Several years back I was requested to write a letter to a friend who was about to have a baby. The instructions to all of her friends was to write their personal advice on how best to raise her daughter.
This is a tall order for someone who doesn’t have kids of her own, even for someone as opinionated as I am, so I had to give it a lot of thought. In the end, I decided to go with two of the many things I felt my own mother did right when raising me:
- allow your children to make their own mistakes and let them fix them on their own. (I think I made comment that Mom would often help me find my bootstraps but she left it up to me to use them and pick myself back up)
- accept your daughter for exactly who and how she is
Mom was amazing at accepting whatever stage I was going through (I “re-defined” myself a lot) and often she was more than accepting; she was proud.
I recall only a few times in my life that she questioned my decisions and in all instances she ended up accepting my reasoning. With a few rare decisions she didn’t necessarily find herself liking the result but she accepted them. And with a couple other unusual choices she ended up being so ok with it that she quickly followed.
Parents aren’t born with these tools for having an open mind when children do things so completely differently than they had believed they would. Parents have to choose to learn them; they have to see the value and want it.
I can’t imagine how hard it would be to see my daughter walk through the door and not recognize her. But Mom felt it was more important to accept it than to get it and so she made it a priority to open her mind to whatever we came at her with.
It is something I did have the chance to thank her for because I have known for quite some time that a couple of the reasons I am a happy and fulfilled person is because I was allowed to take my own journey in life and because I know what it feels like to have someone believe in me, even if they don’t understand 100% of my choices.
Rena Matter recently sent me a paper she wrote back in college, where she had interviewed Mom about fashion and her two teenage daughters. It was an absolute treat to receive this and it confirmed all that I already knew; Mom was more apt to work on herself then try to change us. She loved us for exactly who we were.
Thank you, Rena. This is very special!
On a side note, the same day I received the above from Rena, I had written a friend about my first “beauty salon” experience because she had written that although I have done many things, she didn't believe I had ever had “big hair”. But the reality was I have had “big hair” more than once in my life. So, for fun, I wrote her a story about the first time. The story is silly but it does end with another good lesson in life that both my parents taught us.
My parents were kids with kids which meant they really didn’t have money. And like all families who are on a tight budget “do it yourself” for anything and everything instead of hiring out was how things were done. This included Mom cutting our hair. After five years though, this proved to be too miserable for her so she started taking us to the “School of Beauty” where students use people’s children as guinea pigs, and their primary goal to ensure that when they are done the child will be the biggest nerd in his or her class. (Once, they actually burnt my hair by keeping the perm solution on too long.) The people were masterful at meeting their goal!---
It was shortly after they made me look like a brillo pad that mom caved in and said we could go to a real beautician. However, Dad had his own terms/conditions (as he always did) and he insisted we use one of his clients. (he’s an accountant). It turns out he only had one client who did hair; an elderly Chinese woman out in Star, Idaho.
In the 70s and 80s Star wasn’t the metropolis ;) it is today. As Mr. Mead might say, “Star was out in the bush…”; it was Farm Country.
But a “Real Beautician” sounded luxurious and far better from the “School of Torture” so we met his compromise with eager anticipation.
I was just starting to enter my New-Wave/Punk phase and had my photo ready!
My Dad drove the hour out to Star in his Ford PickUp Truck and pulled into the driveway of a small farm house. “This can’t be it, Dad. We’re going to a salon. Salon’s are not homes unless they are cool mansions like Graeber’s. “ (Graeber’s was the only cool salon Boise had back then and it was on Warm Springs Ave..)
“This is it,” Dad assured us. Then with a bit of a smile and sarcastic tone, he said, “She has a very special setup. Her husband built her salon in her Garage!” Ab and I looked at one another with fear and a bit of anger; we knew we had been had…
I was 11 or 12 years old then so Ab was 8 or 9. I am positive that our very small beautician had never worked on anyone as young as us. In fact, I venture to say her general clientele was in the 65-plus and that she did little around hair cutting and more on hair styling. –The kind of styles that the women kept for the entire week. And to keep the manipulated form, they would wrap it in netting and towels at night. “Hair Day” was a special event because it was the one time that week you got it washed.
I looked at the garage-salon and did all I could to not tell my father what I thought of him (ok, true, I probably did tell him what I thought of him but I’ve blocked that part out). We walked in and Dad introduced us then he went to wait in the truck (chicken). I immediately handed her my photo of the model with short spiky and partly shaved hair and asked if she could cut my hair “just like this”. She looked at it and smiled and nodded her head in agreement. I had my doubts.
Ok -- You obviously know what happened next. There was no cutting… only pulling, yanking and manipulating. And she used GALLONS of Aqua Net hairspray.
My head had never weighed so much. It was a workout just to keep it up and it was incredibly tender from the 45 minutes of “teasing”. I was completely miserable - emotionally and physically.
Abbie was scared stiff and I could tell she wanted nothing to do with the woman when her time came up. But we were taught to be polite to strangers, even if it meant ruining our lives.
We walked out of there with hair as tall as our own head-length and we cried all the way home. Dad couldn’t stop laughing but it wasn’t at us, it was a nervous laugh and one of fascination. He kept saying, “how did she do that? ” (chuckle chuckle) “That’s amazing.” “You girls do look great though.” (lie) (chuckle chuckle)
My parents were true believers in lessons around humility AND having fun at our expense.