Alright I admit it. I don’t have this whole parenting thing down to any kind of science. As a matter of fact, I sometimes get a little bit scared that I missed the class. You know…THE ALMIGHTY PARENTING CLASS…the one that magically exists in some land somewhere that provides all the mothers and fathers of the world, a tried and true approach to every circumstance they encounter with their children. All answers that rise up from this tried and true approach are of course always right and always productive.
Hank is in eighth grade. It’s been fun watching him mature, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially over the last year. He’s made some major decisions lately that show he is really thinking through to the consequences of his behavior.
Not too long ago, he walked into my room. “Mom, I’m old enough for an earring now. I’ll even pay for it.” I looked up from the book I was reading, peered over my reading glasses and quickly rolled through the rolodex of possible responses. Because I couldn’t find one that satisfied me I went for the tactic all parents use when they don’t have a response, which is the “repeat verbatim response.” “Oh…okay…so…mmmm…Hank, you think you are old enough for an earring and you are even going to pay for it.”
Seeking more time to thumb through the parental rolodex, I slowly closed my book and pulled my glasses to my lap. Still stuck, I panicked and went to the “when you have no idea” category and responded with the second most used parental phrase in the universe…the “lemme think about it phrase.”
“Hank, lemme think about it.”
Of course I was hoping that he would forget that he had ever wished for an earring and the entire request would just magically go away.
Well…no such luck. He got his report card a couple of weeks ago. On it were the results of this young man’s very hard work. Holding the report card he moved in for approach number two. “See? I’m mature enough now. Check these grades out. What do you think Mom…about the earring now?”
It was clear the earring obsession was here to stay. “Alright, if you are willing to pay for it, tend to the physical care needed and you feel pretty sure that you are an earring kind of guy, I say go for it.”
This past weekend he did. He got his ear pierced at the mall with his best bud Sam. He didn’t go for a small demure little black number or even a small silver stud. Nope…not Hank. He got a big ole’ heavy diamond knocker that pulled his earlobe down a few millimeters closer to his shoulder.
He got in the car, with his hat on.
“Let me see it,” I said trying to be as nonchalant as possible.
He lifted the brim of his hat upwards and revealed the sparkling gem. I longed for a camera to mark this delicious moment in his adolescence…the photo I would show at weddings (if there ever was to be one), reunions and of course, to his son when HE requested an earring.
“How does it feel to be sporting an earring there buddy?” I asked, trying SO hard to keep any semblance of a grin tucked beneath the brim of my lips.
He was quiet for at least thirty seconds.
“I’m not sure I like it,” he said.
“Alright then. Live with it a while and see how you feel.”
Two hours later, I’m in my room folding clothes when I hear the words I knew were coming…just sooner than I had expected.
Hank is standing in the bathroom, staring at his reflection and he is shouting, “Who am I kidding? Who am I KIDDING? WHO am I kidding? Mahhhhhhhmmmm…will you come in here and help me get this thing out?”
After some prying and prodding to his tender earlobe, the earring was removed.
“Do you feel better?” I asked.
“Yeah…more like myself. I’m just not an earring kind of guy.”
Whatever the outcome had been, I’m thrilled to know that my son is beginning to as Plato strongly encourages each of us, “know himself”. I’m grateful for the open relationship we have with each other, one that honors him as he digs through life’s “dress-up box” to try on different “outfits.” Some will be discarded, others worn for only a brief period, but how joyous and beautiful the moments when he lands on those hats, boxers and those metaphoric (or real) bright yellow skinny jeans that will stick with him, develop him and honor the man he is becoming.