Thursday, February 27, 2014

Color

 George and I have been having an ongoing discussion about color.
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.

17 comments:

  1. Interesting post - and a situation not every parent would have handled as well. How often have I read bloggers labelling colours and fabrics as "boy" or "girl" - I find that a but depressing. We should all feel free to use and enjoy whatever colours we (or the recipient or the recipient's parent) find pleasing.

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  2. My BF has a 17 year old son and his favorite colour is pink! He has several of the 'Real men wear pink' breast cancer shirts! He's a sweet kid and doesn't care who knows or what they think! I think educating our children this way shows amazing parenting! Kudos to Mom for having the conversation!

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  3. My favorite color is green and my brother's favorite color is purple, has been since we were little kids. I don't have kids yet, but I think you handled this just right. My brother has this problem with his daughter declaring colors girl or boy colors, but they always correct her, so maybe it's a phase in young school-aged kids? (perhaps like cooties?) There are lots of men's ties and polo shirts and shorts that are sold in pink, and quite popular (Lands End for example sells men's polo shirts in every color including pink!).

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  4. Wonderful post, and great conversation to have with George. Your rock momma!

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  5. I think pink has become more of a male colour over the past few years. Loved your points you put forward and left him free to choose his own way.

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  6. Jessica, it's the age when little children George's age are trying to figure out life. They love to categorize things in order to make sense of their world. You handled the discussion well! Good job momma.
    When my own, now grown children were young, I had a girl, then boy 18 months apart. They wore mostly primary colors so I could hand them down. My son played with his sisters toys and she played with his , so there was never an issue about boy vs girl stuff. And yes, I do recall painting my son's nails when he was 3 because he didn't want to be left out of this mom- daughter activity! And , yes, my husband was not thrilled about that at all!!! Things haven't changed much in 30! Years!

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  7. My eldest daughter's favorite color, when she was in Kindergarten, was orange. ORANGE. It was a little weird to me at first, because I grew up hearing my mother saying that no one looked good in orange. After a while, I grew to love that my daughter loved the color orange. (It's a great color!) We painted her room Cantaloupe Orange, she wore adorable orange plaids and citrus prints, and cherished her little Home Depot workshop apron. Loved orange.

    Until the boy who sat next to her in Kindergarten told her that orange was a boy color and that she was only allowed to like pink. My heart ached for her. I tried telling her that it wasn't true, that the colors were for everyone...but she internalized it and dutifully adopted pink as her favorite color for *years* afterwards. She's in the 4th grade now, and decided a few months ago that she likes turquoise best. I wanted to cheer!

    I adore pink, but only because I actually like it, not because of some sort of forced "femininity." I felt like a traitor to my gender for liking pink growing up--us modern girls need to throw off the shackles of femininity and eschew the color if we're ever going to achieve true equality, right? Ugh. True equality means there's no bias to any of the colors, not just the stereotypical girly colors.

    I want to laugh every time a friend crinkles their nose over pink baby clothes for a girl or blue baby clothes for a boy, saying that they're not gender neutral. The whole point of neutrality means that they're still perfectly acceptable for the genders they were stereotypically reserved for.

    My 3yo son's favorite color is pink. One of my daughters tried to tell him it was a girl color (seems to be an issue for the 4-7 year old crowd) and I stopped her in her tracks. They're just colors. Beautiful, beautiful colors, and they really are for everyone. My son wanted a neon pink hat this year. I bought the yarn, but then went with a charcoal grey hat with pink stripes throughout--I'm shielding him from the comments he would receive from strangers. Pink stripes get a raised eyebrow, but no remarks. Full-blown bright pink hat on a boy wouldn't be left alone, which is sad, but the reality of my community. And he doesn't need that confrontation at his age. So I messed with the design a bit in order to let him allow his love of the color, without inviting contention into our lives. *I* can deal with someone's negative comments about my choice of apparel, but a 3yo? That's just mean to set a young child up for that. So pink stripes it was.

    A few weeks ago, my son was wearing his favorite pink tie to church. One of the adult men saw him and said, jokingly, "Whatcha wearing a pink tie for?" My outspoken 5yo daughter came up behind my son, placed her hands on his shoulders, and then looked up at that adult man with narrowed eyes and said, "The colors are for everyone. His favorite color is pink and it makes him happy, so he wears it."

    The man was speechless, and so was I. We just watched her as she took Little Brother's hand and led him to his class. The man looked over at me and I shrugged my shoulders before walking away. I laughed so hard once I was hidden in the bathroom. Totally told off by a 5yo. Go, girl.

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  8. Lovely post! I had very similar conversations with my little ones. My little 4-year-old boy's favourite colour (at the moment) is pink too. His big sister (7) stands up for him, much as Cara puts it beautifully above. I'm happy about this as it makes hand-me-downs easier (for all those pink clothes we were endlessly given but rarely bought...). I also tell them that these things change, and that pink used to be a colour 'for boys' (the 'child' version of masculine red, apparently), and blue for girls (hence all the old Virgin Mary painting of her wearing blue...). That amused them no end! (see for example: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/?no-ist). Actually, our main problem now isn't colours, but silly little classmates declaring clothes "babyish". So now my poor little boy daren't wear his favourite train T-shirt, and only wears it under his clothes, and my little girl is teased for looking "like a baby" by 7-year-old girls with older sisters. Grrrr! Oh dear, how hard it is growing up in a consumer society. JJ

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  9. When my girls were growing up all colours were for all people. The oldest daughter dresses her daughter in all colours but the other one dresses her son in 'boy' colours & her daughter in 'girl' colours! Haven't worked that one out yet!! You can raise them with standards of equality but somewhere it can go pear-shaped. We can only do our best! When I make quilts for my grandchildren I make them in lots of colours & they love them.

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  10. Such stereotyping is annoying your right. My grandson at 3-5 told us pink was his favourite colour but since starting school its now altered under peer pressure.
    I picked up a dolls house facade with about 6" of room space behind the frontage from a pal closing her furnishings shop. Shed had it in her store window and I thought it would add to Jacks play box.
    He said dolls houses were for girls, predictably.
    So I told him his dad at 10 had a miniature bike shop that he made things for and this changed his mind a bit lol His dad is 6' 2" and a hunk lol
    My son had wanted a shop since my daughter had a dolls house Id made for her, so we made him one.
    Jack now uses the house facade in a whole scenario of play from the book We're going on a bear hunt.
    Ive had to fit stairs, weve made cardbpoard beds and he wanted bedding too, then the family in the story and his only complaint is that the front door is stuck shut.
    In fact I posted great pics on my blog of the birds he wanted on the roof and his idea was amazing!
    Not just flat birds on the roof but in flight, and hanging from the roof edges............complete with splodge of bird poo on the floor beneath!
    A wonderful imagination without any help from me and ........... some pink bedding to boot lol
    Thought you handled the talk brilliantly!

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  11. We've always said 'rainbows have every colour and God made rainbows for everyone to enjoy'. Same for every colour in nature. The thought that a colour has a gender association would mean the sky is only for boys and sunsets are only for girls. Ridiculous! Colour is beautiful and for all to enjoy!

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  12. It is amazing how stereotyping can impact young children's likes, dislikes, and decisions. I love the way you handled the conversation! My grandson loves all colors too and last Christmas at the top of his list he had a broom, vacuum, and dust pan ;) I guess my daughter has taught him that household chores and roles are for everyone too! :)

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  13. Oh I love this post of yours! You are an amazing mother!

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  14. I wish all parents were as thoughtful and open-minded as you. The world would have lots less strife.

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  15. There must be something attracting on pink as I know some boys who find the color great. I always have to think about a story I heard some time ago that red was the color of the kings. So a long time ago red was not a girl color at all.

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  16. I love this post Jess. I love how my nephew thinks and expresses his views. I wish I could have been at the table with you both for this conversation but just reading about it warmed my heart.

    I don't have a favorite color and haven't in YEARS. It is all situational to me and depending on my mood. I used to HATE purples but now have come to appreciate their different shades. Yellow is much the same way, yea there are some that just don't move me much at all but others really just sing. Orange is one color I probably struggle most to enjoy. I have my moments where a shade will grab by attention but overall I just can't get aboard the orange train.

    Lots of love to you and my boys!!

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  17. Jess you are so awesome!! What a brilliant discussion and I really love how you explained everything to him but got him thinking about it too. I will keep this in mind when I'm talking to my kids (whose favourite colours change daily btw!). Thanks for sharing :)

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