It’s Back-to-School time, and this means shopping.
I’ll be honest…there wasn’t too much to buy this year.
A few things for the girl, a few for the oldest boy, then the younger two have hand-me-downs which have been washed and sewn to look like new.
We have school supplies from sales past, and a few years ago, we invested in LL Bean backpacks that last forever and are replaced for free if they don’t.
However, this year, we have someone starting Kindergarten, and we are well-aware that any backpack preferences today will not be the same in a few years, so we don’t mind hitting Target and picking up a cheap, first backpack to last this year.
So, I packed Tiny in the car and told him what we were doing.
“Isn’t this exciting?” I gushed.
“Yes! I can’t wait to get my new pack-pack!”
B’s. P’s. They’re all the same, right?
“What kind do you think you are going to look for?”
“I want a pink, My Little Pony pack-pack, Mama. I can’t wait. I hope they have one with Rainbow Dash on the front!”
And my heart sunk.
Let me be clear…
I love that he loves the ponies.
They teach lessons about kindness and acceptance and goodness, and when he plays with his pony dolls, it’s a very different game than when he plays with his trucks.
He has pony dvd’s, toys, books, and it’s all good.
And I have no issues about the whole “boy playing with a girl toy” thing, either.
Girl toy, boy toy.
Who the hell cares?
If Monkey Girl and I are painting our nails, he wants to paint his and we happily let him join.
I put on makeup, he wants to try, no problem. Have at it, little man.
In my life, all I want is for my kids to be happy and safe, and that’s where the worry came in.
The backpack would make him happy.
But it might not make him safe from bullies.
As a parent and a teacher, the one thing I know is that kids are not always kind, and that there is nothing to make a child feel insecure and question themselves faster than…
The majority of all issues my kids have had at school have been a result of someone being unkind to them on the bus.
I have my own lingering tics as a result of riding the bus with David Hurta who used to yell, at the top of his lungs, “Amy Lawrence wears gazelles!”
Every. Single. Day.
And, what the heck were “gazelles” anyway?
My concern with the My Little Pony backpack was two-fold.
- That some kid on the bus would tell Tiny that My Little Pony is for girls and that he would never love them the same way, again, because they would now be tainted with someone’s disdain, and
- That someone would tease him and be mean to him and call him names because he happens to be a boy who loves a show about ponies who are sweet and kind and have merchandise that happens to be primarily created in the color pink.
And yet, I’m a believer in always being yourself and being proud of who you are and what you enjoy and making no apologies (unless, of course, what you enjoy is illegal), so I was leaning toward buying that pack-pack with joy.
But, just to be sure, I decided to ask some of my friends.
The responses varied, and what I found most interesting was that they varied based on my groups of friends.
My teacher friends said things like:
“He should rock it! Maybe he can add some key chains with his other interests so he can show them to kids who aren’t into ponies? And maybe a few tips on how to say “we can still be friends even if we don’t like all the same things?”
“MLP is so popular – I say rock it! A lot of kids will love the backpack: guaranteed!”
“My daughter’s best friend (a boy) loved The Little Mermaid, wore nail polish and dresses in class and all his classmates accepted him and his interests.”
“If he can handle two older brothers he should be soooo good to go.”
My non-teacher friends said things like:
“No My Little Pony backpack. Get him one for home and play dates so it’s a special one with his special toys.” (This advice given with the disclaimer that it was coming from someone who still has PTSD from being teased badly on the bus)
“Can you steer him in another direction? Maybe take him to a place without My Little Pony backpacks for sale?”
Good advice, good ideas from everyone, and I appreciated the fact that the responses were different and looked at it from both sides.
But it got me no closer to a decision.
Tiny just kept chatting away in the backseat about his new MLP pack-pack and how it’s what he’s always wanted and then he said “My Little Pony just makes me so happy, Mama,” and that was that.
My Little Pony it would be.
Until we got to Target and he saw a Paw Patrol backpack and couldn’t live without it.
I hate that I even paused.
I hate that it I needed to consider the meanness of others when discussing something that brought my little guy such joy.
I hate that, while it has never crossed my mind once to dissuade Tiny’s love of the ponies, I balked at the thought of his outwardly displaying that love for the world to see, not because of what it said about him, but because what it would reveal about those around him.
I know I can’t protect him from everything, and I don’t actually want to, because how else will he learn to stick up for himself?
But 5 just felt too little, today, to have to learn that skill.