When our kids were growing up, I told them that if they ever got a) piercings or b) tattoos that could been seen wearing regular clothing (including shorts or beachwear), they could find their own way to pay for university! Okay, Jennifer was allowed to have her ears pierced - but only one per side. The main reason I instituted this rule (with full backing of their father I might add) was my intention to preserve, for wont of a better term, their "future hire-ability". They were children living in our household and we had rules. This was nothing new to them. And we had seen so many teenagers who obsessed with "body art" and frankly, the thought of a senior citizen with baggy skin with tattoos was more than a little unsettling. But that wasn't the point.
The point was this: we felt that until they were adults living on their own (as in "off our payroll"), they did not have the right to make these decision on their own. I don't know if the kids chaffed against our "ruling" or not. It wasn't an issue as far as I know nor do I think they are harboring resentment against us for this "prohibition of self-expression during the formative years". I admit, we are conservative, dare I say (gasp!) Republican? And Mike is in industry - in his career with Amoco and then BP, presentation was very important - to your boss, to your "direct-reports", to companies with whom you wish to do business. Employees represent companies, whether in a positive or negative way. This is "real life". We can debate all day whether or not this is "fair" but the reality is, if you don't have lots of tattoos and body piercings, you're typically going to go farther in a career.
I was reminded of this when I was reading a back issue of Reader's Digest, the April 2008 issue. There is an article about how the current trend for folks to "proudly" display photos of their exploits shamelessly on YouTube, Facebook and MySpace. Turns out, lots of employers are combing the internet for information on job interviewees. There were several folks mentioned in the article who thought they had the perfect new hire only to do a search online that turned up unsavory public behavior. Anyone who has access to a television, radio, newspaper or the internet knows about the whole Miley Cyrus thing - and I'm not talking about the Vanity Fair photo shoot either (although that was alarming enough). I'm talking about the photos with her "male friend" and her exposing her green bra. Now, she is backtracking worried that she's "offended her fan base and am so embarrassed" (more likely, she's worried about her bottom line financials.) And she is 15 - a very young teenager!
But the point of the article was not lost on me - why are people so quick to have their 15 seconds, not minutes, of fame when it turns around to bite them in the butt for years to come? Is society's craving for "fame" so great that folks are willing to publicize less-than-stellar behaviors so they can generate an internet buzz? When college kids go south for what they perceive as "rite of passage" Spring Break trips and friends take photos of them drunk, exposing themselves, making out - all in the name of "having a good time", how can they seriously cry wolf when these things come to the surface? And that's not even going into the possible repercussions of such behavior personally (STDs, unwanted pregnancy, alcohol addition, drug use and overdose, loss of self-esteem, etc. - need I go on?)
So MY point is this to you parents: I don't care if "everybody is doing it" or anything else, morality is morality. Modesty is modesty. And perhaps the new byline for parents should be "Would you want what you are about to do to be on the internet where it can't be removed for all time for the world to see, saved on hard drives, played over and over again?" I see a lot of parents who have abdicated their God-given responsibility to shape, mold, teach their children how to be responsible adults - either because they want to be "friends" with their kids or they're living out some sick fantasy of what THEY wanted when they were that age. We put plastic protectors in electrical plugs. We cushion the hard corners in our living rooms. We keep doors closed and locked. We tell them to not open the door to strangers. We keep small objects off the floors - we do all these protective measures for our little ones. We want to keep them safe. And somewhere along the way, some parents lose sight of what really makes kids safe - teaching them to make sound decisions about the far reaching consequences of their actions.
We are parents, not buddies. They need us to be protective of not only their physical beings, but their spiritual as well. The world needs more parents with "push-back" - say YES when you can but be firm in your NO!s when necessary. Done right, your children will grow up to be adults who know WHO they are, WHOSE they are and WHERE they are going.