Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pink Slippers and Camouflage

The breakfast dishes are piled in the sink, and a basket full of laundry waits to be folded, but those will wait. We've had such a day...

On the bus home, Kiddo recounted his trip downtown. "We saw pipes in turned-off water fountains!" he extolls. Kiddo talks about fountains the way others marvel Machu Pichu or some other wonder of the world. Today we visited at least 16 fountains by my count--nearly a third were turned off for cleaning or water conservation. The fountains were the top of Kiddo's list, but for me there was another more memorable moment.

After our traditional visit to Nuvrei bakery for treats: pretzel for Kiddo and a chocolate-almond croissant to deliver to Joe, we headed over to Hanna Andersson for some training underpants. Not to sound snobby, but their trainers are very absorbent and I like that they don't have superheroes on them. Instead, we picked out a three-pack with bears, stripes and raccoons. Right next to us were the sweet little moccasin sock-slippers that they sell, and Kiddo noticed them right away. We'd needed slippers for his preschool and the price was right, so I asked him to pick out the color he wanted.

"I want these ones, like Sarah", he said, pointing to a stack of bright, hot pink ones.

Hmmm...

This was a quandry for me. I have the feeling that, before he grows out of these slippers, some little preschool know-it-all is going to inform my sweetheart boy that pink is a Girl Color. And I will probably think unfriendly things about that child for five minutes, knowing that our world nurtures our boys to be so, well... so unPink.

It's everywhere. Even Hanna Andersson, whose kids clothes I have liked for years, has more marked differences between boys and girls clothes than they used to. There were more stripes back in the day, I guess. I love how the clothes fit the children; sensible waistlines and comfortable fabrics. But this season it's come to my attention that they have introduced some camouflage, much to my chagrin. Sure, camo is popular, but as both Joe and I are ex-military, we sort of cringe to see children in camo. It's what saw my growing-up dad wear when he returned from Vietnam with a broken leg and a whole horrible part of his life he won't ever discuss. For us, camo is war apparel; it is what one wears so as not to be shot at. Although it's become trivialized in cute kid colors, seemingly innocuous, Joe and I agree that it is an insidious way of indoctrinating children into war culture--children who don't have enough sense to understand how terrible war is. And I understand that a lot of parents apparently like it; the lovely woman behind the counter made a call for me to ask why they were including this pattern in their products: customer demand.

Let me ask this--are we thinking critically about what it means to dress our children in clothes that are symbolic of violence? I'm sure that if this retailer began selling hoochie-mama dresses for girls, there would be an enormous customer backlash. Why do our daughters deserve more protection from the adult world than boys? And the oft-asked question: why do we work so hard to shield our children from symbols of sex, but violence seems to get a free pass?

Of course, there are likely many parents who want camo because they believe it supports our troops. Perhaps mom or dad is in the service and wears that newer, digitized camo. I understand this. But supporting what our troops do can be done in better ways besides wearing what one wears when they are in a "Kill or be Killed" situation. Many of us are careful about not letting our children wear clothes that feature skulls, or other symbols of violence. We want our kids to wear "kid" clothes; the fact that 'edgy' kid clothes are being marketed to young people under the age of even 3 years old tells me that there's something terribly wrong in how we perceive childhood, and urges me to protect my son all the more from the crass, consumer world aimed at little people.

Well, as you might expect from a hippie peacenik parent like myself, I got the slippers, shocking pink as pink can be. I'm his mama--if he wants to wear all pink and purple, so be it. We had skirted the "what Sarah wears" issue before, when he wanted the same cherry boots his buddy had, all to discover they didn't have them in his size. But I was happy to let him have something that was just like his friend's. I'm going to let someone else rain on his parade, because I have no truly intelligent explanation as to why boys shouldn't have pink slippers. It would be manipulative, wrapped up in my ego and my fears for his hurt feelings. I'm his Mama, and I want to be there for him, pink slippers and all.

He's outside now, picking calendula blossoms, placing the petals in his lips and puff-ing them into the air like an explosion of orange and yellow floral confetti. He does this, and then goes back to scooping wet sand into his dump truck and loader. I love his innocence. Let's hope it lasts a long while.

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