This week I asked my children for their Christmas lists. Following on from my article on having a more sustainable and less wasteful Christmas, https://writeonejaleigh.wordpress.com/2018/11/06/christmas-its-not-fantastic-if-its-plastic/ I asked them to pick items that they genuinely need and items that they will use on a regular basis. So no more wasteful novelty gifts or plastic that will end up in landfill. They both came up with excellent ideas such as a watch, a school bag, an umbrella etc but one item that my daughter chose really filled me with fear.
“I want some straighteners.” she requested. “ All my friends are allowed to straighten their own hair and I want to straighten mine.” I’m not someone who thinks straighteners are bad for their hair. As someone who used to have hair that was like, as my Dad always said, Brillo Pads, straighteners have always been an integral part of my daily routine. My hair used to be so thick and curly that it regularly blocked our drains at home. I can remember my Dad had his own special rods to unblock the pipes in our garden because it happened so often . When straighteners finally arrived in the nineties, I was one of the first people to welcome them with open arms and use them. Straighteners enabled me to move away from the shadows cast from looking like Little Orphan Annie and grow up into a proper woman. I have had GHDs for many years and my world really can collapse if I break them or if, as usually happens, they blow up. Recently, I was traumatised when I had to wait two days for new ones to arrive and I strongly thought I was going to have to take time off work, as I didn’t want anyone to see me with curly hair.
No, my reasons for being opposed to the idea of buying my daughter straighteners, stem from her’s and my ability to break everything and to be incredibly clumsy. https://writeonejaleigh.wordpress.com/2018/10/22/what-is-dyspraxia/ Straighteners in my hands and my daughter’s, are an accident waiting to happen. There are so many possible catastrophes that could occur; not least that she could burn herself or set fire to her bedroom. I have lost count of the number of times that I arrive at work and suddenly wonder, “Did I turn off my straighteners?” I live constantly in fear that I have left them on and burnt the house down. My hands are frequently covered in burns. “You’ll just have to say ‘No’ and that’s that.” advised my husband. I was tempted to agree but then I realised that saying ‘No’ was not without its implications and could possibly lead to far greater problems in the future.
I grew up with a strict parent who had very strong rules about what I was and was not allowed to do. As the youngest and a girl, I was frequently told, when I asked why my brother was allowed to do something that was forbidden to me, “It’s different when you’re a girl.” As a result of this, I became incredibly secretive. I hardly ever told my mother the truth. I also resented my Mother for not giving me any credence for having my own moral code of behaviour. I didn’t want this with my own children and I fully believe that ensuring that the lines of communication always remain open, is vital in parenting. It’s very rare that I say ‘no’ to my children. If I do say it, then I will explain the reasoning behind my view. It’s part of the belief I have in that children only respect their parents, if respect is shown towards them. If they feel that a parent will forbid them from doing something, then the child will keep quiet and do things behind a parent’s back. So if I were to forbid my daughter fom having straighteners, then chances are she’d eventually find a way of getting some, without my knowledge. You really can not underestimate the power of peer group pressure.
So instead of saying ‘no’, I had a long hard think about what I could do to try and meet her request and yet ensure her safety. We came up with a plan and managed to ensure that everyone is happy. Rather than avoiding the straighteners, we have faced them head on. I have started to teach my daughter how to use straighteners safely and we will continue this for the next few weeks. I have told her all the possible risks and how to avoid these. The straighteners I have bought her have an automatic cut off, they do not heat to the same high temperatures as GHDs. They come with heat protector gloves, spray and a mat. I have told her that if she uses these straighteners correctly, then I will eventually buy her some better ones. She is happy because she feels that she will now fit in with her peers and she also feels that her voice is heard. I am not for one moment trying to say that my view of parenting is right, but this plan of action sits far more comfortably with me than refusing her request. I hope that as my daughter becomes older the lines of communication will remain open since she will recognise that in our family, we talk about things and we compromise.
In life itself how do we feel if we request something and it is refused with no explanation? It’s not fair is it? Therefore, why should we expect our children to accept this? I hope that I am teaching my children how to negotiate and how to compromise so that they are able to be more empathetic in their lives and careers as well as ultimately their own relationships. I am also trying to teach them to be more responsible. I’m far from perfect but this is the way I choose to raise my children. Now, if she was to ask for a pony for Christmas…. ? Well, that would be a whole different case altogether.