Before you ask – the answer is yes, it’s permanent.
I let my 6-year-old dye her hair pink. And it was totally worth it and here’s why.
I have this distinct memory from my childhood of wanting to get my ears pierced. I was maybe 8 or 9 and I had never wanted anything so badly in my life. My parents had said absolutely not – they originally told me I had to wait until I turned 12 and then I negotiated them down to 10 and then they refused to even discuss it again. Every time I asked them why my dad would say “because your mom said so.” And my mom would say “because that’s what dad and I decided.”
And I remember thinking, after the 4th or 5th time hearing that, “I am SO going to remember this, and I am NEVER going to do this to my kids. I’m not going to set arbitrary rules ‘just because.'”
Of course, looking back the whole thing is totally laughable. As a semi-functioning adult and wildly impatient parent I now understand very intimately why adults have to set arbitrary rules for kids.
Sometimes because they aren’t actually arbitrary (my dad didn’t want me getting my ears pierced right before soccer season, and my mom didn’t trust that I was old enough to take care of a piercing myself) and sometimes because you just have to prove to the little demons that you are the grand supreme ruler and they need to shut up and step back.
But still, the memory of that moment, and my frustration, sticks with me.
I think about it often when my kids ask to do ridiculous things like use face paint right before bed. At which point I smile, take a deep breath, and gently tell the girls “no fucking way.”
But other times, the memory does influence my decisions. Like when Mia asked to get her ears pierced at 5 and instead of saying, “you’re too young” I said, “sure, let’s do it.”
Or when Lucy wanted to wear an angry birds belly shirt to the playground and I said – whatever makes you stop whining.
I am well aware that the primary role of a parent is to help their kids make good decisions until they
develop a fully functioning frontal cortex reach the arbitrary age of 18, at which point they are released into the “adult” world to make as many stupid decisions as they please.
But sometimes, and maybe it’s still 8 year old Hannah talking, I think maybe we overstep. Maybe we say no just because we think that’s what we should say. Or because of what other parents might think. Maybe we say no even when there isn’t an inevitable and irreversible consequence that their still-developing brains just can’t process. Often, I say no just for my own convenience.
And that’s fine. Every kid is different. Mia is ready for some decisions that Lucy isn’t and vice versa. And neither of them are ready for unsupervised face paint.
But I am constantly reminding myself that even though they are little, they are little people. They have their own unique wants and desires and even if they seem silly to me they are real to them and deserve to be acknowledged. From their political views to their outfit choices to their hair colors, I owe it to them to at least hear them out and ask myself before automatically saying no whether anyone would really get hurt if the answer was yes.
Six years after my parents finally let me get my ears pierced I told them I wanted to get my belly button pierced. I was 16 and I expected them to laugh, but instead they said – go for it.
And then my dad locked himself in the bathroom and threw up.
But they let me do it. And it gave me a lot of respect for them. Especially because I knew they thought it was a bad idea.
It made me feel empowered, independent, and responsible. And it made me not want to do anything really stupid, lest I have my decision making privileges revoked.
So this year, when Mia told me she wanted to dye her hair pink, I said hahaha no.
And then 8 year old me said, why not yes?
And I did something I rarely do. I changed my mind.
I said sure, why not. It’s only hair. It grows back. You do you.
And so we did a thing…
..and Mia is stoked.
And I kind of love it, too.