Choosing my Battles, and why I allow my Girls their freedom of expression

As a parent, I’ve come to believe that I have a finite amount of live ammunition to use in the “war” of raising children – particularly female children.   I kinda sorta want to save it for when its really, really, really needed.  So, I have lots to think about when issues come up with  my  girls.  I’ve got two who are strong willed and opinionated.  If I have to argue with them and put my foot down, I’d prefer it to be about something truly important.  I’m also tired – I work a full time job and take care of home and family just like so many of us do.  It takes a lot out of me, and again I’d prefer to save my energy for where its most effective and useful. Bill Cosby said once  “Parents aren’t interested in justice – we want QUIET!”- and to a certain extent that’s true.  That said,  its more important to me for them to get homework done, stay away from drugs, and maintain their GPA than it is to worry about gauged ears and septum piercing. So I ask myself when things come up – will this matter tomorrow, next week, next month or next year?  Am I objecting to something only because I personally don’t like it?

Non negotiable:  1.  You must shower or bathe daily and hair must be clean 2. Your clothes must be clean and not overly suggestive – Feminine and ‘fashion-forward’ is one thing, looking like a woman of questionable morals is quite another. 3.  You must wear deodorant. 4. You have demonstrated you are intelligent, now you must keep up your grades.  5. Homework>Chores>Recreation in that order please and thank you! 6. Don’t lie to me, and keep your word. Trust is earned with some difficulty and it only takes one misstep to destroy it. 7. Watch your mouth.  You will appear much more intelligent if you avoid swearing. 8. You must be respectful towards others even when you are upset with them.  9. I have to meet your friends, at least once. Everything else is pretty much on the table.

My older daughter is currently a college freshman interested in art and photography and involved in the alternative music scene.  At 16 we allowed her to get a small tattoo for her birthday (I have several also). Since she turned 18 she’s gotten several more tattoos. Her nose and septum are pierced, and her ears are gauged.  These are definitely not things I would choose for myself.  However,  we did sit down and have several talks about the social consequences of deviating from appearing “normal”.  (When I say normal I mean it as middle of the road/average/ what most people are doing.)  While she is “expressing herself” through body modification she is also limiting her career opportunities and social status.  The look is scary to most, and people WILL  judge her on her appearance (and as a formerly obese person, I’ve been judged too).

Here’s the flip side:   She graduated high school in the top third of her class; National Honor Society, member of an award winning high school choir, volunteer at several charitable organizations and winner of the prestigious Youth of the Year Award at our local Boys and Girls Club last year.  By allowing her the freedom of self expression (not fighting that battle) I was able to focus more of my energy on supporting her to value and rely on her own judgement & hopefully improve her self confidence.  Also:  to value academics, social activism, community involvement, and a good moral code of conduct.  Do we argue?  You betcha!  Like I said before,  she’s one of my two strong willed and opinionated ladies, and she set the bar pretty darn high for her sister in that regard.  Can’t tell you how many times I tell her to” Lose the Attitude!”  Comes with the territory when raising a teenage girl for sure.

I’m just starting down the long teenage road with my younger daughter.  MUCH different personality but just as stubborn. She’s more “goofy” and happy go lucky than her sister – my little comedienne – we’ve got a ways to go, and I’ll do some things differently with her I’m sure.

What are your “non-negotiables” ?  What’s most important to you in the “battle”?  I’d love to hear!


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