My 12-year-old has pink hair now. Well, half of it is pinkish. More like a red-velvet cupcake if you ask me, but to borrow her vernacular: “whatevs.”
Did you know that if you get a pack of Kool-Aid (preferably the unsweetened variety) you too can have dip-dyed hair for a mere 79 cents? Look it up on YouTube. My 12-year-old did.
When my daughter first informed me that she wanted to dip-dye her (perfectly beautiful) hair, I admit I was not super thrilled. I think our kids are growing up fast enough; I’m not a fan of accelerating the process.
The fact that millions of women worldwide spend millions of dollars trying to replicate the honey-streaked shiny glow that emanates from her head…this was not in her favor either.
Why mess with perfection?
Self-expression when I was 12 looked more like an awkward preppy wanna-be. The bob-cut was the rage. I sported the flipped-up collar and the whole disaster. Oh, cringe. That said, turning up anywhere with half-dyed brightly colored hair would be asking for the wrong kind of attention in the conformity-loving home town where I was raised.
And then I got zapped.
Thankfully, before I opened my mouth to ask my daughter why she needed (her word) to dip-dye her hair, the lightening bolt hit me.
This was “so” not about me or what I think. It was not about my experience when I was in her shoes. This was about the process of letting go. In this particular case — of her hair.
And I thought I was done with this lesson after letting her traipse about in her kooky little numbers as a pre-schooler. Ha. I know, right?
Ten years back, I had a colleague who was one of the most impressive control freaks I have ever known. Her life was locked and loaded 24/7. Her children were always immaculately groomed and matchy matchy matchy.
On the odd occasion when I brought my then toddler to the office, she would watch my child bounce joyfully about the office in abject horror. As previously reported, there were some wacky combinations indeed, but they were all weather appropriate. We all have our limits.
Meanwhile, my colleagues’ children waited silently in the boardroom, hands in laps. Or drinking tea. (Oh my) Whiteboards were not scribbled on. Chairs were not spun.
Who knew you could still buy Laura Ashley dresses in the new millennium? Or that you could coerce a young girl to wear one?
I don’t think that self-expression was an option on her watch. It seemed to me that the reigns were very tight indeed.
I know I sound judgmental. But when I was newer to the mommyhood, I cared a lot more about what others mothers thought of me. The abject horror on my coworker’s face made me feel judged negatively at the time.
Now, I can see that judgmental moms tend to be the ones who fear judgment the most. So I have re-framed feeling judged, and judging others, into mere observations. There is no good or bad. There merely “is.” This is a far more empowering place to be.
I should add, in fairness, that my colleague was excellent at the same job as I was failing at. That was my big lesson in not being able to sell something if I don’t believe in it; but that is another story for another day…
Back to the hair. The red-velvet cupcake hair.
I strive to be the kind of parent that you can talk things through with openly. Without fear of being judged — or shut down, or made to feel small, or that your opinion does not matter. I don’t always get it right, and that is how it goes. Imperfectly, like life itself. We strive, and we readjust as appropriate.
But I did ok on this one. I am grateful I got zapped before I opened my mouth and wished for a re-do.
The hair dye was about my tween wanting to express herself, although I am pretty sure she didn’t see it that way. She just thought it would be “cool.”
And so far (fingers crossed for the future) she cares much more about what she thinks of herself, than what others think of her. Who am I to take this precious gift of good thinking away from her?
This moment was about me allowing her personal freedom — in a significant and symbolic way.
All told, it was a beautiful moment. The letting go was worth it’s weight in golden Kool-Aid. To see the satisfaction on her face was as lovely as sharing the process of the dip-dying with her.
I am happy-teary at the memory already. It was a watershed event for both of us, I think. I came to realize if I try to thwart her self-expression, it will only end it tears. (Mine.)
She’s a good kid. She’s on the right track. And now her hair looks so good — you could eat it.
My reins are as slack as they need to be for now…letting go is a process. I’m not about to jump off the saddle of motherhood in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, I will do my level best to respond to the needs of my beautiful and amazing creature. She who makes the ride so very, very scenic indeed.