When my eldest kid was three, we went to Target to buy him new shoes. He wanted a purple and pink pair but, worried that people would tease my little boy for his “girly” colored footwear, I told him he should probably just get a pair of sensible navy blue and white ones. That night while he slept, I guiltily went back to Target and exchanged the boring blue ones for the colorful ones he wanted. When he saw the shoes the next morning, he showered me with kisses. Those shoes have become a staple with our kids, having gone happily through my eldest and my middle guy.
My husband and I have always tried really hard to let our kids make decisions for themselves (within reason, obvs), but sometimes, even while we try to remain enlightened modern folks, we can hold our kids back with what we think is the more sensible option. Which is why my husband and I decided to let our five-year-old kindergartner bleach his hair and dye it neon green.
I know you’re probably thinking “WHAT??!” Let me explain.
Over the summer, my son and I were picking up a few necessities at the drug store when we happened upon a hair color display featuring Jared Leto and Margot Robbie as their Suicide Squad characters The Joker and Harley Quinn. As soon as he realized that green Joker-hair was something REAL LIFE PEOPLE could have, he was insistent: He wanted hair that was green like the Joker’s too.
I told my son that we’d discuss with his dad before making the purchase, figuring that he’d forget before we even left the store. He didn’t.
When we did ask my husband, his immediate reaction was NO WAY! “Bleach hurts and I don’t want you to hurt yourself,” he told our son. Like it or not, when I heard those words I knew that we would not be making the right decision if our answer was no.
We hear the words “natural consequence” — like a sore scalp from bleach — and immediately think of the negative things that happen when kids make bad choices. But sometimes, letting a kid own the natural consequence of his or her actions is necessary to build self-esteem. A big part of self-esteem is the ability to have control over our bodies so that we know what’s best for us.
Firstborn kids tend to be at the mercy of new parent nerves, and my husband and I have definitely fallen into the trap of constantly trying to protect our eldest from every possible uncomfortable situation he may encounter. As a result, our once boisterous dude is growing into a frequently anxious kid who is unsure of his own ability. So, we’ve used his desire for green hair to his advantage as well as ours, to give him a sense of pride in his looks and of ownership over his body — and of his decisions over what to do with it.
As for coloring my kid’s hair: The bleaching part took barely any time at all. It stung a little, but he was okay with it; he knew what he wanted, and he knew this was part of the drill. Once it was all done, he was so excited that he mugged in the mirror for 20 solid minutes before it was time to get ready for bed. His happiness and excitement trumped any fears we’d had, and knowing that he made a decision about his body that turned out the way he had hoped was the best part of the whole thing.
Needless to say, my husband and I have learned a super valuable lesson about giving our kids independence while supporting them and actually allowing those natural consequences to happen, well, naturally. And as for our kid? He’s been channeling Jared Leto since the summer.
Have you let your kids change their hair color? Tell us @BritandCo!