Published 9:35 PM EDT Oct 23, 2018
After a day of bullying and a few viral tweets from dad, Aaron Gouveia's son Sam wants other boys to know: It's OK to wear nail polish to school.
In a Twitter thread that racked up almost 20,000 retweets in 24 hours, Gouveia shared a powerful story of how his son, 5, faced ridicule for his painted nails and how the Massachusetts dad responded to provide a teaching moment for his boy about gender norms.
Sam loves having his nails painted and has been wearing them on and off for two years without issue at school, Gouveia told USA TODAY.
After school Monday, though, Sam broke down because his kindergarten classmates had been picking on him.
"He fell apart," Gouveia said. "It was unusual because he's a happy-go-lucky kid."
For the entire day, Sam faced other children who called him names and told him nail polish wasn't for boys.
"He was devastated at how other kids turned on him, even his friends. He asked them to stop but that just made it worse. Only 1 kid stood up for him," Gouveia wrote in the Twitter thread. Gouveia, a former journalist, runs a blog called Daddy Files and has 15,000 Twitter followers.
Sam initially wanted to take the nail polish off after the hard day, so the father and son talked about what happened.
Gouveia told him he could take it off if wants, but also told him that it should only matter what he thinks of his own nails and how he looks.
Sam is "a sensitive kid," Gouveia said, but he also noted on Twitter that Sam is "rough and tumble, he’s loud, he’s always dirty, loves trucks, plays sports and knee drops me from the couch."
When the boy decided he wanted to keep his nails red, his older brother Will, 10, decided he'd paint his nails, too, to show support and solidarity, "at which point I nearly cried," Gouveia tweeted.
Then Sam picked out a color for his dad, and Gouveia shared a picture of his Son and him with nail polish on.
"Be brave and shine bright, my beautiful polished boy," Gouveia tweeted later.
Gouveia knows that issues concerning gender norms and masculinity can be divisive, but he thinks parents not talking to their children and teaching them to accept those who are different from them can be damaging.
"It hurts everybody. It hurts boys and girls," he added.
"Intolerant parents and their offspring scored a minor victory today but they won’t win the war," he tweeted.
The response to his thread has been positive, Gouveia said. He's read Sam messages of support and pictures he's received of other men and boys wearing nail polish.
At school on Tuesday, Sam proudly returned with his nails painted.
"I had a good day today," Sam told USA TODAY. One of his friends even told him he should keep his nails painted. "It made me feel pretty good."
As for his message for to other young boys who want to wear nail polish: "I'll tell them it's OK, because I did it."
Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller.