kept teasing me about it, so I kissed him. That shut him up. But I never wore the watch again. My dad didn’t really explain this all to me and I don’t think I even told him it happened. Honestly, its a tough call since you want to protect him but allow him to express himself freely.

      • Wow – I love the Brown Bear one! Why didn’t I do this sooner?

        That’s so sad about your watch but I love your solution. That’s my biggest fear – that someone will give him a hard time and he won’t tell me about it. Only 4 and already trying to protect me. So sad. We’ve been role-playing responses to bullying so I hope that will help him.

    • I looked for multi-colored ones but they were worse than the plain pink and black ones.

  5. It’s hard, because I have not only dealt with this, but big sister dressing up little brother (5.5 years old) in her tutu, dresses, etc. I give him the pink cereal bowl & her the blue, & he chose the pink pencil box & she wanted blue – but these are our “home” ones. Now I have this lovely pink & purple backpack I would love to give you. Zipper is broken, because Aree tried to stuff way too much in it last year. But if you would like a “home” play one that you can guiltlessly make disappear in time, it is yours! Also, interesting to note that men in Thailand often wear medium pink knit shirts – not sure if it is a team color or school color or uniform color, but I’ve seen it lots! Plus pink taxis. So Thais don’t have the same deal with pink, but I understand your concern. I’d probably go for red myself! You can always hang some pink “consolation” tag-thing off of it!

    • I did notice that pink is not a taboo color for men in Thailand. It was really refreshing. (And pink really does look beautiful against dark skin.)

      Thanks so much for the offer of the backpack but it appears he’s now thrilled with his red one. Of course. Blog post to follow. =)

  6. The smaller the kid, the less they care about gender roles. Now if we were in Madison, this wouldn’t be an issue, right? 🙂 When Sid tells me he wants to wear makeup like Mami, I tell him only grownups can wear makeup. So he said: “When I am a Mami, I wear makeup”. I said: “If you want to you may. Until then, only if you are in a musical.” Of course, he told Daddy today that when he is a daddy someday he will drink coffee. I have a kid in my practice whose favorite color is pink, and he’s 9. He also has Barbies, and NO sisters. It is what it is, and I’d rather he believe in who he is and his choices rather than wonder why they are “bad”.Though I am waiting for the day when I have to beat up a kid for making fun of my kid. I’ll be leaning on you for support then, for sure.

    • Yep, Jenn, I will admit that, unfairly perhaps, I considered he might be more likely to get grief in our small town than in Madison.

      Whenever you need to defend your kid, I’ll hold your purse and cheer you on. 😉


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