From the time he was 4, eldest kid wanted both his ears pierced. It always surprised us as he was (and is) largely a laid back and conservative fellow, and yet he never strayed from that desire. Eventually he got to an age where he wasn’t expressing he would like to have it done, he was asking when he could have it done, and we made the family rule that ear piercing would have to wait until the
victim child requesting to have it done was 12 years of age, regardless of gender. (Naturally, this all fell in a heap when youngest child was nearing 10…the only girl, she nagged sufficiently and loudly until her brothers requested we get them done for her tenth birthday just to shut her up…but I would have stuck to my guns otherwise…sure I would.)
By ten, eldest kid had decided one ear piercing would be sufficient and looked forward to his twelfth birthday, and on the eve of his twelfth birthday he was excited about getting them done the next day. The day came, and he and I drove into the city. It was an unusually quiet trip considering he rarely let an opportunity go by to have a more sophisticated conversation without his younger siblings around, and as I searched for a car park he asked me where I’d made the appointment. I told eldest kid that I hadn’t made an appointment, that we would just find a chemist. He said he didn’t think that was a good idea – that it might not be a good place to get your ear pierced if it was just a walk in place. I told him that it was how people had been getting them done for decades and it would be fine. He listed a bunch of reasons why it sounded dodgy to him, none of which I remembered as I jostled with other drivers for a car space. Finally, I parked the car and turned off the engine and he turned to me and said he thought we should just make a booking somewhere and come back another time. Without the distraction of the other insane motorists in the car park I stopped and really listened to what he was saying. And the penny finally dropped…I have always been an indecisive person, mostly because I was so afraid of making the wrong decision, something I wouldn’t wish on my kids. I had visions of the many situations we can get ourselves into because we’re too scared to change our mind once we’ve set something in motion – marriages, drugs, jobs, houses, moves…and here was this kid in his adolescence about to face a wall of pressure over the next few years to live according to other peoples’ ideals; I wanted him to know that he could always change his mind if his gut didn’t feel good about something.
“Eldest Kid, we don ‘t have to get your ear pierced today. You know that you can always change your mind, right? Even if it’s something you thought you always wanted to do – you can still decide not to do it anymore…you know?”
“I still will do it, just not today,” he said.
“Sure…just let me know and I’ll book it in,” his face glowed with relief and mine glowed with what may have been the pinnacle of my parenting prowess. He is twenty next month and still has no holes in his ears.
Cut to 8 years later…last weekend youngest kid (nearly 15) decided she liked me and assaulted me with a mystifying swirl of conversation topics…school, life, hair, friends, volleyball, the dog, holidays, and somewhere in the middle of that she asked if I’d give permission for her to get her septum pierced because she thinks they look really cute. Crap. Luckily, I’d had about 4 coffees prior..and after only 90 seconds of silent mental screaming, I said that I didn’t want to take responsibility for her getting such a serious piercing. She arched an eyebrow at me, and I took a breath and was totally honest: that I thought if I gave her permission at this age, there could come a time where she would be cross with me for ‘letting’ her get it and quite frankly, I’d rather she did it when she was legally allowed to make that decision herself, because then she’d know she really wanted it, she’d own it and it wouldn’t become an issue between us at a later date. Phew.
She was thoughtful for a few seconds and then said “Yeah, that’s fair,”
And then I died because a) she agreed with something I said, b) she didn’t criticise me and c) I think I might have got it right, sort of. Maybe. Yeah.
Had any parenting wins lately? Please share!