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Eek! My Son Wanted to Use a Pink Baseball Glove

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Dr. Michelle Golland: I recently got a lesson in gender politics from a 9-year-old.

boy with pink baseball glove

Our son, Asher, has recently started to play baseball in a local league. He is 9 years old, and this is a big deal because my son was never interested in sports -- to his father's pain. You see, Michael (my husband) was a big baseball player. He had dreams of going to the major leagues, and probably could have -- if his parents had been more directive after high school, instead of allowing him to simply party it up in Margate, New Jersey. If only they had forced him to go to the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple-A league that summer, like he was offered ...! There have been a few therapy sessions about that, I can tell you.

OK, so you can see that having a son who is mostly a science and chess kid was somewhat of a shock (but of course totally OK, because Michael is a wonderful and flexible father). The last few years have been filled with science fairs and chess tournaments (which by the way are very exciting). My son and husband have proudly displayed Asher's chess trophies in our home, and they wore the chess-tourney T-shirts around town!

So when our son came home last fall saying he wanted to play baseball, we were pleasantly surprised -- and a little worried. Worried because we had gone down the T-ball road before (when Asher was 4), and it didn't go well. Many tears had been shed -- by both my husband and son. You see, shortly after his tear- and rage-filled first season, Asher was diagnosed with sensory motor issues.

When the neuropsychologist asked what sports, if any, Asher played, and we said T-ball, she shook her head and said, "I bet it didn't go so well, did it?" We told her about Asher's angry outbursts and his struggle to stay on the field -- which she explained was not surprising, because the experience would be a real sensory overload for a kid like him. Sensory motor problems cause stress, frustration and tension -- which in a 4-year-old can be expressed in anger and tears. This was information that would have been good to know before Michael had to literally carry Asher off the field at his last game (only halfway through the season). Now there were tears all around. (Believe me, I have shed many myself around my son.)

This year, baseball has been going very well so far. Asher enjoys it and loves playing with his friends from school. Of course, I do hold my breath around the baseball diamond (still waiting for the other cleat to drop), but so far so good. But when Asher's glove was left behind in my husband's car the day of practice, we had a dilemma: Asher could either use his sister Tova's bright, bubble-gum-pink glove (which fit him), or a brown one (which was a little big). Asher was insisting on using the pink one, because it fit better. Being a very good negotiator, he was explaining to me that there are no "girl colors" and "boy colors" -- and it shouldn't matter if he uses a pink glove.

I pride myself on being a feminist and an egalitarian mom, so I was confused when my quick reaction was, "NO WAY!" OK, I didn't shout it at Asher. But I honestly didn't think that using the pink glove was a good idea. My sister, Kelly, was over, and she was so proud of Asher's ability to look beyond conventional constraints that she, too, tried to convince me that he should just use the pink glove. My sister's child, Avalon, is the classic only child; she is polite, quiet and has never had her "red card" pulled at school. What I mean is, my sister has not dealt with the emotional trauma of a kid who is sensitive and has struggled with getting along with others and fitting in! I shut her down quickly -- it just took that sister look of "you don't get boys, and you don't get this!" 

I was concerned because I didn't want Asher to get teased by the other boys on the team. Asher was so great about it; he was trying to convince me he didn't care that the glove was pink, and that if he was teased, he would just tell them it hurt his feelings and to stop. OK, how egalitarian, mature and fabulous of him ... but I couldn't help but feel like the fallout could be more than he could handle or even understand. I called Michael to get his opinion. He insisted that Asher bring the brown glove. He was concerned that once Asher brought the bubble-gum-pink glove, the boys on the team might NEVER forget it.

I sat Asher down and explained that we are so proud that he realizes that there are no "boy" and "girl" colors, and that he knows how to stand up for himself if teased -- but that sometimes mommies and daddies just know what is best, and he needed to bring the brown glove. His response was classic. "OK, Mom, whatever you think," he said. "It's really no big deal to me." He happily walked to the car holding the brown glove. I wondered if I had done the right thing in the situation. Should I have empowered Asher to bring the pink glove and stand up to the other boys if they teased him? Would the boys on the team even have noticed the pink glove, or cared (after all, Asher didn't)? Or had I just helped him dodge the pink bullet of social suicide? I guess we will never really know.

What would you have done??


next: The Death of Childhood: One Mother Laments
16 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous May 3, 2010, 4:13 AM

Social suicide is a rough thing. If he decides on pink again, you can help him concoct a story that he is supporting breast cancer. Just trying to help.

Chas May 3, 2010, 5:34 AM

Seriously? What you taught this kid is that he should not try things out of the ordinary and that he should care more about what his peers think than himself.

Anonymous May 3, 2010, 5:51 AM

It’s a glove….what homophobic issues are you respressing if you can’t let your child use a pink glove. It’s just a color. Relax.

stef May 3, 2010, 6:15 AM

I personally do not think you did the right thing. By keeping him from wearing the pink glove, you are just encouraging gender biases. (You call yourself a feminist?) If your daughter had wanted to wear the brown one, would you have said no?

Pinky May 3, 2010, 6:35 AM

I absolutely think you did the right thing. Regardless of what’s right, or politically correct, or tolerant, etc…those other kids WOULD have made fun of your son. Would he have gotten over it eventually? Sure. Would it kill him to use an over-sized glove for one game? No. You had a chance to spare him some (minor? major?) teasing and you took it. Good choice.

Beth May 3, 2010, 7:05 AM

I am not so sure you did the right thing. Maybe allowing him to use the glove, especially since he felt it was okay, and at the same time explaining that the other boys may have a few things to say about it. (And I stress may, because who knows, the other kids may not have cared what color the glove was) Explain that what the others may say or think does not matter. We can’t shield our kids from potential teasing all of the time and they need to learn how to handle and deflect it. Do I want my child teased for anything? Absolutely not. But wouldn’t it be better that they be equppied to handle it properly?

Mer May 3, 2010, 7:05 AM

It was just a pink glove. You should have let him wear it; he didn’t even choose it based on color, he chose it based on fit. He even understood that other children might initially tease him for it and was prepared to deal with that in a mature fashion. What is your problem?! My son actually likes the color pink & will sometimes choose pink items when given the option; kids don’t tease him or worry about whether pink is a “girl color”, they just want to play and have fun. Get over your weird problem with color/gender associations and let your son, whose attitude is more adult than your own, choose his glove himself. If he wanted to choose the poorly fitting brown glove over the perfectly fitting pink glove, THAT would be a good time to step in and encourage him to reconsider.

Mo May 3, 2010, 8:41 AM

My nephew loves loves loves pink, the boy can’t get enough of the color. At the tender age of 6 when the family tried to tone down the pinkness due to him starting Big-Boy school, he informed us that pink is only for girls if it has that dumb girl stuff all over it. When we asked what was ‘dumb girl stuff’ he gave us the OMG soooo gross face and said ‘butterflies and flowers’. He proudly wears his pink Phillies shirts and hats and doesn’t give a hoot! He is now a proud football, soccer and basketball playing teenager!

Gail Cooke May 3, 2010, 9:47 AM

It’s not so much the issue of allowing the kid to have a pink glove…it’s an issue of how much his life is going to be in the Seventh Level of Hades from the other kids. I can see other kids making his life a living nightmare…away from the protection of his parents. Feel sorry for him. Children are cruel, cruel beings.

Kirsen May 3, 2010, 10:15 AM

I understand why you made the choice that you did. Every mom wants to protect their child BUT, forcing your child to not think outside the box is really a terrible thing to do. He may have gotten made fun of, but the hardships in life make for stronger character.He was obviously prepared to stand up for what he believes in. Also, by even implying in your article that you are slightly embarrassed that your son plays chess is a little sad to say the least. Maybe you should take a lesson from Asher and realize that what other people think is not always most important.

Gail Cooke May 3, 2010, 10:43 AM

Kirsen,

That’s a fine sentiment and I don’t necessarily disagree with you..but do you want to have your child come home every day crying or beat up? Yes, you can sue the school or force the kids to go to social adjustment classes or whatever you feel needs to be done…but at the end of the day, you and your child will still suffer. Suffer trauma that lasts well beyond the school years. Is it really worth it? Maybe, maybe not..but do you want to purposely inflict that upon your child? Your kid would have a tough road ahead. I’m not saying that you’re wrong, I’m just looking ahead to what kind of suffering the kid would have as opposed to the upholding of an ideal.

Matt May 3, 2010, 3:10 PM

Wow, this is why people hate America, it’s backward, homophobic people like you.

Lacie May 4, 2010, 2:28 PM

I don’t think you did the right thing. Your son offered you a mature explanation about wanting to wear the pink glove, and you wrote off your reaction as “Mummy knows best”. I can understand you trying to protect your son, but you at least owe him an honest statement to that effect.

To be honest, this whole article and your reactions just make you sound homophobic/sexist, I’m surprised you’d consider yourself a feminist. How do you think your son would feel if he or one of his friends were to come out as gay to you now? Do you think they’d expect you to be understanding and supportive?

Nicole June 23, 2010, 7:30 PM

I just stumbled upon this article and I have to respond — I think you absolutely did not do the right thing. You sent the powerful message to your son that fear — fear of what other people may or may not think, or what they may or may not do — is more important than what he feels and is prepared to defend. What kind of message is that? And now he knows that what other people think is more important to you (and his dad as well, I suppose) than what he thinks and prefers. Children can be cruel — I experienced that first-hand — but there is no “protecting” and I’m glad my parents didn’t encourage me to be someone I wasn’t to try to “protect” me. I am a stronger person today because I learned young to defend myself. Your son will be stronger for it, too, and especially if he feels his parents are “on his side”. Also, I found the tone of your article rather disturbing and left me feeling sympathetic towards your son who so good-naturedly gave in to your fearful and homophobic whims against his own best wishes. How big of you to strive to be accepting and supportive of a child who favors science and chess over (gasp) sports.

Holly  April 1, 2011, 3:20 PM

Congrats! I’m so glad you had the confidence to write about it! I have many a “pink” boy story for you! Check out my posts on www.mysonlikespink.com

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:34 AM

I’m glad, that i found your website, there are a couple of cool posts


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