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oakley eyeglasses I know we live in the real world, and in the real world many people think it's weird for a boy to like stuff that's pink.

A month before my older son turned 3 years old, he asked me if he could have a pink cake with sprinkles at his birthday party.

Now there s a question to make a mother pause.

The bigger, better part of me wanted to say sure, why not?

I like to think as a 21st-century parent, I m not hung up on gender stereotypes. If I had a girl I sure wouldn t force her to have a pink princess cake. Why should I force my son to have a boy-friendly color for his cake?

But a smaller, more embarrassed part of me hoped he d forget about the pink cake because how would that look?

My husband and I don t tell our sons which colors or toys are OK to like and which ones aren t. Pink was my son s absolute favorite color at that time, and that was fine with me.

I have other friends whose preschool-age boys gravitated toward traditionally girl colors like pink and purple. Most kids that age are too little to have internalized society s idea of what s appropriate for girls or boys. That kind of innocence is refreshing.

The funny thing is, pink used to be a boy color. quoted a 1918 department store trade publication that said, in part:

The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.

Most of us want our boys to grow up to be enlightened modern males with a strong sense of self not intimidated by a mere color, or reliant on society s expectations to validate their self worth. Lots of guys wear pink polo and oxford shirts in summer. I even have a male friend who owns a dapper pink seersucker suit.

Most parents I know would say it s no longer OK (thank goodness) to aggressively push gender stereotypes on our kids. But the stereotypes are there anyway, and they re enforced by peers and parents alike.

If one of my sons were to grow up loving pink and wearing a My Little Pony backpack to school () he would be teased. Mercilessly. No parent wants that for her son.

The color/gender issue says so much more about us than it does about our kids. We need to stop gender-policing children. They are who they are, and it s up to us to nurture them not try to change them.

I want my sons to play with what interests them, no matter what it is (or what color it is). Right now they re obsessed with toy cars and trains and anything that makes lots of noise. (My older son has already broken three of my wooden spoons using them as drumsticks on my pots and pans.)

At the same time, I know we live in the real world, and in the real world many people think it s weird for a boy to like stuff that s pink.

Which brings me back to the cake. Because my son only mentioned the pink cake to me a few times before his party, I finally decided to order a cake (vanilla is his favorite) with a design that coordinated with the birthday invitations: a white cake with a frog riding a bicycle, holding a bunch of brightly-colored balloons. (The frog was because the party was at the Huntsville Botanical Garden s Pollywog Bog).

I still question my decision to forgo the pink cake. Maybe I was wrong. I do know he had a blast at the party and loved playing and splashing with his friends.

I never heard him once say he wished his cake had been pink with sprinkles. Maybe this was a much bigger deal to me than it ever was to him.

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