My daughter is very intelligent for her age. Anna is 10 and currently in fifth grade. She is an independent thinker that doesn’t follow the crowd. She wears her hair short and unadorned in comparison to her peers. She doesn’t take much interest in clothing or clothing labels. She is a constant reader and reads far above her age group. She can hold an adult discussion and advocate her point of view articulately. A case in point is the day she came to me and requested to dye her hair blue.
I can’t imagine that the mother of a young lady is waiting for the day her daughter has blue hair. I never thought this topic would occur. Anna is in a charter school. None of her classmates have blue or green hair. But here I was, looking at my blue eyed, beautiful little girl, and there she was, hand on hip with a “I dare you to try to reason me out of this…” look on her face. Except she didn’t get the argument she had prepared for, I said it was fine. Anna is in the unique position of being 15 years younger than her three siblings. She doesn’t recognize the fact that nothing is new to me under the sun. We went and bought some metallic blue dye, double processed her hair…and Walla! she had blue hair.
We went to the library. She reads young adult fiction. Lately Anna has gravitated toward dystopian fiction, and a style of writing I refer to as “funny dark.” She picks out a title called “The F*** It List.” Now, I know it is the title of this book and it’s possible ability to provoke that has drawn her to it. I look over the dust jacket and decide she can, in fact, check it out. She carries that book with her for three days even though she read it in two hours. It has becomes a fashion accessory. She likes to see how people react to the title. We return the book to the library on the fourth day. Our librarian knows Anna very well and knows her appetite for edginess This time, the librarian frowns at the book and informs me that there is a character in there that engages in gratuitous sex. I explain to the librarian that I encourage Anna to read whatever she will read. I explain that this is a phase, just as reading every book with the words “damn it” was a phase for her. The librarian considers case in point, smiles, laughs and asks Anna if she has read anything by Libba Bray. I had to laugh again. I had taken a title by this author away from Anna last year, I guess it was time to give it back.
I see many parents trying to keep their young children young. I understand the desire to keep a certain amount of innocence alive in a young child. However, I also can recall my public school experiences with clarity and recognize the fact that an awful lot happens beyond a parents scope of influence. I choose to have open discussions with Anna regarding everything from sex to pop culture. I will cherish her repulsion at my attempts at sex education and will never forget her exclaiming, “I never want to reproduce!”
If the worst things that happens in my child’s adolescence are having blue hair and reading swear words in scholastic books, she will turn out fine. Her two older sisters are registered nurses a her brondther is an environmental engineer as evidence. We can not insulate our children from the world. The best approach is communication and allowing them to make choices and see the consequences.