Parenting often means running out of hands. Not only as in "I only have two of them, and I have three children," but also, like Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," when he does the "on the one hand, on the other hand" game while trying to solve his ever more difficult parenting dilemmas.
A few weeks ago, writer Eleni Gage caused an uproar with an essay about her decision to pierce her 6-month-old daughter's ears. For her, the "one hand" was her husband's family tradition, and the other was her own ambivalence about wanting to allow the girl to make that choice for herself, and the third was the outrage of the internet, where, she wrote in a follow-up essay, she was "called self-satisfied, low-class, controlling, shallow, sexist, smug, priggish, crazed, repulsive, creepy, trashy, frivolous, provincial, disgusting, and just plain horrible."
Today , on the Modern Parenthood blog of The Christian Science Monitor, Judy Bolton-Fasman has advanced the dilemma by more than a decade and moved it to the center of the face. Her 16-year-old has lobbied for a nose piercing for two years, she writes, and her parents "hands" were their dislike of the look, their Jewish tradition which definitely forbids tattoos -- but may or may not forbid piercings -- and their daughter's insistence that she be allowed to establish her own identity.
Yes, they got to the "I will be 18 soon and can do what I please" argument that hovers over nearly every conversation between teens and their parents. And it was a roundabout version of that argument that eventually swayed her Mom and Dad, but only because Anna used it not to threaten her parents but rather to turn them to mush.
For two years Anna begged, argued, and yes, threw mild tantrums all in the name of establishing her own identity. She tried to highlight the fact that she would be 18 sooner rather than later and wouldn't need our permission to pierce any part of her body. To her credit, she also said that she wouldn't go ahead with the piercing at any age if Ken ultimately objected. When he heard that he got choked up and gave in to his little girl.
I have two sons. I've never had to decide whether to pierce an infants ears, nor have they ever asked to do so on their own. But I have never seen pierced ears as a line in the sand. If they'd wanted to, or if it were my husband's tradition, why not?
Pierced nose, on the other hand? That would make me a little uncomfortable. Is that the way they want the world to see them? Full nose ring? That's a hand too far. Tattoos? Forget about it.
Looking at my ranked list of body decor, I realize that the differences are not actual ones, but rather measures of my own perceptions. (Okay, the tattoos are permanent while the others aren't, so I feel particularly justified in that distinction.) Still, I find them hard to shake.
As Tevye eventually said, after he compromised, and bent and adjusted for most of the film, sometimes there is no other hand.
Where are your parenting lines? How often have you changed them?