Feminist Parenting and pedis

Like most children his age, my four-year-old son has a million interests, and moves in 10 million different directions.

He loves baseball, especially the Baltimore Orioles (and any team that isn’t the Yankees).

He loves the demolition derby at our county fair, and he doesn’t understand why we don’t enter our minivan.

He loves smashing hammers and screwdrivers into dirt because “there aren’t enough holes in this ground.”

He also loves dressing up like Elsa. And pretending to be his favorite WNBA player. And choreographing original song and dance numbers.

And now he loves pedicures, too.

Not long ago, my son announced that he needed his nails done for Halloween. So amid awkward comments and suspicious glances, we chose our polish and settled in for a mother/son spa day: yellow nails with pumpkins for me; black nails with ghosts for him.

“Is it supposed to tickle? Stop tickling me!”

“Why is the water moving around? Is it supposed to spray me? Can my pants get wet?”

“Why are you rubbing my foot? Is my foot dirty? I hope my foot is dirty. Can you make my foot dirty again after you make it clean?”

“Can we do this every day?”

I don’t remember the last time my whirlwind of a four-year-old sat in the same chair for more than five minutes. But we spent nearly 30 minutes together that day, a nostalgic trip to the days when my little buddy wanted nothing more than to be with his mama. As his questions and commentary wore on, the comments and glances in the salon also faded away. When a person enjoys life without inhibition to the degree that my son did that day, societal constraints and gender expectations become increasingly less necessary.

When I get pedicures by myself—or even with friends—I’m always self-conscious. But while getting a pedicure with my preschooler, I was more focused on his experience (and potential wet pant cuffs) than on my own physical shortcomings. It’s hard to be embarrassed about excess foot calluses and beat-up toenails when the person in the next chair tells you how pretty your feet are or asks why he can’t stick his face in the foot water.

Regardless of how he and I spend time together, I will always treasure the moments I have with one of my life’s very favorite people. I will cheer obnoxiously for the Orioles (though that one will always be easy), bring earplugs to the demolition derby (less easy), and scout out the dirt piles that are most in need of hammering (much more difficult). I will also twirl with him in his Elsa dress, cheer him on in his Lindsay Whalen jersey, and help him with some of his trickier choreography. And I will sit next to him in a pedicure chair while he debates the merits of black polish with white skulls versus “red that looks like the fire after a big truck exploded and left a huge mess all over the highway.” I will be here for all the adventures as he discovers each piece of his uniquely diverse self, for as long as he’ll let me.

Rachel is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She is a recovering political writer and most recently taught high school English in Baltimore. She is thrilled to now be a full-time mama and writer,...

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