He really wants the purple coat.
I can see it in his eyes, they lit up the second he saw the puffy lavender coat with a teal zipper hit the screen. “Ooh! I want that one. It’s purple. I LOVE purple.”
I ask him if he’s sure. He says that he is. I show him orange, red, yellow, blue, green. He wants the purple.
I say we’ll think about it.
Later that day, I pull out my phone again. The sale ends in a few hours. He really needs a winter coat, and this is a good deal. I show him all of the coats again. The purple one is definitely still his favorite. I ask if he’s sure. He says that he is. I put it in the cart and think about it for a bit longer.
It’s 2016 and boys should be able to wear whatever color coat they want. I know this, and I agree with it. I share articles about it on Facebook. Heck, both of my sons wore a purple snowsuit when they were babies. But that felt different. Maybe it was because that snowsuit was a darker purple, the color of the local college whose football games occasionally attend. A more masculine purple.
Or maybe it was because they were babies. Babies who didn’t talk, and didn’t have friends who would sneer at them on the playground saying, “Eww. That’s a girl’s coat.”
I like to think our kids will grow up knowing they can be who they are in our household without fear of judgment. All children should be able to love what they love. It seems that my sons have always gravitated towards all things sports and trucks, but we have never steered them away from picking out the pink car at the toy store. I fear doing so would give the message that anything associated with girls is inferior, and I want them to be confident in who they are, as well.
They can make music, shoot baskets, bake muffins, paint, collect Hot Wheels, or play with dolls and no one in our home will bat an eye. They will not hear the phrase, “that is just for boys,” or “that is just for girls,” under our roof, unless perchance they go through my bathroom drawer and find a package of supplies that are, in fact, just for girls.
But what they hear outside of our walls, I cannot control.
My son is in preschool this year, and relishing every chance to play with the big kids on the playground during recess. He comes home exhausted from running, swinging, digging in the sandbox with dump trucks and excavators, and jumping off of every surface possible. In a few weeks they will trade sunhats for snow coats and I worry that when he steps onto the playground with his lovely purple coat he might become the target of a rogue five year old bully, repeating the words an unthinking relative told him.
“Purple is for girls.”
I want to protect him, not use him as a pawn in my fight for gender equality. It doesn’t seem fair to ask him to fight battles that we as adults have yet to resolve. Without mentioning any of my fears, I ask him if he is sure, really sure, that he wants the purple coat. Again and again until I can see him start to doubt himself.
I’m becoming the bully. Enough is enough. I buy the coat.
It’s possible that someone will make him feel bad about owning a purple coat.
But like hell is it going to be me.