My Beanie Baby (A Lesson in Parenting)

If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.” _ Frank Zappa

This quote makes me laugh (and cringe) at myself a bit today. Yesterday, as my son was heading off to shadow at School of the Arts (a public high school which he hopes to attend for technical theater), I called out to him to remember to take his beanie off before getting there. “Take my beanie off?”, he yelled back to me in complete confusion. Then he asked “Why?” and I said “Just because!”. The truth is I had no good reason to say that, other than it was drilled into me as a child, in the Detroit Public schools, you take your hat off in school. In fact, I have a horrifying memory of my best friend having her hat yanked off her head by the principal and thrown across the hallway (but I digress).  I knew instantly my comment was purely an automatic, totally meaningless, knee-jerk of a comment triggered from my own memories of being told how to do my shit… a desperate cry as a mom to tell her kid how to do his shit, so she looks good. He ran off to catch his carpool wearing his beanie (probably thinking ‘yep, she’s crazy’).

When I got to the school to pick him up later in the day, I noticed he’d listened to me (or maybe the hot weather got to him?). He took off his beanie, but I also noticed at least half, if not more, of the kids were wearing theirs. I felt like such an idiot having mentioned his beanie. I know better than that.

I’m so proud of my guy. I don’t know if he’ll get into this school (he did- yay!) but I know he is off to really exciting wonderful things in his life, partly because he has listened to me over the years sure, but partly because I’ve (mostly) allowed him to listen to himself and I’ve made a point of letting him make his own choices about his likes and dislikes. I won’t beat myself up over the beanie comment, but I’m glad I’m aware I made it and how meaningless it was.

Age 13 is a critical time of self expression and I must let him listen to himself– particularly in choices of what to wear on his head! I mean really, if an art school in the Bay Area can’t handle beanies, then what kind of art school is it anyway? And why would I want my son to go there?

I’m looking forward to talking with my son about this and what triggered my beanie comment. One thing I’ve come to realize about parenting is that it’s a process. Sometimes it means you have to circle back to things you wish you didn’t do or say and think about how you might do or say them differently next time.


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