Nail Polish, the Root of all Evil?

08 December 2010 15:05 by SarainAkko
I am an unfancy mother, I mean that as plainly as you can take it. But, I am the mother of a fancy child.

My daughter seems to have inherited the same phantom fancy genes that my sister has. Part of this rare genetic condition must be in it's random selection of sufferers. Despite the fact that they see one another rarely, my four year old has found that her kindred aunt spirit is the one to go to for the glitz and glam her mother so obviously lacks. She is drawn to the glamor of an aunt who travels with a make-up bag and full wardrobe, an aunt who knows about the importance of being fancy.

When preparing for a wedding some months back, my daughter was a ball of giddy excitement. Auntie Leah was coming to paint her nails. I spent days listening to how she would hold her hands very still to allow the polish to dry, how she would hold her fingers to show everyone her nails, and hours upon hours deciding what color each tiny nail would be.

One wedding? Sure, I could handle ten little non-toxic painted nails for a few days while outside of our normal daily routine.

But somehow while on this particular vacation, there where so many reason to need nail polish. At least by my four year old's reasoning:

-Dinner out was pretty special, we don't do that at home.
-Off to visit a new friend, super special.
-On our way to bug-camp, a camp entirely about bugs, crazy special
-"Look mommy, I ate all my dinner!" Will the special-ness never cease?

I put my foot down swiftly, I wouldn't be humoring this particular flight of fancy the entire vacation.

"Painted nails are for very special occasions only like weddings. When you are much bigger you can paint them as often as you'd like. For now, no!"

My four year old is the rational sort, she knew the rules and I really didn't hear another word about it for the rest of the summer.

But just half a year later, our family was preparing for another wedding... the kid knew her rights. Weddings mean fancy, fancy means nail polish and she wanted what was coming to her.

I bit my tongue knowing that I myself had come up with this rule.

We painted nails with her special polish (oh why did it have to be neon pink?) and had fun showing everyone her very lovely manicure. She was happy, I was happy she was happy and the whole event was probably more pleasant because of this compromise.

So why am I still raking this over in my mind?

It seems to me that mothers once said "Nail polish on children? That looks cheap." But somewhere along the road to a nail boutiques in every city and hamlet it became acceptable and even popular to let girls have their nails done right along with mom and friends. And why not, if there is a safe way for kids to have fun and play grown up, what's the harm?

Personally, my soul gnaws at me over this one. Playing grown-up is the harm. Little girls who are tiny grown ups with a tiny person's adult sized demands are a problem. Vanity and fickleness, these are concerns I have about raising a fancy daughter.

We don't have a television at home, we don't have licensed character apparel, toys are homemade and books take up more space than any other single item in our household.

Does one tiny pink bottle undermine all of these well-honed values?

Searching the web I really thought I'd find some people who found it distasteful to let little girls wear nail polish but instead I found this blogger who asks at what age is nail polish appropriate but seems to come up with only supportive answers, little kids love nail polish let them paint away.

I've also turned up a posting board for step parents deals with this from the opposite direction, why does this make our children slutty? The consensus is that it doesn't. Even trend spotters have taken note of little Suri Cruise's painted piggies and her favorite brand of nail polish.

To be honest, the tiny painted nails didn't bother me as much as my gut told me they should but I feel like I'm failing a mom test if I don't say that this is inappropriate.

Maybe I can bare polish for those once in a while occasions, but I'm not ready for 4 to look and act like 12. I'm even not ready for 4 to think it should look and act like 12.

What do you think, is nail polish OK on little kids or does it make you uneasy?

8 Response to "Nail Polish, the Root of all Evil?"

  1. Amanda Pedro Says:

    I hear you. As a compromise (really, how often can you put up with saying no?) I bought a very light pink. She can have her toes painted when it is not so special. Then if just fell out of favour.
    good luck there.

  2. SarainAkko Says:

    Iplay bad cop like it's my job so anytime I stop saying no I get bonus points for quite some time. One tiny nail painting session is like 3 weeks of toddler tranquility.

  3. Leigh Says:

    We compromise by allowing toes to be painted and almost never hands. No one really sees her toes outside of the house, it makes her happy. With my kids, I've learned that if I make a big deal out of something it becomes a big deal. I didn't say much about the nail polish other than stating the toes-only rule and it pretty quickly became uninteresting.

  4. SarainAkko Says:

    Leigh- Thanks for your suggestion. I see a lot of support for toes vs hands but I still wonder if we paint toes is it because I'm be trying to hide that I let my daughter paint her nails at all? To be honest, I'm not sure I really feel it is a big deal but something in my mom subconscious tells me maybe it should be. I guess my real concern is interest in makeup, it's like skipping adorable childhood and getting a tween instead.

  5. Shannon Says:

    I hear you - my daughter does love the idea of having her nails painted - and I have acquiesced a few times. But it has been light pink (i.e. you can't even tell it's on!) polish, and twice it was on her toes, once on her fingernails (actually, that time, it was just clear nail polish!) But I REALLY get what you're saying - does it really matter that you can't tell there's nail polish? Because what I've done is let my little girl wear nail polish... and as a (mostly) un-fancy mom (don't get me started on what I think of the Fancy Nancy book and stickers my very well-meaning Mother-in-Law got her), I try to ALWAYS remind my daughter that being nice is VERY MUCH more important than being pretty. But then I can see where taking care of oneself has value and presenting yourself to the outside world DOES matter. Since I'm often not great with that. And herein lies my problem with all things princess, fairy and pink, really. (Don't get me started on Barbie... let alone Bratz.) So I guess I need to find a happy medium where she and I can recognize it's fun but not anywhere near essential to look nice. But always necessary to be nice (although not a doormat... that's another rant). So there's my nonsensical ramble. Much like it runs in my head...

  6. SarainAkko Says:

    Ah Shannon, the pains of raising a young princess. I can see the problems with Fancy Nancy arising pretty quickly, but of all things frilly and fluffy I have to say I find her the least offensive because she always has those humbling moments in the story that remind her (and the adoring fan) that she is in fact a pretty normal little girl who sometimes barfs, doesn't get what she wants, can be un-fancy and so on. Luckily, for me I suppose, we're pretty far off the radar of TV's and shopping malls so my child doesn't see things like the little girl spa birthday thing, or over the top toys marketed to her. A tutu here or there doesn't bother me because it's what's under the tutu that counts. But here's a short description of my barbie dilemma

  7. Hannah @A Mother in Israel Says:

    I think you found a good compromise. Nowadays polishing nails isn't slutty at all. I'm amazed at how many people I know go to nail salons, and even decorate their nails with various patterns. My older daughter would never be interested, my younger one would be but has rarely brought it up. I think she's had them painted once or twice.

  8. SarainAkko Says:

    Thanks Hannah. I guess I just keep hearing "Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank!" in the back of my head. I never read it but remember it making the rounds of talk shows. I suppose she's safe from most of these slutty elements, unless she ever happens to see TV. Then I'll be in real trouble.

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