the girly nails mean so much more than you know

October 21, 2009 |  Category:   family outings




Long before BiterGate a reader left a comment on an old post criticizing the brightly painted red toenails on the girls. I don’t mind (constructive) criticism, but when someone questions the values that I’m teaching the girls about beauty and self esteem and snarks that I probably let them wear makeup too, well, I’d rather you ask about why I let the girls have painted toes than assume the worst. You see, aside from the fact that I don’t think it’s a big deal, there is a story behind it (isn’t there always?). It’s true that the girls have had more pedicures in nail salons than I have in my lifetime (I’ve only ever had 4), but it started with my dad, of all people.

One summer when we were living with my parents while renovations were being done to our apartment, my dad would often take Mia, who was then 18 months old, to the property of stores that my parents own. There was a playground around back and in the next little strip adjacent to my parents’ was a nail salon. The women who worked there would often let Mia play in the salon while my dad took care of business around the property. The following summer, Mia started getting little pedicures with flowers whenever she would come by. She’d toddle over to the rows of bottles and pick out a color, bring it over to the table, get her nails done and then sit with the other women at the drying station, chatting and striking up conversations. When Claudine was old enough last summer, my dad would take both the girls out and she too would get her nails painted. It was their little ritual whenever we went over to my parents’ for the weekend – to go out to the stores, play in the playground, get pedicures and then get treated to huge cups of frozen yogurt at the new yogurt place on their strip. Who am I to argue with this? But more significant to me is the fact that my dad initiated this bonding ritual. This is a man who didn’t allow my mom and I to wear colored nail polish when I was growing up. We could only wear clear. I don’t know when he decided that pink nails were ok on a 2 year old, much less on us, but this seemingly innocent and fairly insignificant act for me symbolized a little triumph – for feminism, for being able to make your own choices on what to wear without being dictated by a man, for the fact that sometimes, people can change in little ways.

I think you know what the moral of this story is. Speaking of mean, seems like there’s a lot of chatter recently about mean comments being posted in blog land. Which is why I love this.

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  • Jen October 21, 2009 at 11:53 am

    That actually brought tears to my eyes. How sweet, a PopPop taking his grand daughters to the nail salon… (lost my dad when I was five and always dream about what kind of PopPop he would have been…) So sweet, what memories for them!

  • bohemian kitchen October 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    ugh!!! that is what i have to say about people that always have something to say about things that are not even affecting them. i think your girls are BEAUTIFUL with or without nail polish and i think the post about your daughter biting up the “brand new bunk bed” is so typical of what children do. they don’t realize the value of things, if they wanna bite it, they go for it thats what kids do!!! it’s not about a lack of attention or love. and if you want to vent about it, a parent has that right it does not mean we love our children less or anything like that. yesterday my son dumped an entire brand new bottle of organic shower gel into his bath! $8.99 down the drain. is he crying out for attention??? no he just likes bubbles and he did not pay for the stuff. did i vent about it? damn straight i did! people need to let stuff go and just enjoy people {and there blogs} for their individuality! by the way love the pictures as always!

  • Erin Boyle October 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    It really astonishes me how people react to blogs. Lately, I have been receiving nasty comments and an average of 3 hate emails a week via my blog. These people are cowards. Yes, we put our lives out there- but it doesn’t call for being mean! I love your blog…it’s a pleasure to read.

  • Wiebke October 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Today Liv came after a visit with her grandmother back home and proudly showed her freshly manicured nails and said that she probably had the best looking nails in the whole family … rather it has! The kids and I love you blog …

  • Mary-Ellen October 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    When I was small, around 3 my grandma used to paint my nails pink. I felt so beautiful and special. To this day, when I paint my nails, especially pink, I feel her spirit with me. Although I still can never capture that amazing specialness of that time.

    Please don’t pay attention to anyone with nasty, rude, judgemental comments. Realize it is way more about them than it is with you. (I know…easier said than done.)

  • Annie From Seattle October 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    When I was C and M’s ages, I went with my grandmother to “The Fountain Of Beauty” where a kind woman named Estelle would put on a coat of Revlon’s bright red “Cherries in the Snow” on my stubby little nails so I would look just like my grandmother. While I was waiting for them to dry, I got to drink a real Dr. Pepper in a glass bottle and watch Estelle assemble beehives.
    Good times. Your girls are building great memories. Nail polish isn’t turning anyone into a derelict. Jeez.
    PS When my grandmother died, we all wore Chanel No. 5, pearls, a gardenia corsage, and nails done in Cherries in the Snow to the funeral.

  • Laura@movetoportugal October 21, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Jenna your blog makes my day and I find it really sad that people have nothing better to do than make nasty comments and pass judgement. As Mary-Ellen says. it’s more about them, than it is about you.

    As my beloved nanna used to say ‘if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all’

  • Cadmiumgold October 21, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    A great post on how often there is more to a subject than meets the eye. Normally, I would be shocked to see young girls being allowed to wear nail polish, but this story was an eye opener for me. I got my first ever mani-pedi and polish when I was in High School. It was for Prom.

  • Fiona October 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    That’s a really sweet story about your dad, and it’s good to see how people can change over time.

    Anyone who judges someone’s parenting based on nail polish needs to make a date with a counselor.

  • michelle October 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    I love that story, how sweet.

    That is definitely my favorite picture you’ve shared of Mia, so beautiful.

  • Fog and Thistle October 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    the story about your dad (as well as some of these amazing reader comments) was beyond moving. I always think that forbidding certain simple pleasures makes it much more enticing to kids. The promise of red toenails was what motivated Amelia to finally potty train and two years later, she can take it or leave it now. It does look cute on her little hands.

  • taylor October 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    what a beautiful picture of family love. I think your statement about it being a little triumph is wonderful too:)

  • Mrs Soup October 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    That is just so sweet. Amazingly beautiful ritual…something I’m sure they will remember forever as well!

  • Jenna October 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Annie, love “The Fountain of Beauty”. Love the story too, thanks for sharing.

  • Maureen October 21, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    I wasn’t even aware that colored polish was such an issue on young children.. those same commentors would probably have way too many (negative) comments to the fact that I let my boys wear the brightest (think blue, green, purple, orange, etc.) that they want on their toes. They wanted to have colorful toes like their mom (me) but I figured I’d let them go more exotic than I would. I think it looks really cute. If a young child can’t wear something wonderfully colorful, who can?

    Sweet thing is the story behind the girls’ polish. They are going to have such fond memories each time they get a manicure when they are older.

  • Anna @ D16 October 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I love this post. :) Keep on keeping on…

  • Brenda October 21, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    There is something about nail polish when you’re young. It’s so magical and exotic and “grown up.” I don’t keep up with my nails anymore (I should!), but when I do, somehow I feel like a whole different person. As a little kid, when I got to put on my play polish (remember those?), I felt like a whole new person, in a good way. And it was such a treat for me to paint my mom’s toenails for her (I was so anal about doing a perfect job, she probably loved it!). Of the gazillion things one might get worked up about in the world, little girls wearing nail polish is so at the bottom of the list! (And I loved the story behind it….)

  • Kwil October 21, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I want to be a part of the Anti-Hate Blogger Gang.
    Questions about why we do certain things are fine, but the downright mean-spirited comments are uncalled for.
    Love your pics and I have to say, the pink nail polish is a splendid choice!

  • Kate October 21, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    This is the sweetest story ever, and I’m assembling all gang members right this minute with ninja moves! I’m so fascinated by people who can’t keep their parenting criticism to themselves. They clearly were not hugged enough as a child.

  • joslyn October 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    i love this story, this little ritual with the girlies and their grandfather…and i love the pink nails!

  • chantaleP October 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Ppl leave nasty comments? I hate it when they impose their own tedious views on others. Your dad is getting “old” and has lightened up! Hooray! Seriously, if my dad were alive, he’d do the same thing to his grandkids. Let them get away with things we never could. When grandparents spoil their grandkids, why shouldn’t they? They create a bond and memories that the kids will cherish forever. Plus, it makes those old folks so much cooler to be with too. : )
    Long ago, in a far and strange land called Korea, long before there was a North and South part, my great grandfather took my aunt’s new western style kitten heeled shoe, put it on the chopping block outside their backyard, took an axe and chopped the heel off. He then “allowed” her to wear it.
    Kudos to your dad for giving these kinds of amazing memories to your kids. It’s a gift to you as much as it is to them.

  • selkie October 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Ignore the nasties… Those of us who LOVE you are MANY and stand beside you daily, in spirit.
    Great tale of your Dad and the girls… Lucky lucky them; memories they will cherish forever!

  • Stella October 21, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    What an awesome ritual and love the little triumph in it.

  • lesley October 21, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    what a lovely story, so sweet! there is something absolutely magical about a grandfather and his little granddaughters. i just love watching my baby girl with my dad, and would be delighted if he wanted to take her for mani pedis. how wonderful that your girls get to have this ritual with their grandpa, and they will cherish those memories forever.

  • Joni October 21, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Jenna, whenever you write about your parents and childhood, everything has a slight resonance of pain. It makes a post suddenly become three dimensional. Plus, where is this strip mall? For some reason, I feel like I know which one it is. Is it in New York city? are there a lot of stores?

  • mixette October 21, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Hi Jenna – just started reading your blog when I wandered over from the design*sponge sneak peek. Love the way you write, and like the way you think, so as now-regular reader I thought it’s time to join in!

    Loved this story about your Dad- so sweet. My fondest nail polish memories are from when my sister and I were about 4 and 6 and were flower girls in my aunt’s wedding. My mom made us matching giant-gingham dresses in turquoise and we got to wear matching turquoise nail polish. We thought it was the gooviest thing ever (it was the 70’s)…

  • Kim October 21, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Oh man, this story is so sweet! I love the way you tied it together with the “little triumph.” What you said is so true, and it was heartwarming to see that your dad had changed his ideals over time (which is so very rare).

    And I agree with one of the above commenters– anyone who feels the need to pass judgment on someone’s parenting skills based on whether or not they let their children wear colored nail polish needs a SERIOUS reality check!

  • Chai Ling October 21, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Some people tend to stereotype others in the way their think. Anyway, we lead our life and shall never let them tell us what to do. Good post, Jenna ~

  • dawn October 21, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    such a sweet story behind the painted nails, and memories i’m sure your girls will treasure especially when they get older! (it brings back memories of painting my girlie’s toes and fingers- something i miss now that she is 100% tomboy). loved reading this post and i enjoy reading your blog daily!

  • melissa October 21, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    you go, girl! harhar.
    another post that i love. such a beautiful story.

  • yelan October 21, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    I’m sorry that a bitter person who never had precious moments shared with their grandparents had to take it out on you.

    My grandpa used to have a hidden jar of maraschino cherries that he ate despite his health problems. I’d sit on his lap and take turns eating out of the jar. Even though I was only four or so, these were the most special moments I shared with him. No one should pass judgment on what you let your daughters do. This person probably would’ve berated my mother for “encouraging” obesity when I was little for secretly eating a jar of candied cherries with my grandpop.

  • Tara October 21, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    What a lovely post. Your kids will love hearing these stories some day. And they’ll definitely remember that this was a special thing they did with their grandfather.

    My dad used to paint my sisters’ and my nails when we were growing up. (four girls – he had little choice!) He loved doing it though and was so careful to make it perfect. We’ve all grown up into strong, independent women – so obviously a little red nail polish didn’t hurt. If anything, it made us appreciate that husbands and fathers should be able to do “girly” things for the people they love. He also taught me how to throw a baseball, shoot a BB gun, and make furniture – so obviously the gender exchange went both ways!

  • Chymecindy October 22, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Such a very nice photos. Her nails are cute.

  • Claudia October 22, 2009 at 5:23 am

    This story is so sweet and sensitive. Certainly the girls will have great, great memories from their grandfather and childhood with this demonstration of love and affection. And this is what matters!

  • ranee October 22, 2009 at 7:06 am

    love your post, your blog really make my days. And I love your girl too.
    when I was about miss C n’ M age, I used to dress like my grandfather *he is a carpenter. That was my best moment ever.

  • Anna October 22, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Hi Jenna, I love your blog, this is a great post, such a nice story!
    I wondered if you might like this one that I also read
    Also has great photography and lovely insights into family life

  • Christie October 22, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for sharing this lovely story with us, Jenna. I don’t have a father, but I had a wonderful grandfather who passed away when I was three and a half. I would give anything to have one more afternoon with him. Your girls are very fortunate to have this experience with their grandfather. Your story is proof that with time and patience, people ARE capable of change. Thank you again for sharing this with us. (Please disregard the haters, they’re just jealous. There are so many more of us that LOVE your blog and everything that you tell us.)

  • Karin October 22, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Love the painted pink nails on C! My mom let me play with make-up and such as a child…and I really appreciate that now. And I love that my little 3 yr old niece often has painted nails courtesy of her 13 yr old big sis. What a great bonding experience for the girls…and such a sweet story.

  • Rebecca October 23, 2009 at 9:17 am

    I loved when my grandmother used to paint my nails, I felt so “grown up” but never, never would she have worn red (and oh, I so wanted her to)! She considered herself a good christian woman, and WHAT WOULD PEOPLE THINK? I love the cherries in the snow story from one of your commentors, what a great way to honor the memory of her grandmother.

    And indeed, there seems to be a flood of judgemental commentors all over the blog world these days, not sure what that phenomenon is about, but I encourage liberal use of the delete button.

  • Rebecca October 23, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Oh, and I forgot to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you so much for writing it!

  • sara October 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    love this pic. amazing

  • th November 1, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Oh well… I LOVE the story, and they lok gorgeous with their little nails. I bet their classmates/playdates are jealous. And well, there’s always gonna be a negative one isn’t there…