I have a specific picture of Gwen Stefani and her oldest son in my mind. The only reason I have the image stuck in there is because at the moment the picture was taken she was exiting a nail salon with Kingston. Her nails were painted red. His were painted black. Gasp! Shock! Horror! For a few seconds, I was confused. Was this OK?
Then it hit me. What exactly was the problem? No offense, no harm, no disrespect.
One day I was painting my toenails red when Georgie appeared and said: I want that too! This time it took me a bit longer to make up my mind. Really? Red toenails? No harm I thought to myself, as I did after I saw Gwen and her boy. It is only painting. And he’s three! But something held me back from telling him to sit down. I mean, especially when it comes to the colour red. On toenails. Should there be a limit, I should point out to him? Would he even understand? I did not want to say only girls paint their nails because it would be a lie.
So I said: Well, you know, only girls paint their toenails red.
I want blue!
I don’t have blue! (long pause) But I have black!
So Georgie got one black toenail. He was happy and hasn’t queried about it since. Actually since I began writing this post, deleting and then coming back, Georgie has asked to have his toenails painted a grey colour, just like mine. This time I shifted his attention to something else, merely because I was curious to see if he would insist. He did. So he got one grey toenail.
My point is there are certain decisive moments in parenthood, as far as I have experienced, that can be scary and impossible. Most times, they needn’t be. Each day and experience must be seen as a single grain of sand on a golden beach. As one it is nothing. But when all the moments, memories, senses and feelings are gathered, this is the point where everything we do as parents will matter. Georgie will not remember the days I painted his toenail black just like he will not remember me singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow to him almost every night or scolding him for not listening. But he will recall safety and love. And that’s the stuff that will shape character in our kids. Not painted toenails. There are certain taboos that must be left behind as we evolve, if for any reason but to allow our children to grow as individuals with a free and open mind.