Every so often, Lorelei asks to dye her hair. And all those so oftens, I say “sure!” Because… why not?
I am always reminded of one of my favorite Facebook threads ever
Five years ago a story was circulating about a daycare teacher who used a magic eraser to scrub a temporary tattoo off of a kid’s face. If you’ve ever used a magic eraser you know that by “erase” they actually mean “remove the top layer of paint.” The same applies to the skin.
Everyone was appropriately horrified, and some of us wondered what was wrong with a temporary tattoo on a kid’s face, to begin with.
I’m firmly in the parenting camp of “Is it hurting anyone? Is it causing permanent change to your body? Is it impeding your ability to do the things that need doing? No? Go ahead then.”
The camp name doesn’t fit very well on the t-shirts, but that’s ok because we just write it in Sharpie on our arms.
Cassauuuundra was in the camp across the lake called, “Camp Nobody Have any Fun.” They didn’t have shirts because that wouldn’t be business casual, now would it?
She appeared in the comment section of a friend’s post about the magic eraser teacher. She wasted no time letting us know that temporary tattoos on the face were tantamount to sending our children to stripper school. The prisons are filled with people whose parents let them wear butterfly tattoos on their foreheads. She actually, literally, compared letting your kid draw on themselves with pen to sending them to school in crotchless panties.
I won’t screenshot or quote big pieces because it’s not my thread. But the highlights include, “a child should not be at school in any dress that would be unacceptable in a courtroom,” “I would think a parent should not allow their child to attend school in a manner that they would not attend work,” and “actually, the [temporary] tattoo IS a problem. just like sending your kid to pre-school with hair dyed blue or wearing gang clothes is a problem.”
Sorry, I had to go drop off some pantyhose and a pantsuit for Lorelei at camp.
Wherever Cassauuuundra is now, she is clutching her pearls as I tell you that Lorelei regularly goes to school with dirt somewhere on her body, she does not get a bath daily, I dye her hair whenever she asks, and she has been known to color all over her body just for fun.
I have limits. I try to avoid sending her out in makeup, for instance. But also? I pick my battles.
So this morning, when she came out of her bedroom wearing bright red lipstick and ready to head to camp, I chose not to say anything rather than deal with some sort of power struggle over her appearance. Besides, it went along nicely with her freshly dyed hair. And red lipstick is work appropriate, right? So even Cassauuuundra should approve.
Despite being a mostly perfect mother, I do have some questions.
Cassauuuundra, if you’re reading — is it ok if I put my son’s hair in a ponytail? I haven’t dyed it (yet) or anything. But maybe long hair on boys leads to delinquency? I’m not sure. I need your advice on that, so check in when you can.
I’m assuming that wearing a tutu to the local children’s museum is out, too? I mean, children’s museum is synonymous with “very important business lunch,” right?
In contrast to the rest of my clearly questionable parenting choices, on the way to the skating rink last night I tried to talk with Lorelei about what happened in Charlottesville. I bumbled my way through the explanation of the protesters who pulled down the confederate statue in Durham earlier this week. She had a solution for that one…
I have mostly failed in the name of comfort. Having these conversations with Lorelei is uncomfortable, so I tend to avoid them. Sure, we touch on difficult subjects. She says insightful quotable quotes and I share them on Facebook to make sure everyone sees how great my kid is. She is great. It’s me who has fallen asleep at the wheel. The fact that some of her very best friends are black, or that she goes to a diverse school — that’s all great. But it leaves a gaping hole where understanding meets compassion and empathy.
Frequenly, I think, “I need to have conversations about race and privilege with her” and then I don’t because the topic seems so huge. Because I never laid the framework, it has just grown and grown. Last night she said, “I didn’t understand a lot of that because you were using grown up words.”
I haven’t wanted to lay these burdens on her small shoulders, ignoring the massive privilege that gives me that leeway. The fact that I don’t have to have these conversations is all the more reason I should. I may stumble my way through them but I need to try. This isn’t a place to let perfectionism prevent action.
Why am I burying this story in a blog post about hairdye? Because I want to write about it, but the last thing I want is for it to become another pat on the back. Look at me, I’m trying so hard! Fuck that. Try harder, Rhiannon. You can always try harder.