Lend Me Your (Double-Pierced?) Ear

With parenting, the wrestling never stops.  Wrestling with what to allow and when.  When your children are younger, you ponder and discuss with other moms such gut-wrenching questions like, “Is it time for potty training?” and “At what age should they be allowed to go to a slumber party?” Last week, I got to wrestle with the questions, “Should I let my 14-year-old get her upper ear lobe pierced?” and “Should I let my 10-year-old read Twilight?” 

They were begging me.  I said yes to both, after much thought and investigation.  For the ear question, I said yes thinking it would probably happen sometime in the future, when she’d saved enough money and gotten up the courage (this is a kid who greatly hates getting shots, by the way), so I figured by the time it could happen, she’d lose interest. But, never underestimate a strong-willed child.  Lucky for her, she found an old bank under the mess of STUFF she calls her room and had enough money to get it done. And fear went out the window in favor of fashion. So not only was she ready, she wanted to go get it done NOW.  “And you have to be there,” she told me, “because it requires parental consent.”  Not being one to drop everything and change plans at the whims of a teenager, I used one of my favorite phrases of all time,  “Go ask your father.” I figured that tactic would buy at least a couple weeks.  But, never underestimate a “fun” Dad (I forgot he once pierced his own ear in the punk 80’s, with ice and a needle…) He not only took her, he drove several miles back home from the mall to get a copy of her birth certificate and drive back (he says they required it to prove he was her Dad, not a boyfriend– HAH! HAH!)  So now she has a tiny new hole on the top edge of her left ear (which she says I need to refer to as “cartilege”–but that sounds too much like being at a meat counter, or in an operating room, for me…).

We are the only parents in her circle of friends who are currently allowing it.  I honestly don’t see what the big deal is– it’s one ear, one tiny hole, and all she wants to put into it is a tiny faux diamond. Not a hoop.  Not a claw.  Not a skull and crossbones with the words “Anarchy Rules”, for goodness sakes.  And, she paid for it.  But you’d think I let her pierce her belly button or tongue (both, by the way, which I would not allow).  It’s like when I let her dye her hair.  We’re not talking pink here. It was a just a darker shade of her already natural red. And it turned out beautifully. (And again– she paid for it with her own money!) But jaws dropped and phone lines heated up…

I just think parents need to pick their battles carefully, and these were two battles that didn’t need to be fought. Do parents think if you give an inch it will open the floodgates to tattoos, mohawks, sex, drinking and drugs? I think it’s quite the opposite.  I will never forget someone I knew who was forbidden to watch the insipid TV show “Love,  American Style” while growing up in the 70’s and restricted in many other ways.  She ended up pregnant before her senior year in high school, almost losing her life in childbirth.  And remember all those wild PK’s (preacher’s kids)?!  Parents need to look around and realize that the kids who are restricted the most usually rebel and try to express themselves in ways their parents would have never imagined possible.  In ways the kids themselves sometimes don’t even like– they’re just doing it as a reaction to their parents. (Or, they keep it all inside and eventually turn out psycho.) Giving teens some freedom is honoring their brains, their individuality, their decision-making. The unspoken message is, “I trust you enough to do so and so,” or “I know you’re smart enough to handle this,” or “Your fashion sense is different than mine but that’s okay” rather than “You’re stupid, untrustworthy, and don’t have a clue what to do so I’m going to control everything.”  What a gift to give your child!  Soon, my daughter will be driving a car, and In four short years will be graduating and leaving home (hopefully!), out of my sight far more than she’s ever been before.  The “ties” need to be given more and more slack each year until then, the freedoms need to be granted whenever safely and sanely possible, so that she’ll be ready, self-confident, capable.  Sure, the “what ifs” can be painful and worrisome with each new freedom granted, but I think it’s a necessary side effect of that kind of true love– non-possessive.  Was it hard to let a 13-year-old fly off to Costa Rica with her church youth group last summer to do volunteer work? Absolutely. But at the same time, I knew that the odds were in her favor to come back in one piece, a better person for having taken the trip. I was right.

At the same time, I’m not a nonstop Yes-Mom.  Remember, I’m uncool.  If a privilege is granted and then misused, there are consequences, and the privilege might not get granted again.  And if you read this blog, you’ll see plenty of things to which I say no.  But teens actually want that, as well.  The Dallas Morning News sometimes convenes a group of teens from across the North Texas area to talk about what’s on their minds and then a story is printed about what when on– every time, a lot of the teens speak about (no joke) wishing their parents would set limits for them, follow through with consequences when they do set limits, and give them jobs to do around the house (c’mon over to my house, kids!! )

So I think good parenting is a balance between giving freedoms and setting limits. Wonder what will try to tip the scales next week…

6 thoughts on “Lend Me Your (Double-Pierced?) Ear”

  1. I said Yes to that as well (I mention that early in the post), but I’ll elaborate a bit…she’d already seen the movie at a friend’s house, so I checked out the parent reviews at Common Sense Media, an online site where parents give their two cents about movies and books.  The concern for most was the obsessive nature of the main relationship, that Bella was a poster child for girls who can be manipulated and controlled…not a great role model.  Allison, Emmie and I discussed this aspect and then I bought her the book.  She says it’s the best book she ever read and at first could not put it down, but the interest has waned.  It will be interesting to see if she can get through it.

  2. Patty,
    I loved this post! I think you’re absolutely right about setting boundries but not being over-controlling. I think all 3 of us girls turned out to be pretty decent girls because our parents did the same thing! Kids need to learn how to be independent and make their own decisions.

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