This weekend, I was able to spend some time with my Uncle Elliott and Aunt Nancy as well as my cousin Lisa, her husband Scott, and their daughters, Kate and Lily. Somehow we started talking about having a relationship with our kids where even when something bad happens, they know they can come to us. There is no doubt this is important for Lisa’s daughters and my three kids since they are all teenagers (with the exception of Oliver–who will be one next year). The teenage years are filled with perceived dramas and literal and figurative growing pains. No matter how old kids are, you want them to know you will be there for them, right? Scott said that their son who is in his twenties went to a concert this summer and called Scott in the middle of the night to say he didn’t think he was able to drive and asked if Scott could pick him up. There was only one answer for Scott. “No problem. I’ll be right there.”
The thing is, while it’s never too late to begin creating an “I’m here no matter what” relationship, it’s probably easiest to plant the seeds when kids are young. This made me think of a time with my daughter, Lilia. It was a Saturday morning when she was probably about eight. We were all going about our business which included Howard picking the boys up from karate. Right after he left, she found me in the kitchen.
“Mom? I did something. Please don’t be mad,” Lilia confessed.
With a quiver in her voice, Lilia said, “I cut my hair.” Lilia was facing me and I couldn’t see the damage in the back.
“You did? I don’t see anything.” She turned around and I saw a small patch where she had indeed cut her hair. “Oh. I see it now. What happened?”
“I was trying to get my hair to go into two ponytails and there was this chunk that didn’t want to go. I tried and tried and it wasn’t working. So I cut it. Please don’t be mad.”
It was almost comical and if she wasn’t standing in front of me, I’m sure I would have been laughing. There was no way I would ever be mad about this. First of all, it’s done. Second of all, it wasn’t that bad. Also, it’s just hair. “Oh, Lilia. It’s okay. It’s your hair. There’s nothing we can do about it now. You’re the one who will have this patch of short hair until it grows out.”
“You’re not mad?”
“No. Let’s talk about this though. Where is the hair that you cut?”
“It’s in my room.” It sure was. She had a couch in her room that she tucked the hair into so she could hide it. In truth, it was not the hair, but the attempted cover-up that upset me.
“Lilia, I see that you tried to hide the hair. That’s not okay. If you do something you think is bad you only make it worse when you try to hide it.”
“But I thought you’d be mad,” she defended.
“I was going to find out sooner or later, so you did the right thing by telling me. However, it was not the right thing to try to hide your mistake.” Then I realized something. “Did you wait until your dad left to tell me?”
Lilia sheepishly said, “Yes.”
“Lilia, I’m glad you thought you could come to me. You can. It’s also important that you know you can go to your dad too. We will both always love you. There is a lot to learn from this situation. First, I want you to know that you can come to us no matter what. The second is that you should never try to hide from the truth. Finally, I think you were probably feeling frustrated when the hair wasn’t cooperating with you. Is that right?”
“Yes. I was so mad.”
“I thought so. I think it’s important that you notice that when you feel mad and frustrated, you probably are not in the right mindset to make decisions that you can’t undo–like cutting your hair. If you had waited until you were calm, you probably would not have made the choice to cut your hair.”
“But it wouldn’t go into the ponytail.”
“I know. You may not have ever been able to make that work, but you could have gotten bobby pins or asked me for help or any number of other choices. Okay?”
“So let’s talk about your consequences. Now we have to clean up the hair.”
“Okay,” Lilia agreed. “Is that it?”
“No. You’re going to have to tell your dad.”
Now is when the tears started. “What?! No. He’ll be mad. Why can’t you tell him?”
“It’s like we talked about. You can always come to your dad or me. I want you to be able to see how he reacts. Also, as I said, you should never hide from the truth.”
“Do I have to?”
“Did you cut your hair and try to hide it?”
“Then, yes, you have to.”
I’m not going to lie. I did intercept Howard and prime him for this exchange since there was the off chance that he was going to be upset because Lilia cut her hair. Fortunately, he saw the humor in the situation and confidentially said to me, “It’s her hair. I’ll bet she won’t do that again.”
I’m sure there have been numerous things over the years that Lilia has done and has successfully covered up since the Great Hair Cutting Incident of 2016. At the same time, there have been even more examples of her having to own up to something and testing the limits of whether or not she really can come to us. My hope is that each time she feels like she’s failed, she also feels like we will not fail her.
P.S. This is the last new Lyon’s Letter of 2022. With that, my Catch of the Week is YOU, my readers. I am forever grateful for everyone who has read Lyon’s Letters this year and hope that you join me with the new letters in 2023 and beyond!
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