Brian Hamilton: Parents, pick your battles
It had suddenly occurred to me just moments before I arrived at the tattoo shop, but the text message from my wife confirmed it:
“Wait ’til Ma finds out you took Viv to get her nose pierced!”
Ugh. There it was. I’d been set up, by my own wife.
Yes, I confess. It’s true. I allowed our daughter to have a hole poked through her nose on Saturday afternoon. In fact, considering she’s not yet an adult — although she turns 17 next week — I was on hand, serving as the legal witness, for the event itself.
“Ma” is my mother-in-law, who very likely would have cast a “No” vote, if she had been given the opportunity. And, until Saturday morning, I was right alongside her. But by 2:30 p.m., I was waffling. And by 3:45, I’d signed the docs, managed a sheepish smile of support and then watched a young man push a needle through her nostril.
It looked painful, but she didn’t flinch a bit. Clearly, this hurt me much more than her.
And, I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there who feel my pain.
Raising a teenager, as most know, can be quite a rollercoaster ride. As they grow, seeking more freedom from their folks, you extend those opportunities and, sometimes, find yourself “reeling them back in” so to speak. For me, personally, it’s not always been an easy balance to strike, offering more responsibility and somewhat hoping they’re ready for it. More often than not, they prove to handle those opportunities just fine, but as a parent — whose No. 1 job is to keep them safe — it’s not always easy to say “Yes.”
And, when it comes to protecting that little princess with whom you were playing Barbies with just yesterday, the word “No” is just so much easier to utter — and a much better starting point from which to negotiate.
Of course, taking such an approach involves the risk of becoming known as Mr. No, which means your teen will likely avoid you at all costs when she wants to do anything “questionable,” especially if it involves driving out of town, a later curfew than normal and certainly anything to do with coming within 50 feet of a young man.
But, although you’re thankful that your mind might not have go “there,” that’s not exactly fair to the other parent in the household and it likely means you’re likely going to miss out on much of what your “child” is up to, between the ages of 16 and 30, when she’s allowed to get married.
And you don’t want to miss out on these years — as my wife often reminds me — because before you know it they’ll be gone. Just thinking how fast all the years we’ve had together have flown by, with just a few more still ahead before they leave home, can put things into perspective in a hurry.
Also, when we’re not butting heads, it’s such a fun time to hang with our kids, as they’re developing their own opinions on everything from music to politics. And it’s a pretty cool thing that while they know every Grammy nominee for Best Rap Album — of which you likely have zero clue — that they’ll also sing along with the Eagles’ “Take it easy” or jam out to that Nirvana single from your college days.
Now is the time they’re coming into their own. Who would want to miss that?
So when my wife left the nose piercing in my hands, I slowly came around to the thinking that this might be a good opportunity to be Mr. Yes, for a change. Although you hope you’re not going down a slippery slope — with visions of “Pinhead” from those “Hellraiser” movies in mind — the nose piercing seemed like one of those “battles” that should not be picked.
“I can always take it out,” she said, seeming to offer me some reassurance. “I wouldn’t do anything to scar my body — well, except for maybe a tattoo, like on the back of my neck.”
Back to you, Honey. I’ll look forward to sharing the news with Ma.
Brian Hamilton is editor of The Union. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4249.
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