George is in Kindergarten and his favorite color is PINK. He loves pink, gets very happy when he sees it somewhere, and I usually try to give him the pink plate from our rainbow set of kid dishes (thanks IKEA). In Pre-K, his favorite color was grey, and before that, green. When he chooses his own clothing or accessories though, he often picks red.
The most recent conversation arose when he was telling me what happened at school. I don't remember the context (or he didn't explain it), but he told the other kids his favorite color was pink and one boy said, "But that's a GIRL color!" and (I get all proud here) George replied, "No, any color can be for anybody. My mom's favorite color is blue." and the kid says, "MY favorite color is blue, that's a BOY color." and then something about how I'm strange for liking an obviously boy color.
So we talked, George and I, at our kitchen table with its blue and white plaid table cloth, green and grey-purple walls, and rainbow colored dishes. We talked about what colors are for boys and what colors are for girls (anything for anybody), and if that even makes sense (no, that's silly), and why the kids in his class might believe things about color differently than what our family believes.
We talked about marketing-- companies want kids to ask their parents to buy things. Companies make pink things for girls and don't make pink things for boys (except for our rainbow dishes, thanks again IKEA).
We also talked about having older sisters and brothers. The opinionated kid at school has an older sister. There's probably a lot of pink things in his house that he's not allowed to touch. They belong to his sister, hence, PINK also belongs to his sister. He probably never even had the option of liking it.
After siblings, we discussed parents, namely the parents' style. This kid's mother is very stylish (and beautiful, btw), sleek black hair, long black coat, black boots. So I asked, "George, what's E's mom's favorite color probably?" "Black" "is black a girl color?" "No." And we brought up examples of the colors we choose to wear. My winter coat is white (poor choice with little kids, I now know), George's is bright blue (guess who chose it?), and Jack's is navy (hand-me-down). Thankfully, he's not too picky about clothes yet, so I can still get him to wear just about anything. I wonder when that will change..
I also brought up the parents' jobs. What colors does dad see and use every day? (White for papers and books, black for his laptop and pens, red for when he corrects homework). What colors does mom see and use every day? (Every color!) This also influences how our family feels about color.
We very very briefly touched on cultural norms and gender issues (I didn't want to make the discussion too complicated and I also didn't want to alert him to societal baggage he hadn't figured out yet). Like that time the girl cousins were painting their nails and I painted his too, and then Dad and his mom freaked out? Yeah. I wanted him to be prepared to receive some shock when expressing his color preferences, but to still be able to stand his ground. I mostly wanted him to know that his opinions and feelings are supported by his family, and that it's ok to change your mind about the things you like, but you don't have to change your mind just because your friends want you to.
I felt the conversation went well, but I still think it's hard to support kids as individuals in this gender-obsessed society. I'd love to hear how you guys have handled similar topics with your kids, thanks.