This summer I’ve had a few requests for rainbow-colored hair from my kids friends. I don’t work in the cosmetology field as I’m allergic to 80% of the products. However, I do periodically help my friends and family with a new cut or color as my schedule allows. Personally, I can’t stand the idea of rainbow-colored hair. But I love the Moms who do their best to give kids agency. Agency, the capacity to make choices.
Parenting is quite a hard-line to walk. We desire to give kids a deep sense of security and identity. Security walks the line between an anchor and a weight. Identity walks the line between parental imposed desires and inborn propensities to fan into flame. And agency has to be given in small doses over time and maturity levels. I’m not even mentioning character training, that is a never-ending process for all of us.
As much as we like to pretend, raising kids brings you face to face with the fact that no one can control another person. The first time that kid hollers, “No!” at the top of his lungs is an eye-opener. It’s tough, and probably why there is much disagreement on how to discipline in the early years. In the baby years, the needs are mainly physical and hugging and loving takes you far. After that, it’s a crapshoot. I depended heavily on the grace of God for much and don’t have an opinion to share on how any one child should be raised. I just know that agency has to be brought into the equation at some point.
Those of us who were once children, have to accept agency. (I know! That means everyone!) In order to live our own lives, we have to look at what we learned as children. At some point, and in an act of agency, we decide whether to accept or reject what Mom & Dad passed along. Not wholesale of course, but we need to check out what needs to be kept and what needs to be tossed. Not just parental influence of course, but all environmental exposures.
Really, most of what we learn is by how we were treated and what we witnessed in the treatment of others. Talk is cheap unless it is inspired by visible action. That is a harsh reality for this verbose Mom.
Over my years of working at home, I’ve had many a woman in my cutting chair lament the fact that she wanted a short cut but she wouldn’t let me cut it because the hubs liked long hair. I wondered, is she making this choice because she really wants to or does she feel unacceptable unless she does it his way?
I’ve been in groups that will put you out, but quick, if you decide to think outside of their prescribed box. I wonder, did some come from families that had such a strict way of doing things that the idea of giving up individuality for the sake of the group doesn’t bother them? And further, how can a “this is how we do it” set-up lead to anything but lying or hiding if you don’t genuinely agree with the group? That identity thing again, how can we glory in uniqueness if we can’t stand differences? (Oh, I know, everyone “takes one for the team” periodically, I’m just saying it should be a free choice.)
I’ve heard others describe hearing from a spouse or relative, “well my Dad beat the crap out of me and I turned out ok!” Um, are you sure, “just because it was done before,” is a good reason to do it again? That’s where the anchor morphs into a weight, instead of providing security it prevents personal agency.
Agency, a vital ability to develop in children. A vital quality to think through as adults. And God forbid, I’m not saying anyone should accept cruel or unusual behavior, but if we don’t decide who we are, won’t it happen anyway?