I don’t enjoy painting my own nails. So I don’t. I typically go to a nail salon for pedicures and I don’t paint my fingernails because I don’t have any. Lately though, in an effort to save money and because I don’t have enough time to go out, I’ve been doing my nail painting at home. One day my 4 year old saw me doing this and innocently asked me to “put colors on his toes.” My initial, knee jerk reaction was a “no.” I mean… he is a HE and nail polish is for girls. He asked me again, so sweetly, and all he cared about was that he would have colorful nails just like mom. My 4 year old didn’t connect nail polish to women, or gender roles, or anything else beyond just “pretty.”   To him it looked fun!  He likes drawing, coloring, painting, why wouldn’t he think painting toe nails is an activity all people could do?
So… I informed him of the side effects (having to sit still and not touch his nails for a while) and he was more than happy to sit while I made his toenails “beautiful like mommy’s.” If you had been there to see his face and hear his genuine excitement, even the pride he displayed showing his father, you would have done it too.


Next thing you know my 2 year old sees the fun, and in his wordless way, asks for the same. He was just as thrilled with his new colorful toes and squealed with delight.

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My intentions weren’t political or meant to prove that boys can do anything girls can do (which they can) or vice versa. I did it because it made my boys happy!!! It does fit in with how I want to raise my kids but that was just a bonus.  Do I worry about what others think?  Nope.  I’ve already been asked by about 1.5 million people, family included, about why I would paint their nails.  My answer?  “Because they asked and because they like it.”  For those who pry deeper with questions about “making them gay” my answer isn’t as short and isn’t as nice.  Nail polish doesn’t make anyone gay… sooooo….


All I can say is that the 5 minutes it takes to paint my boys’ nails are some of my favorite minutes we’ve had. The polish wears off quickly (especially considering the playing my boys do in dirt, sand, and water) but I’m hoping they might remember our nail painting sessions fondly.  I hope that because I’m raising them to be open minded little boys that, with a little luck, will turn into open minded men and fathers someday.  

To the curious- I purchased Piggy Paint* to use because it is non-toxic. It wears off pretty darn quickly on hands, less so on toes, but I like it because I know the kids have their hands in their mouths often.  *affiliate link

14 Responses

  1. I love this. I saw posts on social media asking “Would you ever paint your son’s nails?” and didn’t feel like getting envolved in the mess of comments. I think you made the right decision. It made your kids happy and it did them no harm. I’m not sure how you held back on the “making them gay” concerns. I wouldn’t be nice either. I will absolutely paint my son’s nails if he ever wants me to.

  2. I love this! I’ve been using clear on my son’s nails to help cure him of his nail biting, but had originally started with his toe nails when he was potty training and we’d be stuck in the bathroom with him sitting on the potty. He’s only recently started asking for colors and designs (mainly cause I change my nails many times a week doing a blogger challenge), but I told him he couldn’t till he wouldn’t bite his fingers anymore.

  3. I’ve always painted my boys’ nails when they asked me to. My oldest (9) no longer wants his painted, but mostly because it means sitting still while they dry. I’ve even painted my husband’s fingernails before. My daughter (6) and youngest son (4) both have their own bottles of nail polish in their favorite colors.

  4. My boy has long hair, I mean really long. Not only it is long, it is gorgeous. He loves shaking it, he does not like us cutting it, goes and hides when he sees a pair of hair scissors. Even the pediatrician has asked me to cut it “just because people think he’s a girl”. I won’t, I respect his opinion. He wants it long like daddy’s

  5. If my son wanted me to paint his nails, I would. I had bought him pink and purple pacifers (because that was all I could find) and some said that would make him gay. I’m glad you did the right thing for your little boys! They’re only little once.

  6. I have a son almost the exact age as Fletcher. A few days ago was the very first time I told him (that I recall) that he couldn’t have something because it was “for girls”. My son loves the cartoon “My Little Pony” and I don’t mind one bit, neither does my husband. He sent out “My Little Pony Valentine’s cards to all his family and I happily helped him fill out the names. He got a My Little Pony toy in his Easter basket from me. But, Monday night we went to Walmart and he saw My Little Pony panties (clearly panties made for girls) and asked if he could have them. I said, No, they were for girls. He loves pink, and purple and I’ve never told him those colors are for girls. I don’t care, he can like whatever he wants, but I did draw the line at girls underwear. So, there you have it. Take it for what you will, I guess?

    Also, once at a craft store an employee was handing out balloons. My son was only 2 or 3 at the time. The employee asked my son which color balloon he wanted and my son chose pink. The employee looked at me (a male, I believe) and asked me if that was ok with me (not if it was ok that he have a balloon, but he was clearly asking me if it was ok that he have a PINK balloon). I couldn’t believe he thought I would actually care that my toddler chose the pink balloon! Like I would say, No?!

  7. My son who’s 6 has always loved having his nails painted – particularly toe nails. Hubby was worried that he might get teased when they did swimming at school so I mentioned to Jacob that some kids might feel that boys shouldn’t have their nails painted (triggering a conversation about gender and normative behaviours). I explained that we could take it off if he was concerned about being teased but he said he’d just tell them that he’s an individual and doesn’t do things or not do them just to fit in so wanted to keep the polish. I was cool with that and though a few kids made comments a few boys got braver and were sporting polish too in the weeks after 🙂

  8. I can relate… My 4yo son likes me to paint his toenails whenever he sees me doing my nails. He thinks it’s fun to look like mommy and daddy.
    Yes, I said ‘daddy’; I managed to turn my husband on to nail polish a number of years ago. He generously complimented me when I was painting my toenails one evening, and since he seemed to like the color so much I offered to paint his. He actually liked it and I had to admit that his toes did look rather good with color. So, he continued to wear them painted, and of course, little guy has to be like his daddy!
    I know there are some mothers (probably more fathers) who have issues with this because it seems to challenge the gender norms, but I see it only as paint on one’s nails, nothing more. We cannot nor should we live our lives to conform to someone else’s opinions of what is ‘normal’ and what is not. Life’s too short for that kind of BS.

  9. I’ve painted both of my son’s nails. My oldest son saw me painting his twin sisters’ nails, so of course he wanted his painted too. About a week later we had a doctor appointment to go to for my daughter. When their pediatrician saw my sons’ nails he asked, “Who did this? Did you paint his nails?” When I told him I painted them after painting his sister’s nails, he said, ” you need to be careful. You don’t want to be a sissy.” I couldn’t believe that he would say something like that. He’s always been very vocal about his views in the past( political mostly, especially bashing Obama) and I always thought that was annoying, but I didn’t think he would go this far. Needless to say, I’m thinking about looking for another pediatrician. I’ve gone this far seeing his nurse practitioner instead.

  10. I think its adorable that your little guy wants to get his nails done! To hell with what other people think as long as he is happy 🙂

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