Friday, June 26, 2009

neither hair nor there

My parents are visiting this weekend for Paige's birthday on Sunday. It is a good thing, I love them and am grateful they are here. Yet as hard as I try, being a grown-up and all, sometimes it is supremely difficult to bite my tongue during certain conversations. Frankly, I deliberately steer discussions to the most mundane, mind-numbingly basic/nearly idiotic topics ("Have you ever tried this kind of cottage cheese?" "I saw a squirrel do the craziest thing the other day!") because I just want to avoid talking about things that turn me back into an annoyed, stifled teenager who glumly realizes she will never, ever change her parents' minds about anything important. And then, being a grown-up, I tell myself it doesn't really matter if they agree with my point of view. But that doesn't help much when the subject is my parenting.

I think this falls under the category of "I can talk about my kids' shortcomings but YOU may not [unless you are my very best friend who knows how to do it kindly. And infrequently]." Tonight my dad reintroduced the subject of Personal Appearance, specifically referring to Mason's oft-preferred method of doing his hair. Which is to say, he doesn't. AND we, his parents, allow this to happen. As I have attempted to explain before, it is a battle I'm not interested in waging given the vast opportunities for engagement ahead of us as he enters adolescence. My dad, a strong-willed Scorpio/Texan/former Navy officer & firefighter [P.S. There is nothing wrong with any of these things; they are just a volatile combination], finds this an unacceptable stance.

We went around a few times (BECAUSE I CANNOT SHUT MYSELF UP) with the main points being It Matters how you look and how people think of you, and it's a parent's job to make sure a kid is looking Right [Dad] vs. Yes It Matters [look at me conceding a point! Maturity in action] in certain circumstances but in the end it is Important to be true to yourself; I see my job as making sure my kids realize the impact of their appearance but ultimately make their own choices. To which he pursed his lips and looked away, shaking his head. But you know what? That is progress. Previously, he would lapse into an ominous stony silence to indicate his disapproval and everyone in the vicinity would suffer in discomfort. Tonight, he seemed more resigned to my liberal hippie ways and gave me a hug & kiss on his way out the door.

Maybe next time I'll talk about how I allow my students to wear hats & swear in class.


Fantastic Forrest said...

I know the secret to winning over your Dad! Show him these pictures and ask if he still thinks short hair is the most important thing:

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I find it funny that this conversation would happen now, when his hair is far shorter, and thus tidier. I think he looks great.


I hope today is bright & shiny. Did you sister come down too?

Jen on the Edge said...

One set of my kids' grandparents is the same way. For them, they can't understand why I let my girls wear mismatched outfits (say, plaid shorts with a floral shirt) and then go out in public like that. Yes, the grandparents are that rigid.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you felt brave enough to calmly explain how you felt. You have GREAT kids (I would know they are at my house everyday). I enjoy their sense of individuality and creativity. I support your ability to choose your battles. You are in the trenches, they are not. Much love.
Jen B :)

Shana said...

When I was in New Orleans in February (staying with my dad), I sent Carlie to bed so the adults could watch a R-rated movie (The Changeling, which, hello! creepy as it gets). My dad went on a little rant about how "that's what's wrong with kids today, they're too babied, a rated R movie isn't going to kill her."

His argument doesn't even have to make ANY SENSE WHATSOEVER, and he'll still stand by it.


Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Oh Goodness. If your dad saw the purple tips we let Laura have in her hair for the summer, I'd be grounded, huh?

Alison said...

FWIW, I agree with you. Pick one's battles, especially going into adolescence.

shrink on the couch said...

To my parents great disapproval, I'm sure, because it sounds like our parents think alike, we allowed our son great lattitude with his hair. He kept it very long for a very long time.

And even though we could see it was causing him social and athletic interference (you can't hit a ball that you can't see) we let it be his choice, his comfort zone.

Today? A short, traditional cut. But he chose it and doesn't resent us for it. No battle.

And I don't see a young kid's entire future being dictated by unruly hair. At an important interview? THEN it matters. But he'll figure it out by then.

lisahgolden said...

We just spent last weekend around my parents after 3 years of not seeing them (not out of anger, more out of scheduling, health and money issues). I found myself sticking to the utterly mundane as did they. It's sad, but necessary.

I also felt it necessary to tell my bother the cop to back off when he was teasing the hell out of our adolescent nephew about his hair and manner of dress. I threatened to get out photos from the 80s if he didn't shut up. He did.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I had a teacher pull that crap on me when my oldest son was in 8th grade and dyed his hair pink (not actually the color he was going for).

If my straight-A honor student athlete wants to dye his hair I'm not going to stand in his way. Or make him clean his room and make his bed every day.

The important stuff? That I worry about.

Gretchen said...

Okay, see, here's how I deal with conversations like that:

I go the other direction. I act so blatantly weird to my parents that it detracts from the other argument. Like, I'll start swearing left and right. ("I really don't give a shit how the hell he wears his hair.") Or, I will remind him that he is welcome to come live with me for a week, wake and dress my children every day, and then we can talk. This usually shuts my dad up pretty quickly.


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