So, I come home and my wife says the dreaded words, “Wait until you hear what your daughter did today.”
And it wasn’t in that excited tone, like, Wow, she did something great, and you can’t wait to hear about it. It was in that somber, head-shaking, unbelieving tone. I think it’s safe to say nothing good ever follows that sentence when spoken in that tone.
It turned out my barely thirteen-year-old came upstairs wearing a nose ring. Not the cute little ones on the side. The kind worn by Ferdinand the Bull.
It appeared my daughter and I were going to be having a chat. Needless to say, my knee-jerk reaction was not terribly positive. But I caught myself and decided it would probably be wise to give my response some serious consideration before confronting my daughter.
I went to my bedroom and began thinking things through. I absolutely did not want my barely-out-of-elementary-school-daughter wearing a nose ring, but I also knew this was one of those opportunities to come across as the cool, understanding dad.
But how can I be the cool dad who still gets what he wants?
So, I thought long and hard on what I was going to say.
I must have spent a good half-hour in that bedroom thinking things through. I even went so far as practicing what I was going to say. After I felt confident in my approach, I made the trek to the basement where I found my daughter watching YouTube, because, evidently, teens no longer watch TV, only YouTube.
As soon as she saw me coming, she knew what was up. I pulled up a seat and asked her whether she trusted my judgment. She said she did. So far, so good. I was now in the driver’s seat because no matter what I said after that, she had already acknowledged that I had discriminating taste and a keen eye for what looks good and what doesn’t.
I know that for the lion’s share of teenagers, fitting in is key. There are the few outliers, but I was banking on the fact that my daughter wasn’t one of them. I told her that while I didn’t expect her to bend over backward to make people like her and fit in, she also didn’t need to go out of her way to separate herself from the crowd. In my mind, that’s exactly what getting this nose ring would do.
I asked her how many kids at her school had nose rings like that. She said, a couple. I said, “And when you talk about one of those kids, I’m guessing they are known as The Kid With The Nose Ring. That ring becomes their one distinguishing characteristic. Not their eyes, or their smile, or their kindness, but…a nose ring.”
I didn’t want to be the dad who says, “Not in my house!” but I wanted to make sure that, well, not in my house.
So, I put in the obligatory line about when she’s 18 and moves out, she’s more than welcome to nose ring it up. (Please, no!) I never said, “No, you will not!” but I did say, “I’d sure appreciate if you didn’t, and here’s why.” The “here’s why” was key because I was giving her rational reasons for why I felt it was not in her best interest.
I’ll be honest: If she had thrown a hissy fit and gotten in my face, I probably wouldn’t have been above falling back on “Because I said so.” But luckily, I didn’t have to. She was very cool about everything and we finished with a fist-bump, which is always a good thing.
It sounds simple, but as a parent, it’s really easy to fall into “Because I said so” mode. I suspect the nose ring thing is merely a precursor to other bridges I’m not excited to cross, but after seeing how this one played out between my daughter and me, I will definitely put this one in the win column. But I can already tell, it’s going to be a long season.