Shayne on You: There are worse ways to rebel

Dear Maggie,

My fifteen-year-old daughter is bound and determined to get a belly button ring, and Iím completely against it. Her dad wonít get involved one way or the other. So I get to be the bad guy. This began as a small disagreement, but itís blown up into her barely speaking to me, shouting matches between us, and a general sense of chaos thatís impacting the entire family. Whatís the solution?


Exhausted Mother

Dear Exhausted,

This is an easy one, but then again, things always seem clearer to an outsider looking in. The perspective is different. Your daughter is becoming a woman, and one of the things that happens during this time is that girls need to express themselves as separate entities from their moms. Individuation. Often this process includes doing things they know their moms wouldnít want them to do, as a way of declaring and proving (to you and to themselves) that they are individuals.

Sheís fifteen. Itís her body. A piercing isnít permanent. It can heal up if she changes her mind later. And even if it was something more lasting, like a tattoo, itís her mistake to make, her body to adorn, her own individual taste sheís expressing. How does it hurt you or your family or her or anyone in the Universe if she gets her belly button pierced? Think really hard about this question. Make a list. (I think youíll find thereís nothing to put on it, other than maybe, ďit could get infected.Ē And frankly, so could an ingrown toenail or a cut finger.)

On the other hand, ask yourself, how does it hurt her or me or the family or anyone in the Universe if she does not get the belly button pierced? And make that list. Youíll have a long list there. It hurts your relationship with your daughter. It hurts her process of growing up and making mature decisions without her mom telling her what to do. It hurts the family by bringing chaos and shouting matches into the home. It hurts your marriage because you resent your husband not getting involved in the fight.

Believe me, she could be rebelling against the rules in far worse ways. And your refusal to let her have a say in this matter could lead to her next rebellion being far more serious. This is really minor. Sheís nearly an adult. Letting her make her own decisions and deal with the consequences in matters where no real harm is done, is a wonderful way for you to help prepare her for life in the real world once she leaves the nest. Knowing you support her decisions, even the ones you might disagree with, will strengthen your bond.

So my advice, make a date at a piercing parlor, make a mom-daughter day of it, get something pierced yourself while youíre there, and then go out for sundaes or a latte after. Make it a memory. Before you know it, sheís going to be your peer, another adult woman, and with luck, your best friend.



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