Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

10 Things I Wish I'd Known



As 2014 comes to a close, we all tend to become rather nostalgic and think about the past and what we want to change for the next year. I've had Honey Bunny home since 2010 and have been thinking about how far we've come; from a young middle schooler to at the middle of her junior in high school. Here's what I wish I'd known entering into the realm of life learning and home education:

1) There Is Only One Way Home Education Works. Yep, you read that right. It's the way that works for YOUR child! After years of trial and error, we discovered Honey Bunny requires structured learning and assignments. Boo Bear? Open ended and free flowing learning. Both are on opposite ends of the learning spectrum and both are learning a ton!

2) Keeping Doubters In The Loop Is Important. Remember, it is their fear that motivates them. Try creating a daily log update, or a weekly update, something that is encouraging and shows the learning. With Boo Bear, when my in-laws didn't quite understand why we were educating her at home, and without a curriculum, I made sure to take pictures every day and at the end of the month create a slideshow presentation showing her progress in all subjects. They loved that they had an update on their granddaughter and could see her learning subjects more in depth than school and it gave them something to brag about at luncheons. For me, it showed a progress of learning which felt good to look back upon.

3) Prepare Yourself For Spontaneous Learning. Sounds like an oxymoron, huh? Here's an example: when going to the playground, I look up physics terms and explanations. I focus on only one or two because truthfully, I never took physics and my memory for it won't be grand. While we are there, I introduce the concept, the vocabulary and the explanation - all while having fun. We also do an SAT word of the week. So Boo Bear, who is 7, has a full vocabulary of large SAT words at her disposal in her conversations.  If everything is learning, then learning is everything.

4) Keep Your Priorities Straight! For some, that is keeping everything organized, for others it's making sure you enjoy the beautiful weather and allow the dust to gather for a rainy day, for another it is keeping up on the latest gaming updates. Remember to check in with yourself and your kids on a daily basis. Priorities change daily. Ask yourself and your kids what your daily goal is and check in at  night to see if it was accomplished. If it wasn't, did something happen to usurp that priority? Did it change? Why didn't it happen and what could be done differently next to for it to be accomplished? Use small opportunities like that to introduce the concept of priority planning. It is a life long skill needed for almost every aspect of life, from bills to vacations.

5) You Won't Feel Qualified and You Will Doubt Yourself.  Yep. It's going to happen. You may be curriculum. You will try things on and take them off.  You will wake up in the middle of the night and think: "OMG! What am I doing?!!!" and fret all night long. That's pretty normal. Forgive yourself and move on. If you are feeling that way, and if you keep a log, go back and look over it. That helps me. I keep a log of things completed each day because it makes me feel better. I grew up in a home/society that placed high value on education and higher education. I'm stepping off that treadmill because it doesn't work for my girls, but the old tapes sometimes come and bite me in the butt. The logs are for me and my sanity. (I like The Well Planned Day the best. It has 4 lines per day, per subject=lots of room for my girly handwriting.)

6) The Heart Of Your Child Will Direct You. This doesn't mean that they will always know what they want. When they first come home, if public schooled, they will be lost and irritable and confused. They will watch tv, disinvest and sleep a lot. Then, over time, their interests will arise. Boo Bear, who's never been to school, has no idea what she "isn't supposed to do" and loves science. She is 7 and working on high school freshman science concepts. She can't read well yet, so I read it to her, but her ability to absorb the concepts is there. Honey Bunny loves artistic expression. She does a ton of art work every week. She volunteers at an art studio. She is directed by her love for artist expression from blue hair and gauged ears to photography and watercolor. Each child is different and we use those differences to expand their world of knowledge.

7)The Habit Of Listening. Listening isn't done just with your ears. Listening is also done with the eyes. Reading body language. Listening to the unsaid word. Learning how to read body language is very important. I specialized in sales in my prior life and had to learn how to read body language in order to actually hear what was going on with a potential client. I use that same skill set with my children and husband. Arms crossed? They feel defensive. Voice changing in pitch? They may be lying (or going through puberty). Learn to read your child. You will be able to listen more and be in the moment with them.

8) It's A Lifetime of Learning.  Learning isn't just done when you finish a book. Maybe your child doesn't want to finish a book you loved. Honey Bunny hated Lord of the Flies and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe. I loved both. I had hoped to share them with her. Wasn't her thing. Instead, she changed books, introduced me to some she loved and my world was expanded into a new genre of vampires and magic. Take each opportunity presented to you and learn from it. Keep your curiosity going! Lifetime learning has a benefit for all.

9) Blessing Of Time.  The greatest part of home learning for us is that it can happen at any time of the day! It's a beautiful day out, we spend it outside exploring our world. It's rainy? Let's watch documentaries and snuggle. It's 10pm and suddenly Boo Bear has an urge to do abacus math? Great! It's midnight and Honey Bunny suddenly has an inspiration to write a story? Great! Time is our friend, not our enemy. There is no learning time because it's all the time.

10) Family Unity: This one can take some time to come into it's own. It ebbs and flows in our home. Sometimes, Hubby feels on the outside because we girls spend SO much time together and he's more like a visitor in our world than a pillar. That's hard for him sometimes. Othertimes, our family unit is stronger because we do spend so much time together. Our communication is stronger. We know all the nuances which occur between one and other and can shift and adjust on the fly. Being together 24/7 can be a challenge. It requires dedication to open communication, honesty and vulnerability. In the end, it's worth it but it can be scary getting there.

Overall, since 2010, I feel learning at home, at all hours, has worked best for us. It's not for everyone and that's okay. The glorious thing about the U.S.A. is we have a choice to homeschool or not. Places like Germany, there is no choice. It is not allowed.

There will be good days and there will be bad. There will be days you jump up and down and exclaim: "They got it!" and there will be days you shake your head and wonder: "Will they ever get it?!"  In the end, they balance out.

My best advice, dear Reader, is follow your gut and follow your heart. Let those lead you down a new path, one customized just for you and your family. Read all you want. Research all you want if that makes you feel better. Enjoy YOUR education and lifetime learning experience. You see, lifetime learning isn't just for kids anymore...it's for everyone once you step off that edge and go for it.

(Don't forget to join my blog! It's a little button over there to your right! I don't get paid for it, just want to share with you rather than announce on FB all the time.  Pass it on if you life it!)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Teens and Sex

Let's just jump right into this uncomfortable topic, okay?  Let's not pussy foot around it. Let's not pretend that abstinence is going to happen for the majority of teenagers.  According to the U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics, there were 274, 641 teenage pregnancies resulting in births in 2014. Let's stop pretending teenage pregnancy doesn't  happen. Have theses numbers gone down since 1990? Yes, but only marginally.

So, now that the blinders are off and your heart is beating faster, let's discuss Unschooling and Teen Sex. Whoa there Reader! Breathe in to a count of ten. Breathe out to a count of ten. Okay. Ready to read on? Good.

Let's face it. Teens want to have sex. They are biologically driven to reproduce. In terms of evolution, it is only a blink back in time to where we were reproducing starting at about 13 because most only lived to be about 30-45 years old. I'm 42. I'd be ready to kick the bucket soon, if I made it this far. And back then, the entire family raised the baby, not the teens by themselves. The old saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is pretty much the truth, especially when it happens early in life.

I'm not here saying "Let's encourage our kids to drop their pants and have a great time!" I'm here to say: They want to do it. Most will find a way to do it. Would you rather know about it, and help educate them to it or would you rather they find their education about sex from the internet and their similar age friends?  Come on, Reader, pull your ostrich head out of the sand....let it be you.

Where is this coming from? Honey Bunny came to me the other night and wanted to talk. It was not the best time. I had just completed a 4 day road trip to move my parents from CT to NC and was exhausted. The dogs wanted my attention. Hubby was cranky. Boo Bear wanted snuggles and Honey Bunny had sex on the mind. She is 16 and will be 17 in May. Her boyfriend is 17. I'm not surprised by it in the least, but it was not a good night to be honest.

But, I know how she gets and I knew that if Honey Bunny wanted to talk, it was important. I got Boo Bear to bed, dogs settled and let cranky Hubby be cranky. Goodness knows there wasn't anything I could do there but offer a hug, a warm bed and promise of some sleep.

When we had a moment, Honey Bunny dropped the bomb. She and Boyfriend are talking about taking their relationship to the next level. Okay. Here's the truth of the matter, no parent likes to think about their baby having sex. It seems....wrong. But, here's the other side of the truth, it's going to happen at some point, some day, some where.

Now, Honey Bunny has some complications when it comes to having a sexual relationship. Being a victim of child sexual abuse as a baby/toddler, sex brings out some pretty harsh flashbacks for her. The first time she had sex, she didn't come to me first and I had a suicidal teen on my hands without knowing why. I'm very proud of her for coming to me first. That shows great maturity.

I told her I'm really glad that she came to me first. You see, being friends with your child is how you have conversations like this. I listened. I asked questions. I didn't judge, over react or freak out. We spent a few minutes reviewing what she felt would be a good line of action. Here is what we came up with together:

1) Talk with her psychiatrist about how a birth control implant would effect her medications, if at all.
We chose the implant because when she was on the pill to regulate her system, if she even took it off by an hour, her cycle would start again, so no sleeping in. :(
2) If we discover the implant is safe, then we have to schedule a new patient appointment with a gynecologist. A full exam has to take place and the implant put in.
3) Then it has to kick in.
4) During this whole process, Boyfriend needs to accompany her to therapy sessions to discuss how her sexual trauma may effect her and their relationship.
5) BOTH need to have condom lessons to make sure the condom is put on properly. Birth control fails. Boo Bear is proof of that.

We also discussed places which are appropriate to having sex. Having sex while your little sister is home is NOT appropriate. That will not be stood for. If they want to have sex while I'm home, and her sister is not, then I suppose I can live with that. I can't say I like it, but at least I know they are safe, not going to get arrested for indecent exposure and if she has flashbacks or gets frightened, Boyfriend isn't there trying to deal with it on his own at 17. Now, between you and me, I can barely have sex with the kids in the house because I'm uncomfortable with it. If they can be comfortable knowing I'm home downstairs, more power to them. LOL

When I told Hubby about them considering a sexual relationship. His initial reaction was to freak out.  He almost face palmed himself. Whereas I see it as very mature Honey Bunny came to me and we could speak about it, he sees it as she's too young. (Doofus, she's not a virgin!) You can't undo what has already been done. At least this time, she is choosing to come to me first. And the sweetest part? Boyfriend is concerned what Hubby will think of him.

After about 5 minutes to listening to Hubby's concerns, it all boiled down to his ultimate concern being she will have more sex than we do! I couldn't help but laugh. Of course teens are going to have more sex than we do! We have a family to raise, dogs to train, groceries to buy, mortgages to pay... in other words, much more on our minds/plate than just sex.  I still smile thinking of that. More sex than us. LOL

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to point out that teens are going to have sex whether we approve or not. I don't want my daughter and her boyfriend to be part of the statistic above. Where does that start? At home. It starts with creating a relationship based upon friendship and trust. It starts with willing to be open with them about what a sexual relationship is, besides fornication, and how it may change their relationship. It continues with proper education about birth control. It moves forward with love and understanding and listening and caring.

Is it truly sex we are scared of or the result of an unplanned pregnancy? Discuss your true fears together. Have the discussion about unplanned pregnancy and discuss all options you are all comfortable with: abortion, adoption, raising the child yourselves, etc.

There is only one wrong answer to the above discussion in my opinion: rejecting your child and their journey.

That applies to everything in life from musical choices to tattoos and piercings to having a sexual relationship. None of those may be my choice for myself, but I will not reject or turn my back on my child because of a choice they feel is right for them.

Standing by them, being there for them, being their rock in this turbulent world is who I strive to be for my children. Their safe haven. The one who only looks down on them to offer them a hand up, with no judgement, no resentment and no fear in their eyes.

Remember, dear Reader, sex happens. But so does love.


Friday, December 12, 2014

My Secret Desire

Whole Life Unschooling. Child Led Learning. Life Learning.  All great concepts. I love them all. I practice them. Every day. Every minute of every day. I am IN the moment. I am creating learning experiences for my children. I am making sure their environment is full of stimulating thoughts and new concepts so that they have a large arena of interests to chose from. And know what? Want to know my deep seeded secret? Are you ready for this?

Sometimes, I really envy those traditional homeschool parents who follow a curriculum.  They research and they find a glorious package for their family. They order it. It comes to their door, neatly, in a box. (I bet it even has a bow on it.) Then, over the summer, they plot out what they are going to do every month/week/day and then they hit send and it lands on everyone's calendar.

Oh the glory of that! I tried that. Once. Four years ago. It didn't work. We returned it within 72 hours. It didn't work for us. But sometimes, while I am making oobleck and having discussions with my 7 & 16 year old about non-Newtonian matter (after seeing it on Pintrest and thinking this is cool...and gluten free...so we can do it. How do I make it educational? Quick..do another look up!)..sometimes, I wish life was sent to me in a  box. Simple. Clean. Easy.

My life is not simple, clean or easy. My life consists of 2 dogs, 1 a puppy. Honey Bunny who deals with bipolar, high functioning aspie issues, anxiety, anorexia and teenage hormones to top it all off. There is Boo Bear who is a joy to be around. Her laughter sounds like the tinkling of bells-but she has ADHD and probably dyslexia (it runs in the family in over 90% of it on both sides). Getting her to sit still is like asking my puppy not to chase after a squirrel or chase his tale. It doesn't happen. Then there is Hubby who, God bless his sole, is my love and my life, but is a 45 year old middle aged man who falls asleep watching television at about 8:30 and snores away until about 10 where at such time he basically crawls into bed to fall asleep again...with some shoot em up kill em show on.

Then, there is me. Yep. Little old me. In this example, it's 10pm, where we just left off snoring hubby stumbling down the hallway. I still have laundry to switch over, a dishwasher to run, a teenager to remind to take her meds and remind her boyfriend to go home by midnight because I'm tired tonight and would like to be awake when he leaves (not that they are having sex, it's just a parental thing I still feel like I need to do...be awake while he's here). Boo Bear is usually going strong at 10pm. She wants to play. She wants to do Reader Rabbit. She wants to play Littlest Pet Shop. She wants to do BrainPop. She wants to have a dance party.

Oh for the love of GOD...I want to go to sleep! I've been up since 6:30 dealing with Muttly 1 and Muttly 2. No matter how cute they are, I am the one up and dealing with them. Hubby has already left for work at that point, or is about to leave for work or is in the shower or is traveling at 6:30 in the morning, on any given day. I'm usually up a few times a night for nightmare comforting, or anxiety comforting, or at the moment I have a broken wrist, so I'm comforting myself. Sometimes, I'm even comforting Hubby, but usually I'm too cranky to do that in the middle of the night because if we are sleeping in the same room/bed, then his snoring is keeping me awake until about 5am and then he decides: Ohhh..lookie here! I have my wife in bed! Let me snuggle close to her with my fire hose. Dude...keep it away. I'm about to kill you is what I'm thinking at that point.

So, again, sometimes I dream of that curriculum in a box, which comes to my door, maybe with a bow, and school is from 8:00 - 3:00 and then we have a "life."

Yeah, that's not happening any time soon. It's 9:00pm right now. The dogs are about to come in whining at the door actually. The boyfriend is upstairs with Honey Bunny. Boo Bear is at a sleep over, for now....Hubby is traveling until next Tuesday and the day after tomorrow, I'm packing up both girls and the boyfriend for a 13 hour drive straight through to Connecticut to drive my parents down to North Carolina where they are moving a town over. The day after we arrive in Connecticut, we turn around and drive BACK to North Carolina now with 2 elderly people, their elderly dog, a 16 yr old, a 17 yr old and a 7 yr old-stopping every hour for my Dad to get out and stretch his legs so he doesn't have another pulmonary embolism land in his lung like it did on Thanksgiving.

Yep...no life in a box for me!!! :) But, truth be told, I'm happy about that. It didn't work for us.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Bullying Elf


Do you see this "Certificate?!"  What does it say? It says a child was "Naughty."  This Elf on a Shelf pisses me off every year! Every year, I see post after post after post on my Facebook Page that talks about their Elf leaving their child letters about their child's behavior. Know what I see more and more? Parents using this Elf to demean their children. It breaks my heart. 

According to Webster Dictionary, the definition of demean is: to lower in character, status, or reputation 

So, with that being the case, kindly explain to me how leaving a note to anyone, let alone a child, about behavior the adult/parent does not approve of is helping bring the child's character, status or reputation up and help build their self esteem?  It doesn't.

As an adult, how would you feel if your spouse or boss or another person in authority in your life, left you notes full of insults about your behavior? Image this: you get up excited for your day. You can't wait to see what new surprise you have from this person who only appears this "magical" time of year! Then, you find a long letter telling you everything you did wrong, why this person doesn't approve of your behavior.  This person doesn't bother to tell you what you are doing right. This person doesn't come to you with a true concern about some upsetting behaviors, giving you the chance to explain them or listen as to why they are upsetting nor does that person give you the opportunity to explore different behaviors together. Instead, you are left with your day crushed, your belief in yourself reduced and you are expected to go about your day now and have a better attitude and want to work on your behavior.

Can you tell me how effectively that would work for you? Would you want to improve your behavior for the hopes of getting a certificate that said you'd been nice? Is that truly what we want our children to work toward? A certificate that says they are nice? Really?

I would rather my children work toward being more caring, loving and communicative people who will in turn mature into adults who are gentle, loving and able to properly discuss what is bother them, listen attentively and offer solutions when required.

We so often hear about bullying in schools, but where does a child learn to bully? At home.  And when does a child learn to bully? From birth on. I'm sure the parents who use the Elf on the Shelf to write these letters think they are amusing. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and even go so far as to say I'm sure they are thinking they are using the Elf to show what behavior they would like their child to have and hoping that a stationary cute object will instill in their child the ability to listen to the Elf better than to the parent. I don't want to say these parents are bullying with the purpose to bully.

But they are bullying. Back to Webster's for a moment. The definition of bullying is: to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone)
: to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force

So, if the Elf is being used to make a threat, such as not returning or not getting presents, then that is bullying. If the parent is using the Elf on a Shelf to frighten the child into submission by name calling, that is bullying.  If the result wanted is meant to control the child, that is bullying.

Bullyingstatistics.org says this about parental bullying: "When bullying parents use this style of parenting, they try and motivate their children by being derisive. This can be especially damaging, since it can encourage a child to think ill of him/herself. This can leave mental scars that can result in depression, as well as set the child up to have difficulty sustaining good relationships. Indeed, if a child learns how to treat people form the example of a bullying parent, he or she is likely to grow to be a bully as well, and may have a hard time developing healthy relationships.

How can we, as a society, help prevent further school shootings and bullying if the adults go so far as to bully with what should be a fun holiday expression of celebration?! 

Imagine what would happen if the parent used the Elf in a way which promoted behavior the parent wanted emulated? What if the Elf only ever spoke of the great things the child did that day? What if the Elf was only used to encourage the child? Can you image how much more "good" behavior the child would want attention for? 

Remember the scenario above? The one where you started your day with a note telling you everything you did wrong and how that made your feel throughout your day? Now, imagine yourself waking up, excited because it is the "magical" time of year and you read a note that reviewed all the wonderful things you did the day before. How you stopped to take the time to wait for someone while holding a door in the middle of a rain storm. How you were loving with your friend. How you listened when all you wanted to do was tell someone they were wrong. A letter which spoke to the behavior you did have which was positive. Wouldn't you feel better about yourself? Wouldn't you want to continue to receive praise? Wouldn't you want to behave accordingly to that feel good feeling you had? Wouldn't you want to go out into your day and embrace it all those you encountered?

It's a completely different world when we take a moment to recognize the positive, rather than the negative. As a society, we will get nowhere good if we continue to recognize the ugly parts of a person or of their day. Demeaning another, even with the intent of being humorous or amusing, is bullying. Bullying is painful. Bullying by a parent even more so.

I encourage you, if you use this Elf on a Shelf, to only use it for humor and examples of good behavior. Throw out the "naughty" certificates. Throw out the examples of behavior you don't want. Use the Elf to show the good behavior and the fun things your child did. You yourself need to talk to your child about behaviors that upset you. YOU need to do the dirty work, not some inanimate object which should represent fun and magic of the season. You need to listen to them, talk with them and find solutions together. THAT is how we stop bullying. We begin at home. 



Monday, December 1, 2014

Teens & Body Modification

Body modification. Whoa! Here's a topic which gets all parents up in hackles-whether you support it or are against it. Personally, I'm not big into gauged ears, pierced faces or tattoos.  Not my flavor. I have a tattoo.  It's a small infinity sign on my left ring finger because I am allergic to my wedding band and engagement ring. The nickel in the platinum and white gold cause my finger to break out in blisters.  It's pretty painful. A year ago, Hubby and I had had an argument while he was unemployed and I was so frustrated at him and the state of our marriage that I needed something permanent to remind me of my commitment to him, so I stopped in a tattoo parlor on the way home that day, kids in tow, and had it done right then and there. No forethought. No planning. No idea what I wanted. I just walked in, said I'd like a small tattoo on my finger to represent my commitment to my marriage and walked out an hour later with a very painful finger and the lifetime reminder of my commitment to a flawed human being. :)

So how does my tattoo connect to teenage body modification? Great question. Seven months ago, Honey Bunny was struggling with her addiction to cutting. I actually went back and read my post about her cutting here on the Bored Gargoyle the other night (made myself cry). Back then, I made her a promise. If she could stay clean for six months, I would take her to get a tattoo which would remind her not to cut herself. For the following six months, every time she was tempted to cut, she remembered how desperately she wanted those tattoos.  In the beginning, it was my promise that stopped her from cutting.  Ninety days into it, it was the promise to herself that stopped her from cutting.

During those months, she had to prove to me she knew what she was doing and why. I asked her to write up why having a tattoo was important to her. I asked her to do some in person interviews of people who got tattoos as a teen. I wanted her to hear their opinions of their tattoos. What did they like? Did they still like their tattoo while in their 40's or beyond? Do they feel they made the right choice getting a tattoo as a teen? Why did they chose that particular tattoo?

She discovered those who took the time to make sure their tattoo would be timeless still loved it. Those that ran off in rebellion and had a tattoo which meant nothing to them, other than their rebellion at that time, disliked their tattoos. She thought about what she wanted it to say. Many conversations over those months revolved around what should her wrists say to remind her to not cut.

A few nights before her tattoo, Honey Bunny was being a complete brat. Yes, it happens. Unschooled teens do not walk on water nor are they perfect. And having a bipolar 2, anxious, PTSD, anorexic teen means we have moments which are not too glorious. We'd had a difficult family therapy session and she had been a true brat all week.  I'd broken my wrist (it's still broken) and needed help around the house (still do) and she was refusing to help. Not cool. Even her therapist was surprised at her cruelty toward the situation and myself. He had suggested that if she isn't helping out and isn't eating, that her boyfriend couldn't come over. Normally, I wouldn't go to such measures as talking with her is usually enough-but that week it wasn't. Her meds weren't working well, she was a bitch to be honest and she needed something to shake her out of it. So, I agreed.

Of course Honey Bunny was angry at not being able to see him that night. I wasn't canceling a plan already made. I was simply saying no to him coming over that night.  Here's the most frightening thing about parenting:

There is no formula! The frightening thing about parenting is that our children hear everything we say and watch everything thing we do and they expect those two to line up.

I had to hold the line here. My message of word to action had to line up. When we got home, she stormed up to her room. I went to start dinner.  A few hours later, she ventured downstairs with a video she wanted to share with me. It was about tattooing. She had taken the time and opportunity to do more research about tattooing so she better understood it. The video was scientific in it's origin. It was about the epidermis and dermis and the ink and how it is injected and into which layer. She also showed me the chemical compounds of each color of ink, which had metals in them and which didn't. She showed me how organic inks work in comparison to non-organic inks.  Then, Honey Bunny showed me the images of tattoos the woman who was going to do her tattoo has done.

Now, if I had insisted she do that research, she never would have done it. If I hadn't held the line and hadn't had my actions and my words support one another about her behavior being unacceptable, she never would have done it. You see, Unschooling doesn't mean your kids walk all over you. It means you live in respect with one another. She wasn't respecting me and my needs. It wasn't a want for her to do help load the dishwasher or fold laundry.  It was a need. It still is a need. (You should see my typing this with one hand and a finger. It's pretty humorous.)

The blessing in parenting is that there is no formula. So what do formulas and body modification have to do with one another?  A LOT!

Most of us have been raised to believe in the following "formula":

A rebelling teen does the following for attention: dye their hair odd colors, pierce their body, gauge their ears and get tattoos.  Teens who do such things are a menace to society.

Let's think about this for a moment and take it point by point.
1) Dying hair odd colors. Yes, Honey Bunny's hair is pink this week. Last week is was Raspberry Red. A few weeks before that it was Teal. Now, let's discuss the hair coloring industry.  How many different shades of color from platinum blonde to black are there on the shelves in CVS? Your local grocery story? The beauty salon? Oh wait, you mean you, too, dye your hair? - Negate that statement.

2) Pierce their body. Yep. Honey Bunny has a lip piercing. I don't want one. Looked painful getting that needle through her lip. Grossed me out. No thanks. But-my ears are pierced. I modified my body. Are your ears pierced? Yes? Well, negate that statement.

3) Gauging ears. Again not my thing. I think of National Geographic with those women who's ear holes fell to their shoulders they were stretched out so much! I have been scarred by saggy boobed/big ear hole women I saw as a child in NG. But todays gauges aren't that big. Have you ever bought a pair of earrings where the earring pole was too wide for your hole? I know I have. That's now negated. And if not, well, is it hurting you if someone else has their earring holes bigger than yours? No? Definitely negate it.

4)Tattoos. Oh, this is a big one! Under aged tattoos. Any tattoos. Society has told us that tattoos are the mark of the devil, so to speak. Only those on the fringe of society get tattoos.  Only those who buck the system get tattoos. Only those who are against the status quo get tattoos. They are a life long commitment to something you may not like in 20 years. I'll admit, I used to be of this group. I won't lie. But watching Honey Bunny's commitment to herself to not cut, to work on stopping her addiction, changed my mind.

Why wouldn't I support her want to be clean? I have always said I would give anything for her to stop cutting. Our children are great observers. They hear, see and read everything we do and they have to make it their own. Sometimes, that takes them down some pretty ugly paths full of bad decisions and heartache. But how we respond to them during those times is crucial-to both our relationship with one another and their relationship with themselves.

So, to be honest with her and myself, I said I would do anything...and a tattoo is anything. A piercing falls under that same category. So does hair dye. If having pink hair, a ring through her lip and tattoos that say: "Stay Strong" on one wrist and "Love Yourself" on the other helps her stay clean and fight the demons inside of her, I was going to make sure I supported that 100%.

You see, I didn't have to throw my beliefs out the window. I simply had to allow them not to count for her. I still don't believe that I want gauged ears or a pierced body part nor do I want another tattoo at this time, but if something is true-such as my belief in her want to stay clean and her claiming these modifications would help her-then I can chose to look at it long and hard and think about it long and hard and compare it with other beliefs-and discover it will stand on it's own. It will be reliable and true.

How we deal with the early doubts and questions in our relationships can make huge differences in a child's life. Will Honey Bunny always want that pierced lip? I don't know. For now, she does. Will she always want gauged ears? I don't know. For now, she does. Will she always want fun colored hair? I don't know. For now, she does. Will she always want those tattoos? Yes. For now and always.

Will I always support her unconditionally? No. I will not support her unconditionally if she choses to hurt herself. Will I always be there for her unconditionally? Yes. Yes I will. Will her having pink/blue/teal/red or whatever color hair make me love her less? No. It will not. Will her having her face pierced, ears gauged or tattoos on her wrists make her less of a person to me? No. It will not.

You see, dear Reader, parenting isn't parroting. It's not about following the right formula, whether that  be an unschooling formula or a strict formula. It's about finding what is right, true and reliable for you and your child.  You won't find the right answers for you in a book, a blog or even in a magazine. You will find the right answer for you and your family in your heart, through trial and error. You may find your belief systems run counter to society. You may find your comfort zone is what society says. You may find it somewhere in-between. In the end, though, you should ask yourself the following:
"If my child is hearing, seeing, and reading everything I do-what message is that giving them and is it one I want them to repeat?"

They will repeat it. They will make your statement their own. You can't control how they interpret it, but you can be in charge of supporting them while they explore their world and what it means to them.  In the end, parenting is a journey full of modifications along the way.  Be at peace with them and love one another through it all. Remember: Stay Strong and Love Yourself.