Choose Your Battles!

October 23, 2012

Choose your battles. We have all heard those words of advice. As parents, we don’t want to be tyrants, raising our children with no sense of “self”. We strive to be fair and reasonable.

By allowing them some freedom to make mistakes or suffer the consequences of bad choices, they grow. We don’t want to make all their choices or leave them feeling they have no control over themselves or their environment. So, we choose our battles. We only go to “war” with them over the most important issues, issues that concern health, morality, education, etc. I try to take the time to think things through rather than just responding.

Recently my daughter announced she was “ready” to have her ears pierced. She is 6 yrs old and we had always told her piercing her ears would have to be a decision she would make when she was ready. She considered it over the years, only recently deciding she was ready to take the plunge. We discussed the need to keep the new holes clean and that the piercing may hurt. We talked about the responsibility of caring for earrings. She considered it all and decided it was time. I was downright proud of her thought process in all this. What I was not prepared for was the next considered opinion I heard: “I have decided I want to have my belly button pierced,” said my 5-year-old son in a very serious voice.

Good grief!

How do I explain to a 5 year old that as a culture we readily accept girls having holes in their ears — some girls are given earrings at birth! But society may frown upon a hole in a belly button. Why? Hum…what do I tell him to the inevitable, why?

I would like to consider myself open minded. I try to choose my battles thoughtfully. Is it safe to pierce a belly button (any more or less safe than ears)? Is there a benefit to be derived from piercing? I try to teach them not to judge others on physical attributes. Just because in one culture belly piercing is inappropriate, is it wrong? Some cultures find nose piercing very attractive. In raising my children, I also try to avoid gender bias. Is piercing only ok for girls? Why? We should all be free to express our individuality. I want them to be individuals.

So, why then is my gut saying “I can’t wait to pick out earrings for my daughter,” and at the same time “there is no way my son is walking around with jewelry in his navel.”

I have no legitimate basis to support my gut reaction.

When my child really wants to wear a ridiculous outfit to school (and it won’t interfere with learning, etc.), I say “fine”. It’s just clothes and if it is important to them – why make this a battle? If they want to wear shorts in a snowstorm, I put my foot down and explain to them the effects of frostbite. I have a “reason.”

Ok, I know, time to exercise the “because I said so” rule. But, I try to only use this rule when it applies across the board. For instance “you cannot catapult peas off your spoon across the kitchen BECAUSE I SAID SO.” This applies to my kids and husband equally. I don’t need to engage in battle with this one, because I said so is reason enough. This also applies to situations of imminent danger. “Because I said so” will have to be reason enough and we can talk about the “why” later.

How is it that before we actually have kids, we know all the answers? Once they arrive, they constantly manage to stump us.

Our logic defeated. And who would have thought I would have to deal with belly piercing when my son was 5 year old!

I have only one response to offer my son. Can he pierce his belly button? “Go ask your father.”

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