A Lesson In Parenting Found in a Bottle of Glittery Nail Polish

Sophie wants to wear nail polish. Apparently all her friends do at preschool (including a boy she’s friends with). I painted her nails once, over a weekend. She loved it. My thought process isn’t completely clear when it comes to this matter. I will try to use bullet points to organize it a bit more:

Reasons Why We Haven’t Let Her Wear It:
• too young
• all my women’s studies courses
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life
• premature sexualization of children
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old
• fear of her caring too much how she looks


I’m sure many of you are thinking “but, but, but.” Just like Sophie. Last Friday she had some friends over. A couple hours into the play date they all came down and Sophie asked if I could paint everyone’s nails. I told her no. I told her I didn’t know how the other parents felt about it.

She threw a fit.

A fit!

I pulled her away from her friends, and took her upstairs. The following came out of her mouth:

“You never let me do anything!”

“All of my friends are allowed to wear it!”

“You’re not being fair.”

And, my favorite: “You’re treating me like a 2 year old!”

Well, of course I wasn’t going to paint her nails after all of that.

But still, her tantrum gave me pause. I thought about all the reasons I don’t let her wear nail polish. And I argued them, in my head— essentially making another list, with rebuttals.

Reasons Why Maybe We Should Let Her Wear It:
• too young (How does one determine this?)
• all my women’s studies courses (I don’t even really know what this means.)
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life (This is true.)
• premature sexualization of children (I’d have to read more about this but honestly, I don’t have the time.)
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later (This is true.)
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old (Andy brought this one up. But a paler color could solve this.)
• fear of her caring too much how she looks (Honestly, I don’t think it’s about that. Not yet.)

Monday morning I took her to the doctor. Sunday night her temperature spiked to 105.6°. Turns out she has strep. So, she missed Tuesday and today at school. Tuesday night I went to the grocery store. And I bought her pale, pale pink polish—full of glitter.

It was perfect.

It looks childish—not much color and all that glitter. It was the perfect sick day/rainy day treat. She found so much joy in it.

Maybe, I thought, I was over-thinking, this whole nail polish thing.

So I didn’t over-think at all when Owen and James asked for some, too. Everyone got glittery nails, and everyone loved them. It was akin to face paint (which we do almost weekly). Or dressing up (which we do almost daily).

It was fun.

Of course it was good to not cave to her in-the-moment tantrum. But I also think it was good to think about what she said (no matter how scary teenager-speak like it was). And to really sit down and think about why. And then to decide that maybe, just maybe, it’s not that big of a deal.

Because honestly? Half the time I don’t know what’s best. I know there will be things I don’t let her do now that later, I will realize it would have been OK for her to do younger. Just as I know there will be things I do let her do now that later, I will wish I would have made her wait. But. I do know today I had three small children running around the house, happy (so happy!) with glitter on their nails. And that made their morning a little more magical. And that made everyone’s day, mine included, a little brighter.

There can’t be harm in that.

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.” —Angela Schwindt