What I said when my son asked me what make-up was

I stopped myself.

I almost answered with the first thing that came into my head, but made a change before anything came out of my mouth. That change was not using the word “women.”

I’m assuming he heard the term “make-up” from my wife, probably that morning as she was getting ready for work, which meant he had to ask me about it on the way to school. So, of course, my wife was on my mind when I started to answer. But I managed to modify my answer before it came out of my mouth.

“Make-up is something people put on their face to make it look different,” was my answer, or at least as close to it as I can remember.

“Do you remember that clip we saw of the boy whose face was made to look like Rubble? That was make-up.”

Rubble is a member of the Paw Patrol and the clip was on the Nick, Jr. app. It was a short video of a make-up artist painting the boy to look like Rubble, a dog.

It’s a legitimate question to ask why I stopped myself. At the time, it was because I don’t want my son to grow up assuming that only women can wear make-up. I don’t honestly know any men that wear make-up, but I know they exist and I don’t want my son thinking of them any differently.

But afterwards, I realized that I was more concerned about the idea of teaching him that women wear make-up. Yes, women can wear make-up, just like men can wear make-up, but they don’t HAVE to. I mean, socially speaking they do which is a problem, but I want him to know that it’s not something he should assume.

I realize, of course, that his 3 year old brain will probably not hold on to my explanation. And, really, my answer was less for him than for me. It forced me to think about the answer.

I’m trying my hardest not to instill in him the same assumptions that were introduced to me growing up. To say that my father was opinionated would be an understatement, but I know I have that within me, too. I have very strong opinions and I’m not shy about sharing them. But I don’t want to put any of that on my son. I want him to walk into the world with as few preconceived notions as possible.

I’m left wondering how often such issues are going to come up (frequently) and how well I’m going to deal with them. I caught myself this time, but what if I don’t the next?

Which is, I think, why it’s important that I did catch myself this time, even though my son is only three. This is practice. This is preparation for the coming years when he takes my comments to heart, when my opinions start to influence his way of thinking.

I think the fact that I’m thinking about any of this at all is a good sign.