Spending time with my son painting nails is certainly not conventional, but in my house, we focus on what is developmentally appropriate and fun rather than old-fashioned gender roles.

By Brittany McCabe
August 15, 2019
mom holding boy's hands with manicure
Andrea Obzerova—iStock/Getty Images

It's a fairly quiet morning as I sit with my son at home in Los Angeles while his older sister is at summer camp. Mornings like these with my 2-year-old boy are wonderful and carefree. We’ve spent most days like this one reading books, snuggling, tickling each other, and playing at the park. But as of recently, manicures and pedicures have been added to our list of things to do.

You may be wondering how this all started? My son has always been drawn to color and, in his spare time, he colors every limb on his body with whatever he can find lying around. My daughter, who is 4, is also big on art. She loves painting, coloring, gluing, cutting, and anything else that makes a mess. One day she and I were painting our nails and my son walked up and said, "Mommy! Jackie's nails!" I asked him, "Do you want color on your nails, too?" He responded with an excited, "Yes! Purple!" Without batting an eye, I happily complied and painted his nails.

He patiently and excitedly watched as each nail tuned a bright hue. His mind was officially opened, and his sense of wonder expanded. When my husband came home, and he was met with the excitement on his son's face and paint on his nails, I was pleased that he also responded with love and acceptance.

Because of my son's positive experience with getting his nails colored, it has become one of his most beloved activities. I even launched my own line of non-toxic nail polish for kids because my son loves it so much. He now attempts to paint his nails on his own, with a little help and supervision on my end.

Photo of Brittany McCabe's son
Photo of Brittany McCabe's son. Image: Jamie Rector

As a mom, there is nothing better than watching your child experience those moments where they try new things and see cause and effect in a whole new light. As a child development specialist for the last 15 years, working one-on-one with children from birth to 8 years old, I know just how important it is to give kids a creative outlet and allow them the freedom to express themselves. Children learn through play and it’s critical to provide a wide variety of ways for them to explore, test, and create. Art, in particular, is a great way to help a child make sense of their feelings and the world around them. And supporting the way kids have chosen to express themselves helps boost their self-esteem, too.

But aside from that, my manicure and pedicure sessions with my son is also our time for parent-child bonding, which is important for emotional stability, growth, and development. Spending time with my son painting nails is certainly not conventional, but in my house, we focus on what is developmentally appropriate and fun rather than old-fashioned gender roles.

I began to wonder if there were other parent and son bonds being made over manicures and pedicures. It wasn't long before I noticed some other young boys with brightly colored nails at the park, at the supermarket, and at my daughter's school. It warmed my heart to know other parents were encouraging their children to also have fun in this way, regardless of their gender. Whether they know it or not, they are raising boys who are not only defying social norms, but also ones who will live life with a creative, open, and accepting mind.

Brittany McCabe is a child development specialist, author, and founder of The Alpha Kids, a non-toxic nail polish line encouraging all kids to express their individuality in an artistic, creative, and colorful ways.  


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