Life with mostly teenagers has changed me a lot and all for the better. I have very candid conversations with my kids who now have the wisdom a little age and perspective starts to bring. I’m thankful that I raised them to question everything – including my decisions.
D goes to work at 4 am and we have two bathrooms to get ready in. Years ago I opened up my bedroom and bathroom to the girls so they could spread out and get ready in the mornings before school and the boys had a place to shower and pee. This answer to a problem of bathroom space opened up so much more. Since we’re all getting ready for the day hanging out together, listening to music and chatting, the girls have opened up discussions on a myriad of topics.
One of the conversations we have is about tattoos and body piercings. I got my first tattoo at 19 in 1989 when it was far less common, especially for women. I had 3 earrings in each ear in high school – also a little edgy for that time. I wanted more tattoos, but I was part of a strict religion that forbade them, so instead I felt guilt for the one I had. I took out all but one earring and put out of my mind my edgy and inappropriate desire to get more ink. I even had two laser treatments to remove my tattoo which made my heart sink.
13 years ago, I left that religion. Who I was with them was not a lie – it was facets of me but I was tired of squashing the parts of me I couldn’t show. It was one of the biggest periods of change in my life, and I felt I needed to maintain my role as the only stability for my kids. They were also reeling from the changes and I felt an obligation not to rock the boat. I did pierce my bellybutton and get two smaller tattoos, but then I stopped. Instead I focused on being the best example to my kids that I could be and again, I set aside some of who I am.
My mistake was not being myself. We sometimes make decisions with the best intentions, which was the case with me, but I feel it was a disservice to the very kids I was trying to be an example to. In conversations over the last few years, my kids ask how I feel about any number of subjects and I answer honestly. My answers, however, are sometimes a contradiction of my actions. Gabi – a senior in high school – has a quiet, introspective soul and reminded me a couple years ago that I don’t act how I raised them. When making a decision, imagine being in a retirement home. Would you look back and have regret that you took chances or that you didn’t. Ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen when making a choice you want and if it would hurt anyone else. If it’s worth it, do it. Instead of taking my own advice, I continued to limit who I am with the misconception that it was in my kids best interest. Kids are smart and I was dumb to hide my raw, authentic self from them.
A couple years ago I shared with them my folder of tattoo ideas and started getting them – with their suggestions to boot. I got my nose pierced, put my earrings back in and added to them. When the question on piercings came up early this year in our morning conversations, I told them I’ve wanted to get my nipples done for a decade – at least – but didn’t because I was trying to be a constant, stable force and a good example. Gabi again, “We know who you are Mom. Do the things you want. Be true to yourself. You’re still the same person.” Gabi rocks my world. Through these conversations, I realized I could have been my authentic self all along. It wasn’t about getting my kids permission or having a mid-life crisis but more about being comfortable embracing all facets of myself without excuses of why I couldn’t. It became about living what I taught them. No regrets. Being yourself. Never apologizing for who you are. When I decided to pierce my nose someone asked me if I was too old. Nope. A judge I know is ten years older than I am and she has hers pierced. There are no age or job limitations and as an adult, I don’t need anyone’s permission. Be you authentically.
This past March, I figured out that Kezia – my headstrong, outgoing, loud, artsy, edgy, freaking amazing almost 15 year old – had been piercing some of their friends. I tried to conceal my panic. It IS possible to hurt someone and images of improper sterilization started scrolling through my head. Instead of getting upset, I purchased ‘The Piercing Bible’ for her, ordered needles in single use packaging, went online to YouTube videos of placement and sterilization (and what can happen if you do it wrong). I told her to let me know when she felt comfortable and confident with the information and she could pierce my nipples. Her unease was evident and I let her know that if she wasn’t comfortable piercing me, she shouldn’t be doing it to anyone else. In classic Kezia form, she poured over the information, went through the orders with me and studied until she was ready. Gabi and Abby jumped in too.
The day before her 15th birthday, Kezia pierced my nipples. Yes, it hurt like hell and yes, she did an amazing job and no I don’t regret it. I love them. Yes, I know that sounds crazy. No, I’m not having a mid-life crisis and yes, my kids are right that I should have taken my own advice. Instead, I got to embrace all my facets with them right along side of me. Although retrospectively I would have done things differently and embraced my facets at a much younger age, I’m glad we took the ride together.