Parenting just goes on getting harder and harder as your kids get older.
I have a theory about why there are so many hot-button, controversial issues about pregnancy, birth and babyhood, and so few (at least that I've come across in the Christian community) similarly divisive issues pertaining to middle-school children. It's because when we're parenting those younger children (and when we're pregnant and all that) things are so much easier to see in black and white. Once they turn eight/nine/ten, somewhere in there, it becomes so much more difficult to discern the Best Way.
I fall into this myself. Ask me about teaching my kids the meaning of "no". Ask me about getting them to sleep through the night, breastfeeding them, birthing them and proper nutrition and exercise during pregnancy-- I have ready answers and a system I firmly believe is the best for each one of those issues. (don't get me wrong, I'm not holding myself up as a paragon of perfect parenting-- I'm just saying I have strong opinions and methods I believe in pretty passionately.)
But now, now that Sofi is almosteight... well, things are different. I find it much easier to talk about why I believe in babywearing, than to explain to my sobbing almosteight-year-old why she is the "only girl my age" to not be allowed to pierce her ears. I find it sososo much simpler to teach a one-year-old not to touch the pretty glass thingy, than to teach my daughter to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it might get you in trouble, even when it makes you look bad. I have statistics and percentages and studies out the whazoo to convince you that natural childbirth is better for you and for your baby, but when my daughter asks me why Daddy and I won't let her wear a bikini, I just stand there and open and shut my mouth a few times like a stranded fish.
I'm a little at a loss as to why this is. It's not just that I feel less strongly about bikinis and ear piercing and telling the truth... it's just that those things are more long-term, big-picture result oriented. It's not that there's anything wrong, per se, with piercing one's ears. It's just that a part of us wants to keep that for later-- to wait, and grow up in stages, instead of all at once. It's not really about the earrings, they're just a symbol of something more important.
And the bikini, too. Another small part of a big issue. The M word. Modesty. And simply banning bikinis doesn't even begin to address the depth of Modesty as I want my daughter to express it, live it. It's just a very small part of it. It's not about covering certain parts of her body, it's about attitudes and habits.
Isn't it funny how easy it is to be adamant, unbending, vocal, passionate about the temporary, unimportant things, like whether my child sleeps through the night sooner than yours? And how hard it is to articulate and teach the really important things like Honesty, Modesty, Maturity?