Peer Pressure for the Parent

At what point do I, as a parent, succumb to peer pressure? The, “Everyone has one, I want one too,” comment that comes from my son. I treasure the idea that he is different. I wish for him to learn that it is OK, no, it is WONDERFUL, for him to be who he is and not feel the need to conform to everyone else. Yet with every discussion he and I have had recently I feel myself beginning to cave to the pressure. Peer pressure on the parent….when did this begin? Apparently it began in the 6th grade.

Cell phones. When did they become so common place? As in out of 30 kids in a 6th grade middle school class more than 90% of the kids have one. Enter my son, 11 year old Coco, he is part of that 10% that is empty handed. Still relegated to using our house phone. Yes, we are “that” family. That family who still sees value in a house telephone.

I do not see the need for Coco to have a cell phone. I am always around. Always available. I work from home, part-time. It is I who drives him to school each morning, watching him exit my car and walk towards the larger than life building that he calls school, with the other 400+ kids in his grade. At the end of the day, it is my car that he looks around for to get the return ride home. I take him to his sports practices, his activities. We are rarely not together, with two exceptions – when he is at school and when I run an errand without him.

Guess what – when he is at school he has no need to call me. He should be studying after all, paying attention to his teacher, not worrying about where his mother is nor what she is doing. If something major happened, and he needed to reach me, the school would do that for him.

When I ready myself to run an errand, and he says to me, “Mom, I’d really rather just stay home,” I have no issue with this. Yet, guess what – he still has no need for a cell phone. If he needs to reach me our house phone works just fine. Remember, we are “that” family.

As you’ve read along, followed my thoughts, I can’t help but wonder if you are thinking to yourself, “She’s made the argument, given all very good reasons for why he shouldn’t have a cell phone. So, why is she contemplating buying him one?” I only have one good reason – I don’t want Coco to be “the one”. I don’t want him to be the one who the kids talk about, “He doesn’t have a phone.” Can you hear the way it was said? The snickering and the teasing? As I can. I can also hear the kids asking him, “Why don’t you have a phone?” Can you see Coco’s face, the one of embarrassment? His cheeks turning red, his eyes looking to the ground, the possibility of him turning away as he really doesn’t know what to say, other than, “My parents won’t buy me one.”

Strength comes in that answer. I believe that whole heartedly. Coco having to answer that his parents do not feel it is yet time; and us, as his parents, standing behind that decision, tells Coco that we mean what we say. At what point do I, as Coco’s parent, say the peer pressure doesn’t matter. That this is the first of many things that he will face, and, by comparison, I imagine this to be a very minimal item for him to face. Not giving in and buying Coco a cell phone teaches him that we choose. Not his friends, not society, not him. We do. And in my strong moments this is what I wish to tell him. However, in my weak ones, I wish to give in…

As here is the flip side of the coin. I also wish to teach Coco that we take people’s feelings into account. That his feelings of embarrassment matter to me. That his desire to not want to be “the one” matters to me. I wish for Coco to know that his reasons he’s given, the polite arguments he has made, I hear them. I acknowledge his feelings, his thoughts, his desires. They matter to me. He matters to me.

Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky; that this is even a dilemma to contemplate. As you see I think there are reasons for kids to have their own phone. If I worked full-time, outside of our house, and Coco was required to see himself off to the bus for both the way to and from school, I really do not think this would even be a conversation in our house. I believe, rather, that Coco would already have his own phone. I think it would feel more of a necessity for him that it does now. Now, it feels more like a nicety.

And this is where we find ourselves. Navigating the early stages of 6th grade peer pressure. Working out the answers that we are meant to find. As I sit here I cannot help but think to myself, “When do you think is a good time to buy him his own phone?” If it wasn’t as a result of peer pressure I really am not sure what my answer would be. Quite possibly this is the answer I need to reveal itself. Once it does perhaps all of the answers will fall into place.

One thing I know for certain…I am too old to succumb to 6th grade peer pressure. Been there. Done that. Not going back. I said that by not giving in and buying Coco a cell phone we are teaching him that we choose. I’d also like to be teaching him that he chooses. That in our strength of making the right choice FOR him, we are also teaching him that when the time comes, and the decision is HIS to make, that he too makes the right decision FOR HIMSELF. Not the decision everyone else wishes for him to make.

Along this path of discovery may I teach this lesson to Coco, he doesn’t have to give in and be like everyone else. He simply needs to be him. Authentic, amazing, one of a kind him….

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