My 15-yr-old son shaved his head last week and now looks like a Bhuddist monk. We have therefore accorded him the status Spiritual Leader of Our Family and look up to him with new respect. Touchingly, he asked my permission before he did it. I say touchingly because this always amazes me, the way my children ask me the question ‘Am I allowed to..?’ I obviously still don’t really believe that I have the authority to say yes or no.
It was my first son who introduced me to the concept that I was in charge. I really had no idea in those days that this is the way it works between parents and children. I think I just expected that we’d rub along together, just kind of working things out as they came up, with nothing really needing to be… well, Spelled Out. I didn’t realise that I would have the power to allow and disallow things, that I would be a permission-giver and a permission-withholder.
I think the idea came from his nursery school, and I’ve much to thank them for. As well as coming home with the new question ‘Am I allowed to..?’ my son also introduced into the family the request ‘Please may I get down from the table?’ which has served us well ever since.
This was my introduction to the fact that children love us to be their parents rather than their mates. They seem to like their friends to be the same age as them, and maybe share their interests, and they would prefer us to be the Big People who make the rules.
My children now ask me some ridiculous things, to which I would never say no. ‘Am I allowed to read in bed?’ from my daughter amuses me as she always reads in bed, but my recent favourite has to be: ‘Am I allowed to get an early night tonight?’
Maybe I’m being too much of a mate with my children, and in asking my permission they are just checking on my continued commitment to be their parent…