My son wants dreadlocks. Thoughts on this?
This was my Facebook post last night.
What resulted was a fiery response of parenting advice--" Choose your battles carefully. It is only hair. One day you will need to say no, why not let him win this one?" wrote one friend. Another rattled right back, " Because it only gets worst [sic] when they are 15. Kids need boundaries." I stayed out of the fire, amused by the responses that ensued.
Here's what may have surprised my friends though. I wasn't looking for parenting advice--or at least not the kind they assumed. There was no conflict or argument happening in our house. I wasn't looking for an answer to the question Should I let him? I really just wanted to know what other people thought about the idea of letting a ten year old who so treasures his precious locks do something that may require the shaving of a head, resulting in tears and drama. I'm all about no drama in our house.
I have found out in my twenty years of being a mother that everybody has parenting advice, including me. But I've also looked around, and discovered that nobody has my kids, so the good-intentioned advice tends to be mostly useless. I've even found my own advice--what worked with the oldest--to be pretty unhelpful by the time the youngest came around. Each child is so different, that I can't even be the same mother to all three of them.
Our children are our greatest investment. We pour our energies into raising children we are proud of, and we are proud of them, so we want others to take the same measures so they too can have the best kids in the world. But parenting is the least scientific experiment in the history of the world with the impossibility of control groups. We too often forget that we are dealing with little pieces of humanity who have their own destined personalities that will be thrust out into the world, no matter what our rules are. Our job is to simply help them fine-tune that personality so that it is as unique and admirable as possible. And we too often forget that while one tactic may work on one child, it may not work on another. For example: time out? Worked for my oldest. Never needed for the middle one. Massive failure for the youngest. Three different tempers and three different reactions to stress required three different approaches to how to handle anger.
I have friends who are amazing parents with amazing children, but when my kids come home from their houses, they say thank God she's not my mother. Because that style just wouldn't work here. We have to mold our parenting to our children's needs.
Which means, I won't take anybody's advice about the dreadlocks. If my son wants them, I'm likely to say yes for a few reasons: 1. He's not doing it out of rebellion. 2. He used to be so worried about being different, that I am proud that he wants to assert his individuality. 3. He is including me in the conversation. He wants to know my opinion; he wants me to help him research the process; he wants me to explore it all with him. 4. It's not permanent.
And it's okay if those reasons don't resonate with anybody else, because nobody else has this boy living with them. Nobody else knows that if I let him do this, it will only encourage him to continue to include me in his decisions. Nobody else has his spirit to nurture. Nobody else is as invested in or as proud of this boy as I am.
But really, in the end, what we all need to remember is that sometimes our children don't entirely reflect who we are as parents. Sometimes they simply reflect who they are as individuals.