My #1 Guiding Principle in Parenting - It is alright to make boo-boos, both for you and your child because your best moment together is probably your last exploration-gone-wayward!
I have met a handful of individuals (parents, adults, colleagues, young adults and teenagers alike) who are so worried about making boo-boos (aka genuine mistakes) that they have become too hesitant to the point of actually being sceptical to explore beyond their, not just comfort zone but SAFE zone, hence missing out on a huge chunk of uncertainties and possibly exhilaratingly magical moments in life that will help build one's character with independence, positivity, creativity and perseverance / strength.
Hence, as a parent (well, to be specific, even BEFORE I was pregnant) I knew I have to learn how to allow my child the freedom to explore his options, learn to make informed decisions and handle the end-result (both good and bad) gracefully.
Case in point, I took the young man to the barber recently for a haircut. Instead of his usual No.2 cut, he wanted to have it bald. When I heard what he had wanted, it took me 2 seconds of conscious effort not to react like a typical controlling aka overly smothering Cina-Mom. Instead, I took a moment to process the information by asking him why. (Asking questions is my way of buying some time while getting more details to help me understand the rationale behind his thoughts and actions.)
Son: Because I want to be like the Ah-Wei Jiu Jiu lor.
Me: Who is Ah-Wei Jiu Jiu?
Son: He is inside the TV show.
Me: Why would you want to be like Ah-Wei Jiu Jiu?
Son: Because he is very stylish and smart. Always touching his head like this. (And he showed me how this Ah-Wei Jiu Jiu would rub his baldness).
Me: Okay, so you want to be like this Ah-Wei Jiu Jiu because you like him?
Son: Yes (with a biggum smile across his face).
Me: Okay, we can have a bald haircut for you. But just so you know, after you have gone bald, other people around you, such as your friends in school might find that you look very different from how you usually are. Hence, they will probably ask you why you cut your hair bald, ask to touch your head, and might even burst out into laughter when they see you. So if they were to do that, how do you think you would respond?
Son: *stared at me blankly*
Me: Well, maybe if they ask you why you have gone bald, you could tell them that a) you think this look is very stylish like Ah-Wei Jiu Jiu and like to try it out, and/or b) you want to learn kung-fu like those Shaolin kids in the movies.
If they ask to touch your head, you can either say a) ok, and let them touch it for a bit if you want to, or b) not now, maybe later, if you don’t feel comfortable for them to touch it.
If they burst out into laughter and possibly call you ‘botak-head’, you can laugh along with them, so that everyone will be laughing together, and it will be FUN!!
Son: OKAY! (again, with a biggum smile across his innocent-looking face)
We proceeded with the haircut of his choice, and as soon as it was done and he got to look at himself in the mirror, I could immediately detect a sense of uneasiness, bordering the verge of being shock in the young man with his sunken cheeks.
Instantaneously I went over and gave him a biggum smile, a hug, a kiss on his forehead and said “Oh my boy looks soooo lovely! Mommy love your new look! How do you like it?”
It was at that moment that his clouded eyes cleared and the look of joy and excitement returned with sparkles. He felt his baldness briefly and then returned my smile with a big grin and a nod, as though in agreement with what I have said.
We left the barber and while crossing the street to get the car, a random male passer-by shouted “Ooi! Botak!!” (Baldy)
I glimpsed at the direction where the voice came from and then turned my attention to the young boy and said “I think that man is calling you. Do you want to just wave your hand at him and smile then say hello and goodnight to him?” And he did, with a smile.
When we got home, my Mom went ballistic.
Mom: OMG!!! Why is he BALD!??!!!
Me: Well, he wanted it, so he got it.
Mom: BUT YOU ARE HIS MOM!!! You should know what is right and good for him. You should have said NO!
Me: Why should I? I think it is good for him to learn how to choose his own hairstyle, plus, he does look cute too, right?
Mom: But your sister’s wedding is in a couple of weeks’ time, how can he go BALD?
Me: Mom, relax. Hair grows back. And he is a kid, his hair grows back really quickly.
Mom: *slightly more relaxed but still in a grumbling mode* You shouldn’t have allowed him.
I just smiled and gave my mom a pat on her shoulders before we turned to the dinner feast laid out before us.
Next day, the young man came home in a hyper mode and told me that he had a good laugh with his little friends at school that day and he had also told them that he wanted to learn kung-fu.
As though rehearsed for a thousand times before, it was the perfect moment for me to bring out the gift I had prepared for him – a yellow Shaolin Kung-fu costume – which sent him into a crazy jumping even-more-hyper mode that whole afternoon and the week to come.