A conversation I had with a co-worker a week ago left me feeling glad I don’t have to make the tough decisions and unpopular calls that will be necessary when my daughter becomes a teenager.
It seems his son, a high-school student, had invited a young lady to spend the following afternoon at their house, and he had asked his dad for permission to take his guest on a walk through a nearby wooded area.
I’m not sure what my co-worker’s final verdict ended up being, but I do know I was grateful I’m not to that stage of parenthood yet. It got me thinking about the simple requests my 2-year-old makes: Can I have a cookie? Can I skip my bath? Can I sleep in your bed? Can I color the dog? It’s pretty easy to lay down the law in those instances. Even if Reese isn’t always happy with my answer, she usually doesn’t protest or argue much.
But then I remembered that, actually, about a month ago, my toddler refused to accept one of my decisions without question. She’d asked if I’d take her to get her ears pierced.
I didn’t even have to think about it.
“No,” I told her. “You’re too little. Maybe when you’re bigger, we’ll go do it.”
“But I am a big girl!” Reese insisted.
I told her that she’s getting bigger and learning a lot all the time, which makes me very proud of her, but she’s just not old enough to understand how to properly care for pierced ears.
Then she made a point that was hard for me to counter.
“But Lizzie has pierced ears,” she said.
Lizzie is also nearing her third birthday and is in Reese’s class at day care. And, if my memory serves me correctly, I believe there actually might be a couple sets of pierced ears among my daughter’s peers. Wow, I thought, how do I argue with that?
I considered telling Reese that Lizzie’s parents were wrong to let her do that, but realized that wasn’t a good idea for a few reasons. First of all, Reese repeats a lot of what is said at home, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she parlayed my opinion to Lizzie, who then might inform her parents. Second, who’s to say they’re wrong? What’s age-appropriate to one family might not be age-appropriate in the eyes of another family.
I happen to think 2 is too young for pierced ears, but I also realize it’s common these days to see infants sporting tiny diamond studs. Each parent must do what they believe to be best for their child, but we also must support each other in those decisions, being careful not to judge.
As my daughter grows and matures, I know I’ll be faced with many more decisions of this nature. The ironic thing is, I still vividly remember being on the other side of the equation and having the exact same debates with my mom during my high-school days. I, of course, swore I’d be more understanding and tolerant when I became a parent. Now, I can already tell I’ll be changing my tune.
I recall thinking my parents must have found it hilarious that all my friends teased me about my 11 p.m. curfew when they were allowed to stay out until midnight or later. Why else would they force me to suffer undue embarrassment? Similarly, their insistence that I get a part-time job at 16 must have stemmed from their desire to get me out of the house and cease paying my allowance. It couldn’t have been because they thought it important for me to learn about personal finances, time management and accountability.
Having been quite certain my mom and dad only intended to complicate things, I vowed never to emulate their behavior. My, how things change in the course of 20 years.
I’ll still try to avoid being seen as “old-fashioned” in my daughter’s eyes, but I’m prepared for the times when Reese will deem my decisions unfair. That’s fine, because she’s entitled to her opinion. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to change mine. Besides, she’ll eventually realize I was right — when she’s in her mid-30s.