For years while my son took a bath, I painted my toenails.
I would soak my feet while he splashed in the tub. We shared bath time together. A mom’s pedicure, as I started to call them.
Sometimes I would paint his big toe when he would ask in the shade of blue or green that was in my color supply.
It was a year ago when he was 8 years old that he said to me, “Can you paint my toes too?”
In a matter of seconds a thousand thoughts went through my head around the whys or why nots.
“Sure.”, I said. “Pick out your color.”
As we sat on the bathroom floor I was nervous for him. We live in Florida, in the land of flip flops and bare feet.
Would the other boys make fun of him?
How would adults react to him?
What would people think of us as parents?
And then I stopped and realized something- we had been teaching him all along to embrace who he was regardless of what people think of him and he was doing just that- embracing who he was and what interested him.
We work hard to own names before they’re projected on us.
“Different is good” we say in this home.
Hell, his Mom rocks pink hair and yet here I was hesitating at painted toenails based on my fears, not his.
So we started to prepare him and arm him with responses that he could use should anyone make fun of his toes or ask him why.
I stressed to him that as long as he wasn’t causing harm to anyone he was free to do whatever he would like.
“If someone says to you, ‘Only girls paint their toes.’ what will you respond with?” his Dad and I asked.
“It’s not a girl or a boy thing. I do it because I want to,” he replied.
“If someone says that you’re weird or different because you paint your toes, what will you respond with?” we asked.
“That’s your opinion, not mine.” he replied. “And anyways, we’re all different. No one is alike”, he went on to add.
As our adventure began last summer, the questions did come.
Adults looked, tried to act as though they weren’t staring but I could see the look on their faces.
And the kids, well, just as kids do, they came right out and bluntly questioned it.
I would listen when I was nearby and with each response the confidence in his voice rose.
He was assured.
He was confident.
He was respectful yet firm.
He was everything that I wasn’t at times.
Fast forward to a year later and he’s now painting them himself, alternating colors on each toe and has partaken in his first spa pedicure with me before a vacation. They had him at ‘massage chair’.
Where last summer the questions came fast and furious, I was now observing a shift. His friends and cousins were no longer thinking twice about them and when people asked them the question, their responses now mirrored that of Logan’s.
The confidence was becoming contagious.
And then the day came for meet the teacher at his new school. The entire change had us all a little nervous.
“I’m going to wear my flip flops to meet my teacher,” he said.
There it was, the nervousness in my heart and head within moments of his shoe selection.
Off we went with his button down collared ‘fancy’ shirt, athletic shorts and his trusty flip flops showing off his green and orange toes with pride.
As she walked towards us, smiling, she shook my hand then Logan’s and promptly said, “I LOVE your toes, Logan!”
Tears springing to my eyes.
Logan has taught me many things in his 9 years of life, yet it has been in the midst of this painted toes adventure that I have borne witness to my own worries about what others think bubbling up more often than I realized.
Recently I saw a quote that said:
In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.
That is what I wish for all of us, but especially for my son.
If a young boy painting his toes is one of his first rebellious acts, may the rest of his life be paved with more of that in order for him to love who he is to his core.
May we all be able to figure out what our ‘painted toes’ moment in so that we can bask in the rebellious act of truly loving ourselves each and every day of our lives.
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