Friday, March 4, 2011

Parenting with an Open Mind

So quick question, answer it as quickly as possible (in your head is fine):

Is it ok to send your child to school with pink or blue spray streaks in their hair?

Got your initial answer?  Now think about it.  Was your initial answer based on what others have told you was ok?  Or was your answer something that you feel strongly about?

This exact question was a daunting one for me, and for Dana as well.  I admit that my first answer to my question, is not the same as it is now.  A few months ago my mom gave Kaia a can of pink hairspray.  I admit right now, my first reaction was, "Oh no, she didn't..."  The "mom" in me was cringing.  It wasn't ok to put pink spray in my 7 year old's hair. 

A few days later, the "me" in me grabbed the mom in a choke hold and called her a big hypocrite that had somehow lost touch with her own ideas.  Somehow the "mom" in me was listening to what society might think, or what other parents might think, rather than what I might think.  And it's true.  Prior to Kaia starting school I looked at all the local options.  First off, I'm a huge proponent of public schools.  I strongly believe that while they may be underfunded, the teachers are there not for the great pay and benefits (which they don't have) but because they have a passion for the next generation.  So I was ready to put Kaia into our local public school, but was concerned about child care before and after, and felt it would be best to look at all of our options.  The problem was, every single private school whether Catholic, Christian or Seventh Day Adventist all had a student handbook. And every student handbook had some rule about the length of hair for boys, and color of hair for boys and girls.  There were also rules on nail polish use, the banning of use by boys.  Most also had policy on clothing and it wasn't just about modest clothing.  With each rule I became upset. 

Dana and I are the parents of our kids.  If Dana and I are ok with our boys having long hair or painting their nails, I don't want a school telling us it's inappropriate.  If Dana and I allow Kaia to dye her hair purple and spike it, then it is our decision, And if our kids want to wear jeans with holes in the knees, and sneakers that are falling apart as part of their self-expression, then so be it.  We draw the line when clothing is immodest, or when the alteration is permanent like a tattoo or piercing, or last if the self-expression is actually rebellion that comes with attitude.  But most of all we don't need a school telling us what is acceptable for our children. 

I have heard the arguments that rules in school prep our kids for rules at work, and I'm fine if you feel that way.  I strongly feel that childhood and adolescent years are for figuring out who you are, and if you are too busy trying to fit into someone else's box of what is acceptable, how can  you do that?

Sure my initial reaction was very anti-pink hair, but this morning I sprayed 2 pink stripes into Kaia's hair, just like I did a few days ago.  Pink hair doesn't hurt anyone.

I'm definitely going to start doing a check on myself when I have gut reactions to things.  Too often, my initial reaction is not my own.  Have you spotted any areas in  your life where you are listening to others rather than listening to yourself?


jennifer said...

I love that you honored Kaia's creative side by allowing her to have pink streaks in her hair. I know she looked gorgeous! Don't tell her but at 6 years old we allowed Diva Daughter to get a second hole in her ear. We got some odd looks from friends and family but it was a tame little hole - it didn't change who she was one bit.

I give my son a faux hawk whenever he wants and would allow him to grow his hair long IF it grew right. Long hair on him equals a head four times the normal size for a ten year old - he hates the way it looks too.

The public schools in our county have a uniform policy that is strictly imposed. I thought I would HATE it. Instead, I kind of dig it now. It puts kids on the same playing field when it comes to name brands and crap like that. It also makes them think about how they will show their individuality within the dress code. Great earrings, bracelets, shoes, hairstyles... whatever, but they have to put more thought into how they will represent who they are.

We have to give guidance to our children but we also have to appreciate their unique personalities. You are a WONDERFUL mom TJ and don't let others make you question that.

jennifer said...

Oh look! I wrote a blog post in your comments! :)

Anonymous said...

WOW!! Didn't even think I was going to cause a parenting dilemma when I bought the pink spray. I remember a certain daughter of mine who had very little rules imposed on her dress code and I think she learned to weigh options and see consequences for choices. Even as simple as can I wear a tank top to school. I know Kaia appreciated being able to feel different and special today. Hope the angst is not too bad for you and Dana. Next time I'll ask first. Sorry I didn't last time.

Liz said...

I would absolutely let my son dye his hair whatever color he wanted (perhaps drawing the line at black--do you know what that does to towels?!) The main reason why I detest private schools is they prohibit self expression through clothing and hair styles. Honestly, I would be *that* rule-breaker that would let their kid get a piercing, or wear his hair "long" (his dad did, I can't tell him no LOL), and while I would feel uncomfortable with it, I would 100% stand behind him if he chose to cross-dress to school. Kids are not hurting themselves or anyone else by choosing their styles. Why should we place limits on their creativity?
PS: There was a little girl who used to come in to my old work with her mom, and every time she came in she had a different color streak in her hair. I told her she was lucky to have such a cool mom who let her dye her hair :)

TJ said...

Jennifer I'm so glad you chimed in, I was interested in your thoughts coming from a place where uniforms are standard. I agree that in your children's case they have to be even more creative. I'm keeping Kaia at one piercing per lobe for now, however when she's older we'd probably let her get more. Ear piercings are easy enough to remove or hide.

Liz, I feel the same way. I will back my kids no matter what, even if I think it's ugly and tacky.

And for the record, I am not upset with my mom for buying Kaia the hairspray, I'm actually glad she did because it made me think. As she said, I was able to choose my looks growing up and while I have some hideous photos to prove it, I'm glad.

Danielle said...

Yay for pink hair streaks. Remember when Annalise had "rainbow hair day" at school?

dianna said...

Love this post! And I can relate. I am a product of 12yrs of private school...I would have LOVED a little more freedom. (it was equal parts parents :/ ...)

I'm doing things a little bit differently though...and watching my girls blossom ; )