Pride or Principle

Monday, August 6, 2012

In which I shamelessly crowd source parenting advice...

Took Bear school shopping because he insists on growing out of his pants.  While we were at Target I remembered he'd also outgrown his bike helmet and has been talking about taking the training wheels off, so we popped back to the sports section. 

The helmets are next to the seasonal stuff, which means school backpacks.  I was on the fence about getting a new one, so I figured we could take a peek.

The Bear friendly options were impressive and he was predictably changing his mind every 4.2 seconds, each time pronouncing the next choice his "very favorite."

There was a brief discussion in which I cited Dora's annoyance factor as criteria for excluding her as a backpack, but he mostly focused on what you'd expect.

He'd almost settled on the Avengers backpack when he spotted this:

And that was it. End of discussion.  He wants the Hello Kitty backpack.

For the record:
- I do not care if he wants a pink Hello Kitty backpack. I will happily get it for him.
- It is the same price as the Avengers backpack, so there is no good reason not to get it.

It's important to note that in addition to the Avengers (his current passion), he passed up Lightning McQueen, Mater, Hot Wheels, Spider-man and (OMG!!) Mario.

Mar. I. O.  A subject about which he is so passionate he has stopped people on the street to soliloquize.

Bottom line: I stalled and told him we could come back another day to get it.

The old, naive me would have simply purchased the backpack, believing kids this young won't care about brands or colors or who has what character on their stuff.

That was before I witnessed his first day of Pre-K last fall, when the boys in his class greeted him for the first time by grabbing his shoulders, spinning him around and inspecting his backpack.

It's a Buzz Lightyear backpack. Which was, apparently, cool enough for them. The grabber made the announcement, the other boys indicated their approval and Bear was integrated into the line for the walk into school.

After picking my jaw up off the sidewalk, I went home a thoroughly disillusioned mommy.

Which brings me back to this dilemma.

I love that my Bear asked for a sparkly purple superhero cape with a rainbow on it - we talked to his insanely talented godmother and she made one to his exact specifications.  He wears it daily. 

I love that when we were clothes shopping he asked for a ruffled shirt featuring a skull wearing a pink bow.  And I find it absolutely adorable he selected a Lightning McQueen bike helmet, then proceeded to beg for the pink and purple Disney Princess bike horn.

But I do not love that kids are cruel. And now I know that - in a classroom where they're encouraged to wear sweatpants (because not all have motor skills for pants/are potty trained) and old shirts (for messy sensory activities) - the kids have apparently settled on backpacks as status symbol. 

Plus... I am frugal.  I don't want to be buying another backpack if he changes his mind again in a week after getting his feelings trampled by his peers. 

I'm just so worried about his fragile 4 year old emotions.  Because at the end of the day my big, bold, holy-crap-can-you-please-be-quiet-for-10-seconds kid is incredibly sensitive.  One whom at just 3 years old said to us once after we raised our voices in angry frustration, "you hurt my heart."

So what do I do?  Do I practice what I preach - that all colors are for everybody - and let him have the pink backpack? Do I choose to make him happy now but risk his pride over a utopian principle?


  1. Michelle,

    I think that you are an awesome mom with awesome instincts. Sometimes, as tragic as it is, we as parents must "run a little interference" for our children because we do understand that the rest of the world may not fully appreciate the uniqueness of our children. The bottom line is this: it sounds as if you are afraid that he will face teasing & cruelty for something like a backpack. He is so very young to have to face that right now. Maybe another choice would be to go to different stores and just browse before settling on anything. My guess is that he will find another one that will he will love and will also be "socially accepted" by that rough per-school gang. ;)

  2. The ability of your eldest son to explain why he likes something astounded me when I was down there last. If a kid at school comments on his an pack he will probably lecture them on the awesome that is hello kitty. Teasing may get his feelings hurt sometimes but I have also seen your little man stand up to others for teasing. Bear is an amazing sensitive soul. Go for the pink, I think he will be able to handle it. He has also already established himself at the school which will help.
    the cousin who thinks the world of your open minded renting skills

  3. My first instinct is to say, "Go for it. Get him the pink one." But as a mom of a 13 year old that has been bullied since 2nd grade and still is , I say, "Protect him." It just depends on how deeply this will affect him. If you think he can stand up for himself GO FOR IT. My son told me just this week, "Man, mom I hate that I can't be myself at school and never have been able to." This is a kid that is into theater and singing and that is just not accepted for a boy. He's doing better at sticking up for himself, but it is hard and it's really sad that other kids make it hard on him to be himself. UGH.

    I like the suggestion of going to another store and showing him other options, but ultimately you have to do what is best for Bear and that could be buying him the pink one or not.

  4. Haha, I guess I never answered your question. I basically told you to buy it or not. Haha. Sorry I wasn't much of a help.

  5. Thoughts from a non parent...

    If he likes the pink thing now, chances are he's going to like it later. You have a chance to give him the control and support at home to totally rawk that Hello Kitty backpack, rather than letting his classmates or teacher tell him its "wrong" to use the pink crayons.

    Give him the tools to take on the world, don't limit him by assuming he can't.

    And, if it all goes to hell, he's four - and by next year they won't remember it anyway.

  6. Hi Michelle!
    As a Mom of a 7yo Son on the sprectrum who loves pink, baby dolls, and acts a little feminine at times, I did not let my Son get his first choice, a "girls'" backpack.

    We went to Target a well and his first choice was to go to the girls section and I said, "no, that's for girls" and then he found a Matchbox one. Thank Goodness!

  7. My youngest went through a "pink" phase that lasted from about halfway through Kindergarten to halfway through first grade (he just started second grade). Pink crayons for almost all of his drawings, pink polo shirts, when they were handing out pink and blue "capes" at a church activity he insisted on a pink one, when the boys all wanted pillow pets, his choice was a pink cat... you get the idea. Whenever pink wasn't an option we'd convince him that red was "almost pink" and so that became his second favorite color, and then one day he started reading the "Olivia" books (about Olivia the pig) and overnight he decided his favorite color was RED just like Olivia (she always wears red in the books). It's been red ever since, although he still wears the pink shirts sometimes :).

    For something more long-term like a backpack I'd probably go with the "protect him" advice, especially if the kids have a history of making a big deal about backpacks, so maybe there are other interests (like Thomas for our son) that can make it something he likes that will also be more likely to be "peer-approved" if that makes sense?