E's feet have always been my favorite part of his body. They're huge - long, wide, and fleshy, with big stubby toes topped off by toenails that tend to curl up at the ends when I'm less than vigilant about clipping them. His are feet that only a mother could love.
Lately, those curly toenails have been green, or blue, or orange. Whatever color strikes his fancy. It all began when he noticed that I painted my toenails and decided that he wanted "painted toes" too. So I let him choose a color from my (very small) collection of nail polishes. He chose hot pink, and when his friend came over later that day, E proudly stuck out his bare feet to show off his painted toes. His friend promptly stuck out his hand, the better to show off his painted fingernails.
A few weeks later, E started requesting colors that weren't in my nail polish collection, and so we made a trip to CVS to pick out a color. A few trips later, and we now have an enviable collection of quick dry nail polishes in all the colors that appeal to little boys. I came home from getting a pedicure yesterday and upon seeing my freshly painted toes, E excitedly ran for the drawer in my bathroom where the nail polishes live.
My mother is generally horrified that I paint my son's toenails, but I see things differently. Right now, painted toes have no gender association; they are just fun. He is so innocent and untouched by the expectations and prejudices about what it means to be a boy, about what makes a man. Soon, that innocence will fade, and he will no longer ask for painted toes. Every time he asks it's a reminder that he is still, still, my little boy. One day, he will stop asking, and those bottles of blue, green, and orange nail polish will sit in the drawer, untouched, and I will know: he is growing up.
I'm interested in how other families handle these issues. Do you encourage interest in things not traditionally associated with your child's gender? If your child displays a non-traditional interest, what is your response?