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To My Daughters:
Yesterday we discussed expressing yourself. We discussed why you weren’t allowed to die your hair blue until you were 18, why you weren’t allowed to use that as a method of self expression. And your question, it made sense, a whole lot of sense. My best answer is simple, yet totally complicated as well. You see, it is our job as your parents to keep you safe, and safe is a loaded word. We feed you everyday and as a result you are safely developing in height and weight. We put a roof over your head and as a result you have a safe place to rest your head. We talk and discuss life and as a result you feel safe in your environment to speak honestly and openly. So, as a result of your curiosity and questions I answered the best way I knew how.
First, I told you a story about my childhood. I told you about the time I wore a shirt that my “friends” pulled off my shoulders, inevitably de-shirting me on the playground in 5th grade. You see, this was an awful experience for a million and one reasons. I was young and not yet developed, therefore I did not need support for my up top. That which was private about me was visible in one simple second of humor for my “friends”. But, it was an impressionable time in my life, a time where their opinions mattered a whole lot. It was the time when everyone else was developing, therefore my lack of development was noticed and made fun of. And in one simple act of humor on the playground I became the class joke and the boys would chant “Flat as a board, easy to nail”… Now you see… they had no idea if I was actually easy to nail and though they could clearly see I was flat, they had no idea how hurtful their jokes were. And I am certain the girls that de-shirted me and the boys that chanted, they don’t even remember the moment. But, I can tell you this, that moment shaped a lot about who I became, why I became her, how I developed self-esteem and what I thought my self worth was based on my outward appearance. In one simple moment of passed judgement, stereo typing and kids being kids, a bit of who I was becoming was defined. And years later I finally discovered that all the value I put on my physical outer appearance, all that I judged about myself, all the thoughts and self esteem I convinced myself I shouldn’t have because I was “flat as a board”, well that was no way to judge myself, my outer appearance is not what mattered, it was what was inside that should have mattered.
Fast forward to having three daughters and coaching you through life. This is my opinion and mine alone for the three of you. And I strongly believe every parent has a right to parent as they see fit, but for the three of you, this is how I am going to navigate. I am going to approach parenting a bit conservatively. The reason why is simple… The clothes you wear, the color of your hair, piercings and tattoos, they are all visible on the outside. The outside is where you are able to self express and I 100% agree with that. As your ma, you know I am covered in tattoos and have piercings and though I am not brave enough, I think blue hair would be pretty awesome. But, you see, you are young, you are at that same impressionable age that I was, that stage where friends opinions matter and I want your self esteem built in healthy ways. I want your self esteem to be built based on what’s on your insides, not how people see your outsides.
I want people to know your heart, your mind, your good intentions and your kind soul. I want people to take time to get to know you. I want to limit all the ways your peers can make fun of you and judge you and I want to ensure that your friends parents don’t judge you simply because you may have blue hair. Let me say it again, I know that none of these things defines you. I think expressing yourself is really cool and I could care less if you have blue hair. But, it is my job to keep you emotionally safe as you grow. And it is my belief that when you are young, when you think blue hair and tight clothes is cool, that’s when it is my job to say no. I will say no and I will explain why too short shorts, too tight pants, certain styles, blue hair and piercings may not be a good idea. I will explain that being made fun of for what you look like on the outside impacts how you judge yourself for your whole life on the inside. I will explain that expressions of yourself can be judged by others in negative ways when they simply have no clue who you are. I will explain that what we put out there for others to judge will be judged and sometimes the negative emotional impact hurts more than me saying no. I will explain that I want your self esteem to be built based on your character and your intellgence. I want your self esteem to come from who you are inside, not what you look like outside. And I will explain that when you are 18, when you are better equipped to not be hurt by the judgements and to make those decisions knowing you could be judged, then I support you 100%.
I believe that when you turn 18, when you have an idea of who you are becoming and what kind of grown up you want to be, when you have life tools and more experience with judgements and stereo types, you can then also make decisions about your hair color and tattoos and piercings. When you are 18 you will know what you want to be when you grow up, maybe, and you will be able to choose who you want to be and how you want to express yourself. By the time you are 18 your dad and I will have taught you about judgements and why people judge and how judging can impact you and you will have the knowledge and the know how to make decisions for yourself with that understanding. When you are 18 and navigating through being an adult, then you will have the right to express yourself how you see fit. And you will have parents that support you 100%, all of the way. Shoot, I will go with you to get your first tattoo and hold your hand through a nose piercing, maybe even help you pick the perfect shade of blue, if in fact, that is how you still want to express yourself.
Until then, we will talk our way through this crazy little thing called life. I never want to dull your sparkle. I never want to prevent you from becoming 100% you. I never want you to feel judged by who you want to be or how you want to express yourself. I will teach you not to judge, but to take time to get to know someone, you see, life is a two way street. And I will keep my loving bubble around you as long as possible and I will speak honestly about why it is there… Bottom line, I love you, all three of you.