Recently, my sister gave up a battle and told her 14 year old she could dye her hair purple, and not just the temporary wash-out way. She was probably caught in a weak moment.  “If Auntie will do it for you… fine,” she said.   Auntie (me) didn’t think it was a good idea. Auntie was pretty sure Bella would end up not liking it, and it would be a whole thing.  This was not the first time Auntie dyed Bella’s hair on request.

Still, I took Bella and her BFF to the drug store after work and picked out the desired shade of purple, which was actually NOT exactly the desired shade but closest in stock. That was the first sign of trouble.  I bought the dye (and ice cream, and snacks… because… that’s what you do with 14 year olds at drug stores).  I put my own son to bed on time and found a comb and forced Bella to comb out her thick curly hair.  Then, I stayed up past my own self-subscribed bedtime raking surprisingly sickly sweet smelling dye through Bella’s masses of curls, trying to make sure every lock was covered.

At Least I Tried!

The next morning I woke up and pulled my suit jacket sleeves down to cover my purple  wrists where the gloves let me down.  I went to the kitchen and met my purple-haired niece.

“So! How do you like it?” I asked?

“Mmmm…. I don’t like it.  So, can you just take me after work to get brown hair dye to dye it back? Like”

“Really Bell?” I asked.  “Maybe you should wait a while. It might grow on you.. Maybe give it a chance since we put in the effort.”

“No,” she said, decisively.  “I’m not into it.”

I sighed. “Did I kind of tell you that this was going to happen?  Like… the last time with the highlights? And before with the super dark? Why couldn’t you listen to Auntie when I said maybe to just stick with the wash out kind that you can put on yourself and wash out the next day… that that would be a much better idea?”

“But– Auntie… BUT” She points her finger triumphantly, “BUT.. At least I TRIED IT! Right?”

BUT.. At least I TRIED IT!

I was profoundly confused.  At least I tried it?  At least I tried it? No! Trying it was a waste of time, money, and kind of an embarrassment to this lady about to walk into the DA’s office with purple wrists.

“Like… I tried it, Auntie. So that was good. And now, I know I don’t like it.. So I’ll try another brown! And maybe a different purple later. So, that’s good, right? Like.. when you told me to try dance! Or when you make Lilah try the butternut squash soup, or like.. When you told Lukona to try baseball since there was no basketball.”

Oh. Okay. So she has this all confused. Or does she?

Just Try It

Based on our fabulous parenting, obviously, our kids have gleaned that “trying something” is good! Her examples were fair.  She ended up loving dance! She made friends and moved her body for hours a week because of that class.  Also, the butternut squash soup was delicious, even if Lilah didn’t really appreciate it yet. And it was healthy!  The baseball example was sort of a similar waste of time and money like the hair dye, since Lukona ended up seriously hating baseball, but it was fresh air and exercise!

The commonality she wasn’t gleaning was: all my things had to do with either fresh air, exercise or nutrition. Trying things that are healthy? GOOD.  Trying things that involve chemicals close to your face?  Not as good!

My mind wandered, paranoid, towards the future. If at 14, she is telling me proudly how great she was for trying out purple hair, what will she be proudly “trying” at 16? Or 18?  “Auntie! I tried vodka last night! At least I tried!”  I shook off the thought.  Oh dear.  Let’s get back to the guidelines!

I was about to give her the run down again: Fresh Air! Exercise! Nutrition! But then I thought, she’s a little right.  Maybe it’s a hard pass on trying drugs and alcohol, getting in cars with strangers, that sort of thing, but maybe “trying it” in general is a good thing!

Experimenting for Better or for Worse?

I thought about things I had tried or had not tried. Things I wished I tried. Things I was glad I tried.  I’m so glad I never tried smoking, I know a few people still “trying” to quit.  I recently tried short hair, again, and I am loving it for the first time. I realized the last few times I tried short hair, it wasn’t cut short enough, and that was why I didn’t love it. My newest short cut was amazing, so I’m glad I gave it another shot.

I’ve tried new cities, new jobs, new hobbies. Some stuck and some didn’t. Some things, I wished I had tried harder; hobbies or skills I wish I had not just tried, but stuck to over the years.  Other things I quit trying. I used to dye my hair dark every fall and people would say they liked it, and it made my blue eyes pop.  Then every spring when I went back blonde, people would say, “Oh thank goodness, you are blonde again!”  That’s something that I’m glad I tried and finished trying.

I’m glad we tried ADHD medication for our son, even if it was the worst 6 months of my life and maybe his. Even though we tried every combination possible, and he had mood swings and sleepless nights and lost 10 pounds his lean body didn’t have to lose. I’m glad we tried it, because now we know it didn’t work for him.  For some kids, it’s like a light switch in their learning experience, and I’m glad I’m not wondering if it would have been for him.

Right now, my niece is trying things, trying on new styles, trying to figure out who she is, how she wants to fit in and where. She is trying cropped tops and baggy jeans that remind me of the 90s when I just didn’t have her figure to try them. My niece is trying chokers and layering necklaces. She is trying YouTube curly hair tutorials and winged eyeliner.

Maybe It Is Ok

Overall, I guess I’ve decided it’s okay. Experiment away (except with the drugs and alcohol and vaping and strangers in cars.. and all the bad ideas I hope our great parenting has defined).  It may feel like a waste of time in the short run at times, but it’s probably for the best in the long run.  We want our children to grow up to be flexible, open, and broadly accepting.  Trying things is the way to get there.  If they involve fresh air, exercise and nutrition, so much the better.

What have you tried that you valued or regretted?  How do you portray experimenting to your kids to make sure they are on the right side of open but not careless?

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Gia is a native Californian who has lived all over the state from San Diego to Trinity County, plus Washington DC for a short time. She recently relocated to Ventura County with her family to build a compound property together with her sister’s family so that they could always share wardrobes and parenting responsibilities for their 5 combined children at home. Gia graduated from UCSB with a degree in Linguistics (which she thinks entitles her to make up words). It took her just three years, as she was eager to graduate early to go live with her long distance boyfriend and his toddler daughter at the time. That seemed to work out, as the boyfriend got promoted to husband years ago and her step-daughter promoted her to grandmother recently! Gia’s husband is from East Africa and runs their Bed and Breakfast in Tanzania from near and far. Gia is a Human Resources Director who has a major obsession with watermelon and eggnog lattes, depending on the season.


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