Yesterday, riding in the car, my daughter said “I have a problem.”
To the mom of a teenager, that’s the panicky equivalent of yesteryear’s “We need to talk.”
“That sunscreen you bought me, SPF 50, well it’s not letting me tan at all.”
Damn, I was wondering when she would figure that out.
We are fair skinned, freckled, Nordic people, not prone to tan but prone to skin cancer; at thirteen she doesn’t care about that, but I do.
I’ve always preached risk management to my kids. We wear seatbelts, don’t ride in the backs of pick-up trucks. Don’t drink and drive, etc.
BUT, I’ve never wanted my children to be afraid of the world or afraid of new experiences. For example, one year Reagan fractured her wrist on an obstacle course; the next year she said “I suppose you don’t want me to do it this year.”
I let her.
And we talked about risk vs. reward. About how life is not risk free, and how we take sensible precautions but that we can’t let fear make our decisions. (Except when it comes to bungee jumping… we were going to do it one year and we all chickened out!)
To her, the risk of skin cancer is worth the reward-being tan like all her friends.
So what do I do? Forbid tanning? Hand her a bottle of lower SPF sunscreen and cross my fingers? I’m uncertain. If it was a matter of imminent danger, it would be a no-brainer, but it’s not. Is the (slight) risk of skin cancer lower or greater than the reward (*fitting in) that she gets?
I just don’t know.
(*Yes, “fitting in” sounds trite, but for a 13-year old, it’s vitally important. And “laying out” and tanning is a whole social occasion for the girls in our neighborhood. They meet up, make snacks, arrange towels, music, etc… so it’s not just the tan itself that is important to her, but the whole social aspect of it.)