Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hang on or let go?

Ah, the struggles of parenthood. It's always hard to know when to let go a little more or when to hold them back. Of course we want them to learn from their mistakes, but we also want to PREVENT them from making mistakes. This is one of the hardest struggles for me as a parent.

I think back to when I was a child. I am the oldest and only girl. My parents were super strict with me. I wasn't allowed to do anything (makeup, date, shave legs, go anywhere without a parent) until I was almost 16! It was tough. But, I think I grew up to be a pretty decent person. Was this the reason? If I had been given more freedom would I have wasted it? Or taken it for granted? Would I have made worse mistakes? I do know that when I WAS given freedom (when I turned 18) that I did make poor choices. Had I been given that freedom when I still lived with my parents would I have made better choices? I don't know. I don't fault my parents for raising me the way they did. I am a little bitter than my younger brothers were raised in a completely different manner (given a license and car at age 16, and another one when they wrecked that one, whereas I had to wait until 18 to get my license). At the time I thought they sucked and that they were ruining my world. But, I'm happy with how I turned out and the adult that I've become (can't really say the same for my brothers), so I thank them.

But, now it is time to make some of these decisions for MY child. Do we go the opposite way and relax? Do we do the same thing and stay strict? Is there a middle ground? And where is it? What things to relax and what things to reign in? It's such a battle.

Here are a few of the issues that we face with our pre teen daughter: cell phones, computer access, staying home alone, makeup, dating, going places without adults, shaving legs, clothing and hair coloring/straightening. You get the point. All the things that are SO important to a middle school child. We have decided to pick our battles and draw the line on things that are really important and be a little lax on things that aren't such a big deal.

We draw the line on cell phones (not anytime soon), dating (she actually had a "boyfriend" last year and she broke it off bc she didn't like being a couple), going places without adults (not allowed at this point), hair coloring/straightening (not allowed, even the hair dresser told her it would be bad). We are pretty strict with the computer access, but she does have some. She has an e-mail account (that we check daily) and will not have myspace, facebook or IM for awhile. We're pretty strict about the home alone thing too. She used to be allowed to stay home alone for 2 hours after school every day. But, she abused that power, so it's been taken away. Occasionally, we let her stay home while we run to the store, but it doesn't happen often. Once she earns back the trust she'll be allowed a little more.

We give her pretty free reign in the clothing department (as long as it's not skimpy). She definitely has a different taste for clothes, but as long as she's covered we are fine with her expressing herself this way. Last year I broke down and let her start shaving her legs. I know that it bothered me tremendously when people would tease me because I wasn't allowed to shave my legs. I didn't want her to go through that. And it's really not a big deal to me. As long as she doesn't hurt herself.

Here's the big one: makeup. We finally decided to let her wear make up this year. And by make up I mean eye shadow and lip gloss and a little bit of mascara. I really wanted to hold out. I hate the way some of these girls cake the makeup on. It looks awful. But, one of my friends suggested going to the school to see how many girls DON'T wear make up. She reminded me what it felt like to be such an outsider when "everyone else was doing it". I remember and it wasn't fun. And is makeup really such a big deal? At least she's not doing drugs or having sex. I can live with some makeup. She kept pushing that she wanted eyeliner. I REALLY didn't want her to, but I knew it was the "cool" thing. So, I decided to put some on her and see if she liked it. I didn't do the best job (partially on purpose, partially bc it was hard to put on someone else) and she hated it. She agreed that she didn't need eyeliner! YAY! And she even talked to one of her friends and she agreed that she looks better without! Double YAY!

Let me tell you this is one of the best decisions I've made. She's happy, I'm happy (you can barely even tell she has makeup on). She thinks we're giving her "freedom" and that we're "cool".

And she hasn't even asked for a cell phone for three days!

Definitely know when to pick your battles!


Stephanie said...

Oh, Lori! You are scaring me!

You really are such a wise mama and your kids are lucky to have you. They'll know that when they're parents one day, right?

Nichole said...

Oh Lord...I don't want any girls. I'm scared!!!!

I really do admire you, Lori. I think you're doing a wonderful job with Carissa. It's wise to choose your battles!!!

Laura said...

Oh wow! Yes, the preteen years are enough to make me quiver just thinking about them! But I'm just so glad to have such great examples of Mamas like you who are wading through this territory before me, and doing such an EXCELLENT job!

You have no idea how much I look up to you, Lori. You are one amazing mother!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

See? Now THIS is why you are my rock star, role model mama. I think you guys are doing a great job of trying to find the middle ground, and like you said - pick your battles. I am already dreading the pre-teen years, and by the time D and Sis are older, who knows what age will be considered "pre-teen"!?!

Please keep writing about stuff like this. I want to hear it all - the good, bad, and dramatic!

Elizabeth F. said...

I am very scared...I can tell Zoe will be a handful!

I have to say that while I read that it was like reading my life story...exactly the way I grew up! Ughh.. I have the same questions. How strict or how lenient should I be? Where is the balance? I went CrAzY when I left home with all of my freedom. And I do not have a great relationship with my parents b/c of stuff. I dunno. Lots of praying to do. he..he..

Andrea said...

Great post Lori! Something we are all going to face someday. Even with boys to some extent.

I really feel that all of those things are a luxury and need to be earned. It's hard to put a set age on any of them because one 16 year old could be WAY less mature than another. I've always felt that the environment around us is important too. The friends, the places they frequent, are they safe, or unsafe? Your friend gave some great advice about the makeup..and as long as Carissa doesn't abuse it, I don't think it hurts a thing!

Trust me though...being relaxed and letting them do whatever they want only hurts them in the long run. Unfortunately, we are seeing that first hand with my husbands daughter, and we have no control over it.

This parenting stuff is hard.

Andrea said...

Sorry..I meant to say priveledge NOT luxury..I was on my way home from work tonight and i thought..what the heck was I saying?? Similar but different! =)

Corey~living and loving said...

Wonderful and insightful post Lori. I enjoyed reading it. I am not excited to be in your shoes in several years. Such hard choices. I think you are such a wonderful mom. I think the shaving and the make-up are some great compromises. :)
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.