A Hair-Raising Experience
- 2002 10 Sep
Letting go isnt always easy for a parent to do, at least not this one. My oldest boy, who is junior in high school this year, has been the easiest teen to raise - so far. Ive heard all those horror stories about teenagers always testing the boundaries and trying to break free, but this one never seemed to buck the system. I figured raising teenage boys was a breeze! Then came the day it all changed.
School had begun, and my son had been working at his first steady job for about a month. Out of the blue he came to me and said, Mom, Ive been thinking, I want to get my hair highlighted. Ahhhhhhhhhhh! This was the conservative boy who just a year ago was still getting a summer brush cut. Now suddenly he wanted a new doo of a different shade?
I wasnt ready for that one. Some might think that this is no big deal. But I did. When my kids were younger I made one of those My son will NEVER..... kind of thing statements. I swore none of my boys would ever get an earring or any funky hairdo. Now what was I going to do? I tried to mask my shock when I asked the color. To my relief it was just a few shades lighter than his natural hair and he only wanted the top done. Well, I wasnt about to give in without a fight. Thats expensive, you know, I countered. And you know I dont like that kind of thing. Im not going to pay for it. But he had really thought this one out. I planned on paying for it myself, was his response. I asked him a few more questions as to WHY he was thinking he wanted this done and reminding him that he might hate it when he was done. But he said he was sure he wanted it done. And, after all, it was HIS hair and HIS money. * Sigh* I told him Id think about it and get back to him.
I discussed it with Dad and we decided the time had come to let him make these kind of choices for himself. It wasnt an immoral choice or a choice that would harm him or anyone else. Just, in Moms view, a ridiculous choice. So, reluctantly, off I went to tell junior that he could make his beauty appointment. Then I went off to find his 15 year old prep sister to see what she had to do with this sudden decision!
To make a long story short, he made an appointment and asked his sister to go with him (I KNEW she had something to do with this!). I dropped them off while I went to the grocery store. When I was finished I sat in the car waiting for them. I started thinking about this whole ordeal. I hadnt been too pleasant about his decision or too supportive. Did I really want to keep being so sullen about his choice or did I want to be part of the whole experience. There were going to be more decisions hed have to make as he grew up that would be a lot more serious than this one. Was I always going to pout if he chose differently than I would? Wow! This letting go stuff is hard!
So you know what I did? I grabbed the camera that my daughter had left in the car (she originally planned on taking pictures) and went into the local Fantastic Sams. I looked around a little and suddenly one of the beauticians said Mom, you are being paged. So I went over to my kids - and I will never forget the sight. My son had this bright yellow goop on his hair and it was all sticking straight up. I started to laugh and so did he. My daughter said Hey, the camera! Take some shots!. So we took pictures of TJ in his yellow goop, TJ under the dryer, TJ getting his hair rinsed.....you get the idea. We laughed, we talked, he asked advice about the cut. When the job was finished, I had to admit, he looked pretty nice. He looked at himself in the mirror and he just BEAMED. You can tell he really thought he looked great. It was the right choice - for him. At that moment I was really glad that I became a positive part of the experience instead of a negative onlooker.
The moral of my story - as our teenagers grow up, we as parents must start letting them do just that. Since they have been infants, we have been behind the controls. We have made most of the decisions that have affected their lives. As they enter teen years it is important that we let them test the waters and begin making their own choices. As they get practice making those decisions in the little things that affect their lives, they will gradually move on to more difficult decisions that they will eventually have to make all by themselves. After all, the real goal of parenting is not to keep them children forever, but to teach them and guide them into making sound discussions for the rest of their lives.
What about that earring, you ask? Might heart races just thinking about it. Lets just hope that one never comes up!
Patricia Chadwick is a a freelance writer and has been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. She is currently a columnitst in several online publications as well as editor of two newsletters.