Yearbooks can spark crucial family dialogue - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Yearbooks can spark crucial family dialogue

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Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008 10:51 pm | Updated: 11:52 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Having been raised in an era when simple ear piercing was considered controversial and tattoos were isolated remnants on the forearms of once-young seamen, I can relate to the horror of Queen Creek parents perusing their children’s yearbooks.

I often feel the sting of being smacked in the face by images of what is considered normal in today’s society.

But what we of a more “ripened” generation must remember is that our parents were equally disturbed by the social mutations on display in our high school pictorials.

I recall the dreaded Beatle-style long hair, ethereal flower children, chicken-claw peace symbols, and blue-dot “I Found It” signs ubiquitously displayed by students called “Jesus freaks.” The war against drugs was in its initial stages and we had several combatants listed among our student body.

As a senior, my between-class experience included something that I as a transplant from an all-white Utah community had never before dealt with: an inter-racial couple making-out next to my locker. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the black and white parents to accept their children’s problematic choice in dating partners.

But what I learned from this daily event was that life offers a variety of duets, and when they aren’t fighting, all couples enjoy swapping saliva. I didn’t come away traumatized; I simply pondered the reality confronting me.

There was nothing inappropriate in what I witnessed, and a healthy respect for both of these student athletes made it easy for me to conclude that they had every right to navigate the rituals of young love with whomever they chose. High school courtships are a generational constant and generally don’t make it past graduation. Yearbook snapshots have never promoted long-term relationships, but they do accurately reflect an ever-evolving culture.

Perhaps parents should embrace this pictorial record as an opportunity to peek into the lives of their pre-college teens. Instead of attempting to shield their children from the expanding world around them, the unsettling pictures might offer a shared experience, one which might actually strengthen the parent/child relationship. Parents may want to flip through the yearbook with their kids and calmly discuss the long-term effects of body piercings and extreme tattoos.

Ultimately it will be their offspring’s choice to do whatever they decide with their own body, and this might well be the last chance to offer input before these burgeoning adults are left to their own devices.

I believe this controversy offers the perfect opening for parents to teach their children that the worth of the individual is more than skin-deep. What’s to be gained by inflexibly insisting that students choosing to adorn themselves with colorful tattoos or body piercing have no core values?

This harsh assessment only provides a negative example of judging others based on how they look rather than imparting the more Christian ideal of looking for inner beauty and accepting people for who they are.

Personally, I still haven’t come to appreciate the elaborate stylings of tattoo artists and I cringe at the notion of sensitive areas being invaded by steel rods. As a dental hygienist I often lectured my teen patients about systemic infections associated with tongue piercing, and I’ve urged many a young adult to seriously consider the unappealing prospect of growing old with sagging skin art.

But I have also been proud to know many intelligent and honorable nonconformists sporting leather-covered shaved heads, as well as a plethora of colorful tattoos and painful-looking body piercings.

The youth of today understand the enormity of options facing them in the modern world; they are confronted by them on a daily basis.

And while young people will ultimately make their own choice as to whom they will eventually become what this intolerance for the diversity pictured in the Queen Creek yearbook might actually be offering them, is a less-than-positive glimpse into the core values of their parents.

Sandi Glauser is a Gilbert resident.

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