About 3 weeks ago I had a real quandary. I give E. a bit of money to spend as she chooses. I almost never restrict her choices. I have done it the odd time- once at a super store she wanted to spend 25.00 on a giant case of chocolate bars. In hindsight I wish I would have let her- I could have told her not to eat after a certain time (she gets very wingy from the caffeine), but to be honest her father and I disagree on something when it come to parenting and my unschooling philosophies and this is one issue I know would have been a uphill battle. I tend to take an “if it’s not immoral or life threatening” approach to most things (a philosophy accredited to parenting author Barbara Coloroso). Any disagreements usually centre on parenting differences- we are definitely in the same book as each other and sometimes on the same page but not always. Speaking with other mom’s I am not the only who has made compromises for the sake of peace with their partner.- this is the real world and sometimes he feels more strongly about something that I do and I try and see his point of view. Letting her buy the chocolate would have might meant her gorging on it- maybe getting stomach ache, wrappers everywhere and certainly bouncing of the walls all night- which would have kept me up and then I would have been grouchy next day– as would she, she would get lippy and we would be battling each other all day and frankly it probably wouldn’t be worth it. On the other hand- it may have given her on opportunity to make a choice that she might not ever make again- feeling the natural consequences of her actions. So what is more important- the relative peace and harmony of the home or the life learning lesson of comprehending natural consequences? I would be curious to her what others have to say.
I am prompted to write about this because a couple of weeks ago I did let her make “bad” choice on her own. She gravitated towards magazine rack while grocery shopping and I was cringing as she picked up a bunch of teen magazines, such as “Tiger Beat” Teen something or other… one of them had the memorable title ” Are your boobs normal?” and a cover plastered with pictures of Pop idols . Yikes. E. is only 8 . I took a deep breath and just let it go- she bought one of these trashy magazines. I have to admit I did feel a wave of nostalgia- I was hooked on these on the 70’s and it did bring back a flood of memories. Memories I shared with her in the car on the way home. I have a particularly strong memory of my sister hiding in the closet – avoiding the gaze of a Donny Osmond poster hanging on the wall and worried that he would see her changing into her nightgown. E. was fascinated by this- and wanted to know more- like how old I was ( 8!!!!), what did he look like, etc. I told her that I used to pretend that he was my boyfriend and he walked me to school and all the other girls were jealous when they saw us holding hands. This really tweaked her interest- she said she thought of similar things with a certain teen idol that will remain nameless here (I don’t want to embarrass her by relative reading this and thinking it would be funny to tease her)… this lead to one of the more candid discussions we have had about boys, changing bodies and more- I found it much easier to think back on what it was like to be 8 and the thoughts and fantasies I had then and relate them to her- rather than try and take my adult experience and filter it down to her level- usually I end up going way over her head and I can see her zone out. The purchase of this magazine led us to a place that never occurred to me. Yes it was trashy, horribly commercial and even sexist. I was horrified when she insisted on buying another on the next grocery shopping trip.
Last week we went again… and went by the magazine rack. She picked one up and said” Mom, you know what- these really aren’t that great a value- I am not going to buy them again…. “(Whew!).
The lessons that we BOTH learned from these were invaluable- It triggered some things in me that help me relate to my pre-teen daughter entry into puberty and she learned that these magazines were really not that interesting after all.