I remember one of the greatest pieces of parenting advice my mother ever gave me was to pick my battles when it came to my children’s choices in life. She told me that if I nitpicked over everything, then they would never listen to me when something was really important.
Being a creative person, I have always believed in allowing my children to express themselves artistically in any way they choose as long as it doesn’t infringe upon others.
After all, remember what our parent used to think of the way we dressed when we were growing up? My dad still refers to my “black period” in the eighties when I wore all black ensembles and, quite randomly, as he still points out to this day, earrings that looked like airplanes dangling from my lobes.
Somehow, I turned out OK. And I’m pretty sure that if my parents had stopped me from dressing a certain way, I would have wanted to do it even more.
Recently, over spring break, my girls decided to do a little experiment they saw online — dye their hair with red Kool Aid. While I didn’t know about this choice in advance, once it was done, I really didn’t have a problem with it. They dyed small sections for the most part beneath the top layer of their hair, and it looked cute.
I’m not going to lie, there are fashion choices I would take issue with — piercings, tattoos, immodest clothing, but this was not the hill I was prepared to die on. I let it go and assumed it would wash out in a few days.
I was wrong.
My youngest daughter’s dance teacher told her she had to “get the pink out” before her dance competition. So, after several rounds of clarifying shampoo, I had the hair stylist put a dark brown rinse on it to cover it up.
My older daughter was told it was against her dress code at school — something neither of us knew about. So, we cut several inches from her hair and then used the following: clarifying shampoo, baking soda, vinegar and laundry detergent to make what was left fade.
I have to admit, I did all of this reluctantly because, on one hand, I want them to respect authority, on the other hand, they didn’t do it to defy anyone, they were just being kids.
Suddenly, as I am writing this, I remembered the day I was called into the principal’s office in high school for violating the dress code. At the time, I attended a very strict religious school, and I’m pretty sure the length of my uniform kilt (too short), the type of shoes I was wearing (clogs), the color of my knee socks (purple), the jean jacket that was supposed to be a blazer, and the length of my earrings (dangling) all violated the dress code
But, at the same time, I was a straight A student who was involved in many extracurricular activities on campus and had never been in trouble before. I had no real answer for him as to why I willfully violated the dress code other than the fact that I was just trying to express my individuality.
By the time I got home, he had also called my parents. I’ll never forget how my mother handled it.
“Amanda, Mr. Bishop called about the way you’re dressing at school,” she said matter-of-factly.
“I know, Mom. He made me come to his office today,” I replied bashfully.
“Look, I really think you look cute every day, but you’re going to give the guy a heart attack if you keep this up. Can you just give him a break and try a little harder to follow the rules? I don’t want to have to deal with another call from him. It’s just awkward. Can you help me out here?”
“No problem, Mom. Will do.”
So, maybe that’s why I’m just not that uptight about pink hair. Heck, if I could have it now and get away with it, I probably would too …
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.