Am I Too Hard On My Kids? Too Soft? Both?
She’s too young for make-up. She’s old enough to make her own decisions. She needs strict punishments. She needs non-judgmental parents, especially during middle school. The opinions from my co-workers were as varied as they were plentiful — and all worth as much as I paid for them (which is nothing, BTW).
I rarely clean my kids’ bedrooms. In fact, I rarely go into my kids’ bedrooms. But we’re getting some repairs done on the house, which includes the master bedroom, and so Laurie and I will be sleeping in the kids’ beds for about a week.
The night before the repairs begin, I find myself briefly in the house alone. I decide to use this time to sort out Vivianna’s room, which is where Laurie will be sleeping. And it’s an absolute pit. There are shoes in her bed and blankets on the ground. I find nail files in the blinds and apple sauce in the dresser drawers. I really lose it is when I find make-up stains on the new carpet, so I box up all her make-up and store it. Then I text Laurie and tell her I’m grounding Vivi from wearing make-up for the week.
“Good!” she responds.
With Mom signing off on my punishment, I feel pretty confident. That is until the next day when I’m relaying this story to my co-workers. My desk is located in the middle of an aisle, so within just a couple of feet are eight coworkers, each of whom apparently has completely different opinions on my punishment, my parenting strategies, and my life as a whole.
“Good job, Dad!” one of them says.
“That was way too harsh,” another says.
“When did you start letting her wear make-up?” This question comes from another father of daughters.
“Last year,” I say. “When she started middle school.”
“I was 16,” one lady says.
“I was 10,” another says.
“Why then?” the father of daughters asks.
“Well, she’s in the popular crowd,” I say.
Another coworker chimes in, “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Then someone else says, “That doesn’t make any sense at all.”
I leave the conversation feeling rattled. I now have no idea how I feel about taking Vivi’s make-up for the week. Had I been too harsh? Too lenient? Co-workers I respected had chimed in on both sides of the argument.
I reflect on how Vivi had behaved when she got home and I gave her the news. My list of grievances must have lasted four minutes, and for the most part, she listened intently. Her eyes welled up a little when I got to the part about being grounded for the week, but not like she was trying to manipulate me into feeling sorry for her. She let me say my peace, then when I told her to go to bed she said, “Yes, sir,” and walked off without mumbling or storming off. The next morning, she came downstairs with no make-up, but she’d put on a cute outfit and sprayed her hair with water and done her best to look put together. She kissed me on the cheek and said, “Good morning, Daddy,” in her usual chipper tone of voice.
It occurs to me that, while there are many conflicting opinions on kids and make-up and punishment, ultimately I made the right decision for my child. Vivi got my message; it impacted her, but hadn’t made her angry with me. So just as my parental confidence returns, I begin to wonder how my coworkers will react to more controversial topics like driver’s licenses and dating.