Remember Eve's Halloween costume?
The makeup was temporary. The purple streaks in her hair were not.
I know, it's not that surprising. I let my son get freak hair for hockey playoffs. It's the kind of thing that I generally waffle on briefly, agree to, and then worry about. Not the thing itself necessarily, but what it says about my parenting. Am I too permissive? Am I setting a dangerous precedent? Am I letting my desire to be cool supplant my need to set boundaries?
I don't think so. First of all, even though having unusual colours in one's hair is sometimes associated with other unsavoury behaviours, it's basically an arbitrary association. My kids know that I expect them to do their homework, treat other people with respect, eat mostly healthy food and fetch me chocolate whenever I snap my fingers - purple streaks and red fauxhawks don't change that.
I don't automatically agree to everything they ask for. I consider why they're asking and what the cost is. Dying their hair cost more than a regular haircut. However, Eve, unlike me at her age, actually has a sense of style, and I enjoy giving her the opportunity to explore it. I had gotten her a couple of blonde highlights for a fun surprise a few months before and she was thrilled. After she had them for a while, she tentatively asked if it was possible to dye hair other colours, and I suspected what she was hinting at. I knew that Angus would enjoy the experience of doing something fun and unusual for playoffs with his hockey teammates, and I knew Eve would be in transports of ecstasy if I let her dye her hair purple. I don't spoil my kids and I don't give them a lot of things with no occasion, but sometimes I do like doing something nice for them for no other reason than to make them happy. They were both extremely and exuberantly grateful.
I did have one or two other parents tell me they would never let their kids do something similar, but they were in the minority and they weren't disapproving or mean about it. My parents thought it was fantastic, which is a pretty good indication that we're not dealing with anything too alternative or cutting-edge.
How will I handle this type of thing as they grow older? When it might affect how employers view them? I'm not sure. When I see teen-agers with piercings or shocking hairstyles, I try not to let it predispose me to judging them negatively - I wait to see what their speech and behaviour says about them. I would hope people would do the same for my children, but I realize that might be a bit naive. For now, most of the people they say already know them and like them, and the few strangers who have commented have been positive.
Then I read an article - in the Globe and Mail, I think - about how to dissuade young girls from dressing too revealingly. Among the suggestions were helping them to find other ways to express themselves creatively, such as -- wait for it -- an unusual hairstyle.
What do you know - when I wasn't even looking for it, nationally syndicated validation landed right on my computer screen.
What kind of mother lets this happen?
A good one, I hope.