Aaron Gouveia went above and beyond this week to support his 5-year-old son, Sam, who was bullied at school for wearing nail polish

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Credit: Courtesy Aaron Gouveia

Five-year-old Sam Gouveia, of Boston, was nervous about returning to kindergarten on Tuesday after his classmates made fun of him for wearing nail polish.

“Sam is usually so happy-go-lucky. And he came out of school when I went to pick him up [on Monday] and he was stoic with a long, drawn face and he took a few steps toward me and just burst into tears,” Sam’s mother, 40-year-old Martha Gouveia, tells PEOPLE.

Sam told his mom that the girls and boys taunted him over his red painted nails, telling him that boys don’t wear nail polish. Sam’s grandmother — a former nail tech — often paints his nails and he loves it.

“I like red and I love pink on my nails,” Sam tells PEOPLE.

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Credit: Courtesy Aaron Gouveia

Martha says her son simply loves to express himself.

“He’s just a colorful kid, so full of life with a big personality and he loves people,” she says.

Sam often went to preschool with painted nails so he didn’t think anything of the polish — until Monday.

“I felt bad,” the little boy says. “I went home and told my mom and dad. I really didn’t like it when they made fun of me.”

His father, 39-year-old Aaron Gouveia, was crushed and angry when he heard what his son had gone through.

“As a parent it’s extraordinarily tough to hear your son so dejected and to know that a little piece of his innocence is gone that he’ll never get back,” Aaron says. “It’s really tough to watch.”

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Credit: Laura Fiorillo of Family Tree Photography

So, Aaron, who works in publishing and used to run a blog, went on social media to vent. With Sam’s permission, he posted a “rant” on Twitter, writing about his son’s ordeal in a thread. The first post has been retweeted thousands of times.

“I’ve had things go viral before and I’ve seen the ugly side of social media but this time the response has been absolutely wonderful,” Aaron tells PEOPLE of the Twitter thread. “People are writing in — grown men and parents of boys — talking about other boys wearing nail polish.”

In the series of posts, Aaron condemned harmful gender roles that promote toxic masculinity. He wrote: “My son is far from perfect but he’s got a huge heart and empathy for miles. He finds beauty in everything around him and for 5 years he’s never been afraid to be different because different has never meant ‘bad.’ Until now.”

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Diehard New England Patriots fans, the family has had season tickets for decades. So they were thrilled to see former Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett weigh in on the thread with a photo of his daughter painting his nails, writing, “I rock pink nails all the time.”

“It really helped Sam this morning to see all the posts,” Aaron says.

“He was on the fence about whether he was going to keep the polish when he went to school today but, when we showed him what people were saying, he jumped up and down and squealed! He couldn’t believe so many people liked his nails and he thought it was the best thing ever.”

Aaron ended his thread with a special message for his son: “Be brave and shine bright, my beautiful polished boy. Know that mom and dad always have your back and if the rest of the world has a problem with your nails, they can check out my nail polish!”

Sam’s 10-year-old brother painted his own nails before going to school on Tuesday and Aaron wore polish to his office. Now, Martha says seeing her son so upset was heart-wrenching, but she’s hopeful things will turn around.

“I just want him to be able to be who he is,” she says.