1025458_10151668141842302_127516930_oThis month the mixed-up viral photo of my kids has had a resurgence due to Breast Cancer Awareness. The picture is similar to the one here, except this is my own personal photo, not the one from the impossibly talented Humans of New York.  Friends have posted links on my Facebook page with the “catfished” version from BuzzFeed (#14), The Meta Picture, and just yesterday, FCKH8.

All of these posts show the picture of my son in his pink cast with the story of “Tonya K” whose older son elected to get a pink cast in October. They all have some notation of “great parenting” and frankly I’m never sure if it’s because genetically my kids are so cute (ha, ha) or because Tonya’s second grader knows about pink representing Breast Cancer Awareness.

Upon seeing this picture of my kid with a story that doesn’t represent his choice (even though it’s a great reason), I’ve run the gamut from furious to confused (seriously, how could anyone think my preschooler is seven years old?) to indifferent. Now there’s really nothing else to do besides tell the real story.

My four-year-old broke his arm back in May. Before he went into surgery the pediatrician showed him all the color options he could choose from for his cast as a way to ease his anxiety over the whole process. He immediately chose the hot pink color. The doctor acknowledged his choice but kept showing him other colors, thinking he’d change his mind. I knew he wouldn’t. Pink is, very simply, his favorite color.

A few days later, when the post-surgery swelling went down, we went back to the doctor to choose his cast. This time, a different doctor, showed him a few of the “popular boys” swatches and didn’t pull out the entire color ring. My son just looked sad. I piped up.

“I think he wanted the pink.”

The doctor was visibly surprised but my son was undeterred. After he got the cast on, people were less guarded in their criticism.

“You mean he got to choose?  And he picked pink?”

“Did your sister pick that for you?”

And of course, “don’t you know that pink is a girl color?”

In our house, pink is not a girl color. Both of my children wear pink. Both of my children wear blue (which is, in fact, my daughter’s favorite color). And every color of the rainbow.  My girl wears dark blue Pumas and my boy wears hot pink Keens. My daughter wears all of my son’s hand-me-downs, in addition to her own “girl” clothes. Their room (which they share) is green and brown, like the forest. Our toys are all gender neutral, including our red and tan kitchen set — a favorite of both of my kids. They both love racing cars, doing puzzles and playing with Play-Doh.

When my son first declared his favorite color at the age of three, I was very defensive.  Mostly because I couldn’t believe how many people were attacking him for his choice of pink.  My constant response was this:

The color pink is simply a preference — some human beings like it, some don’t.  If my son is gay I will support him 100% but I doubt if he has any clue about sexuality at the age of three.  Even if he did, I can be certain he isn’t ready to decide his life-long mating habits in preschool.  Determining one’s own identity — sexual and otherwise — is a long and often winding road — but I can promise you it doesn’t start with deciding pink is your favorite color.

At the ages of two and four, they don’t know anything of the gender stereotypes that adults have etched in their mind. I refuse to impose that on them. In this house, they will never hear “XYZ is for boys” or “only girls do ABC.” They will be allowed to like the colors, the activities, and the styles that they like. I know first-hand that the greater population is not as accepting of anything that bends traditional preferences, but I can only change that one person at a time. I’m starting with my two children.

(photo: copyright Carinn Jade)