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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 06.24.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Well, at least it's not a tat

Last Father's Day, I signed away my daughter's nose.

She's almost sixteen, which is old enough to get her licence but not old enough to get her nose pierced without parental permission. Once you're eighteen, you can drink, vote and stick a hole in your face (which sounds like a heck of an Election Day).

I had to sign a form that, I have to admit, I failed to read thoroughly. Something about acknowledging that the incomprehensible Ardène sales clerk was not responsible for any resulting health problems, trauma, lost wages, or taunting; that grandparents and other elderly relatives decidedly would not approve; and that an extra hole in the nose is not a plaything.

Getting her nose pierced was not a Father's Day gift to me. I would rather she hadn't, actually. But I signed away. Happily. With pleasure. Because:

a) it's a fairly discreet nose stud, as opposed to something garish like a pinwheel that spins when she breathes;

b) she can change her mind later, as opposed to something permanent like a tattoo that says "If you can read this, I hope you bought me dinner first";

c) it's just a nose, as opposed to grosser options like her tongue, which I imagine would cauthe therious thpeach problemth; and

d) it was a battle I was happy to lose.

In fact, I didn't even put up a fight. Being a parent means sometimes holding your tongue, even when they're piercing theirs.

I wish every parental decision was as simple as approving a new puncture in your child's face.

Instead, most of the time I feel like I'm operating complicated machinery without knowing which lever to pull. And here's the big joke: none of the levers are the right one.

I know I'm not saying anything new. Parents have understood this forever. I, too, realized going into this that my children would develop multiple personalities, often on the same day.

What I didn't realize is that I would change along with them. Bye-bye free-thinking, rebel-embracing, authority-challenging pre-child self. Hello Stephen Harper.

For example, I never really noticed 15-year-old boys before. Sure, I scoffed at their backwards ball caps, droopy drawers, and nasty little patches of facial hair. But I could ignore them.

But then they started hanging around. They'd swagger up the street and slouch around on the sidewalk, and I'd feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Sometimes I'd actually go "Grrrrr!" And this was only when they were lurking around my neighbour's house! Imagine a couple of years later when they started showing up in my driveway.

When you're the father of teenage girls, you understand without a doubt that 15-year-old boys are the antichrist. Why? Because I was a 15-year-old boy once and I know exactly what's going on in their ridiculously coiffed heads. It's just not nice.

Other times, it feels like I'm suffering from the parental version of Stockholm syndrome. That's when you start overly sympathizing with the children due to time spent together in captivity.

You start thinking, yeah, maybe it would be good for their self-esteem if they rolled down Rock Island hill in a shopping cart. Or what harm would it do to let them have a few friends overnight while Mom and Dad are away?

No! No! No! They're the enemy! Everything they want to do is inherently wrong.

I don't want to embarrass my kids by going into too much detail. That's the trouble with kids; they learn to read and other smart stuff. Darn them.

But I will point out one more incident, again on Father's Day. My second-oldest daughter, 13, has been asked to attend a semi-formal event. For this she needs a dress. Last Sunday, just before big sister stuck an anvil through her nose, younger sister picked one out.

She modeled it for us when we got home - my dirty-kneed, roughhousing, skirt-shunning 13-year-old in a sweet, elegant dress, looking jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Which lever do I pull?

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