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Purple manicure love

Last fall, shortly after the beginning of the school year, a friend of mine posted on her facebook page about a run-in her young son had at school. The boy had wanted his fingernails painted, a request she had delightfully fulfilled. At school, however, he had been made fun of by another boy in his class, a purported friend even. He was heartbroken, and his mother was torn about how to handle it. Of course reassurance is in order, but then what? She was looking for support and suggestions, and thanks to our era of social media, she found lots of it.

The answer seems simple. The teasing friend was in the wrong, of course. Differences should be embraced and children should be encouraged to explore them. In a perfect world the teasing wouldn't have occurred, or certainly would not be repeated. But the truth is much more complex. Differences, especially those that challenge gender identity, aren't often tolerated. And, whatever the reason, nonconformity meets with its greatest challenge in school groups. So, while the answer should simply be that we should encourage our children to be themselves, it's hard for a mom to do so, knowing the personal hurt it might cause.

I was reminded of this story today when Calvin went to a birthday party that began in a nail salon. Ten pint-sized wonders getting mani/pedis (before traipsing off to Chuck E. Cheese's, of all places). Calvin chose sparkly purple polish and settled in to fully enjoy the process. It's not for everyone, of course, but it's hard not to enjoy a little pampering and massaging that results in pretty nails. Calvin loved it, and was delighted to find out that he got to keep his polish, too.

I loved it, too. I loved that he had so much fun, and got to try something he'd been asking about for quite some time, but mostly I loved that we are part of a community that allows him to have this kind of fun safely and warmly. It's the kind of community that invited him to such a party, and fully expected him to enjoy it, and complimented him on his sparkly nails when all was said and done. I loved that I didn't have to worry, that I wasn't faced with the very difficult decisions about drawing the line between encouraging differences and safeguarding self assurance.

And his purple fingers are awfully fun.

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