Friday, May 25, 2007

Why my hands are purple

There has been talk throughout the month of May in my house about blue hair dye. (Wow, three prepositional phrases.....)

My kids, as we already know, sport "fun hair." To me, it's a harmless way for them to explore their individuality and be a little tiny bit subversive. (Because that kind of subversion is okey-dokey with me.) Plenty of people, particularly adults, think Craig and I are a bit strange or indulgent or abusive or just plain nuts to not only permit, but to encourage, this hair thing.

I already wrote about picking your battles. That's my number one rule in parenting. Kids are kids...they're bizarre and illogical and emotional and unpredictable. They don't know better. And they learn, just like everyone else, through trial and error.

Having a mohawk, having purple hair, having neon blue hair, having piercings, having tattoos, wearing all black...all of those choices have consequences. Now, the consequences may be very different depending on what kid you're dealing with. Getting stared at? Might be awesome for a kid who likes attention. Might be horrible for a kid who'd rather blend into the woodwork.

Part of my job as a parent is to let my kids learn how to be adults in a safe way. Like learning to swim in a shallow pool. Allowing, and facilitating, this kind of exploration is a big part of the job.

Am I saying that every parent should dye the kids' hair blue? Heck no! I'm feeling safe saying that most kids don't want blue hair. Most kids don't want mohawks. What I'm saying is that when there's no good reason to forbid something, why forbid it? Having neon-colored hair does not pose any health or safety risk for the kids. It does not hurt them socially. It does not impact their academic progress (especially since Tuesday is the last day of school).

I also firmly believe that kids who are encouraged to safely explore turn out pretty great. My son's teacher has talked to me at length about him. When he came to her classroom on the first day of school with a mohawk, she didn't know what to expect. But he's been a model student. And she sees that the "fun hair" is nothing more than fun. It's not a statement. It's not defiant. I'm quite willing to admit that if my kids were troubled or difficult or anything besides who they are, I may not be so willing to dye their hair fun colors or give them wacky haircuts. But since they are so confident, well-adjusted, and well-behaved, the fun hair gives them a bit of edginess that really suits them.

So this morning, at 6:00 a.m., we broke out the blue dye. We had intended to do their hair last night, but it didn't happen. Alex was the first to get the dye....he has a mohawk already, so there wasn't much hair to color. I only did the ends of his hair because he's got fairly thin hair and I didn't want to get blobs of blue on his scalp.

Susie has long hair and we already know that it absorbs color very well (the "washes out in 8 shampoos" purple we did in January stained her hair pink permanently....when I bleached streaks in preparation for the blue, the pink part remained pink, just lighter). I was careful to get as much of her hair as possible, knowing that different parts of her hair would accept the color differently.

The rinsing, shampooing, showering portion of the process was stressful. Blue everywhere. Blue hands, blue faces, blue necks. I was really, really worried that their skin would be horribly stained (like my hands). And Susie has SO MUCH HAIR! We used about half a bottle of shampoo to get as much of the colorant out as possible. I darted from bathroom to bathroom (shampooing Alex's hair was a breeze) and was so relieved to return to Susie and see that her skin was not blue anymore. We conditioned her hair, rinsed it, and decided we were done.

Two (dark) towels each, then dressed. When my daughter looked at her hair after it was rinsed, shampooed, rinsed, shampooed, rinsed, shampooed, rinsed, and towel-dried, she gave me a big hug and said, "I love you! You're an awesome mom!"

I wasn't prepared for how beautiful she would look with blue hair. She really, really looks amazing. It sets off her fair complexion and it's so shiny and lovely. We predicted that everyone at school would want to touch her hair at least once today.

So, in summary: blue hair, good! Mom who helps kids get hair blue, thanked! My hands, purple! Lesson learned? More gloves next time. (I'm really hoping for a next time. This was fun.)

This is the time that I really should post a picture, but I had to get ready for work so didn't take one. So I'll add one later.


Noodle said...

Awesome! I can't wait to see! I'll bet they look fantastic!

ms. kitty said...

I've always been a fan of the question "is this the hill I want to die on?", both in ministry and in motherhood!

laura said...

::chuckle:: Looking forward to the rainbow hair pics! Come to think of it, I still owe you pics from the party, too... I'll have to burn you a CD... there's too many to send - unless you want a really full inbox... let me know.

alan said...

Do you think her hair will still be bluish in july? I'm probably doing mine the first week of july, it would be super funny if we matched :D

Anonymous said...

Fun post--and I count four prepositional phrases in that sentence!

Anonymous said...

The conservative branch of your father's family is having a festive wedding in early July...I'm sure they will have opinions that differ from yours.

While I agree with much of your rationale regarding hair color, I also value being conventional--it is a part of "manners." What makes you laugh might make someone else very uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

Many very "conventional" little old ladies that have good "manners" have blue hair. So how is it different when it's a child?

Pam said...

Given my own explorations with hair colors and styles it would be very hypocritical of me to forbid something so fun and harmless in my children.

I hear you on the judgmental comments though. I have heard a member of my own (extended) family call it "child abuse" to allow a 6 year old to dye his hair. Having actually worked with REAL ABUSED children, I snorted milk out of my nose. To call it child abuse belittles the seriousness of real child abuse.

Picking battles. Absolutely.

Rodrigo said...

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kalisah said...

awesomeness! Can't wait to see it!

slouching mom said...

Man. I wish I had had YOU for a mom when I wanted to get my ears pierced!