My 5-year-old son is very interested in nail polish. He loves suggesting colors for me to wear and has frequently asked me if he can wear it. My husband and I have no issue with him wearing it and I finally had a chance to paint his nails a few weekends ago.
Then my son wore his nail polish to school and when he came home he complained, somewhat casually, that his friends laughed about it. One girl even "laughed while covering her mouth with her hand." He didn't cry, hide in his room, or worry that none of his friends would ever play with him again. It just bothered him that his friends laughed about something he finds pretty cool.
My husband and I are now engaged in a big parenting debate. We are both fine with him wearing the nail polish. My husband feels he should stick to wearing it at home where he won't be teased. I believe letting him wear it to school will teach him to stand up for himself and teach the kids to be more open-minded. What do you think?
I'll share my opinion in a later post. What follows below is my husband's argument in favor of his position not to let our son wear it to school:
In Thomas Hobbes' book Leviathan he postulates that humans in their natural state would live a life that is 'nasty, brutish, and short.' I think he was talking about kindergarteners who can be nasty, brutish, and are, literally, very short.
Kindergarteners are too young to subscribe to a mentality that things which are unusual, foreign, or different to them are not evil, wrong, or bad. They are quick to judge and quick to put people on the outside. They find comfort in finding others like themselves and ganging up on others that are different. Thankfully, most kids grow up and change this mentality as they get older. Sadly, many do not and the world is full of them.
Young kids that find themselves in the position of being on the outside don't have the social skills to get themselves of out an outcast situation. For many kids, it is easier to just accept the role of being the outcast.
As kids get older, they get better at handling themselves in these sorts of situations. They understand a little better the impact of their decisions and can better predict the responses of their peers. Many choose to do things that others consider rebellious, but they do it with a better guess of what the fallout might be.
I think one of our jobs as a parent is to protect our kids when we can from their peers. I'm not saying that that means we need to do everything in our power to make sure that they all fit in completely and cover up any peculiarity or trait that might get them in trouble. I'm saying that we are better equipped to guess what the reaction of his peers are than he is. We have the ability to explain to him what those reactions might be.
I think that our son put nail polish on completely on a whim; not because he was the Rosa Parks of Kindergartners looking to making a bold statement about his identity or a declaration of self. He did it because he is a kid and sometimes kids want to eat bags of Doritos in church because they are hungry. Letting him wear it to school doesn't result in other kids suddenly examining their own preconceptions and developing a new awareness of self and others. It just makes them point, call names, and a kid is left in the corner crying.