(I should let you know that my son would prefer not to be the subject of this blog post but I know in my heart that we need to know what other families are experiencing and that we're all in this together. In my crazy-busy life, it seems like blogging has replaced bunco. The blogosphere is now where the worries and fears, phases and stages are pondered. This post is brought to you for the greater good.)
Do you remember your very first crush? Mine was at the end of fourth grade and one day, he ran by me and kissed me on the shoulder. From that point on, I couldn't stand him! Not because he changed, he was still the nice, slightly short boy who made me laugh. What changed was our environment. Our entire fourth grade class knew of the drive-by-shoulder-kiss and they couldn't wait for another scandalous PDA to gossip about.
Peer pressure has existed since the beginning of time. I guarantee there was a group of cave-women who decided the jagged-hemmed, animal print, sleeveless dress was the way to catch the best bachelor in town. I'm sure they pressured even the most modest girls to "just try it." Seriously, every child at some/many points, will experience peer pressure. How will you help your kids through it?
So last Tuesday, right after school, my son told me it was "National Hugging Day" and that ALL the boys hugged ALL the girls at school.
"How'd that go over?" I asked, wondering how many kids got warnings for such "potentially harassing" conduct. But he assured me that most of them are just friends and he was happy he hugged the girl he did because she was a good friend. Sweet and innocent and friend-ly. Right?
Two days later I received an update to "National Hugging Day," which happens to be January 21, not May 27; I looked it up.
"Mom. I asked recipient-of-hug out today."
"I thought you were just friends."
"We are. But all my friends told me she liked me and that I should ask her out, so I did."
"Even though you're not allowed to have a girlfriend?" (No judgment but our house rule is no girlfriends/boyfriends until somewhere around high school.)
"Yeah. But it's not a big deal. It's just that all my friends have girlfriends and I kinda wanted to too." (Read it again. Go ahead. Feel free to replace "have girlfriends" with ANYTHING that you're terrified of your kids trying one day. Yep. That's how I felt. Jesus help us!)
"Okay...(trying to breathe)...Well...(what if he ends up addicted to crack?!?!)...Since you know the rule, I want you to think about how you're going to resolve this. You can't have crack...I mean a girlfriend!! So let's figure out a plan, okay?"
And that was just the beginning of the conversation. We've spent the last six days in deep conversation about LOTS of potential lessons, including, but not limited to:
1) How to cope with peer pressure and stand up for what's right and/or follow the rules. Whether it's a benign 5th grade "relationship" or a shot of tequila and a joint (gateway) at a high school party...I am really not concerned with what everyone else is doing.
2) How to treat your girlfriend (when you're mature enough to have one-this age may vary but I'm sure 11 is not in the ballpark): shaking her parents' hands when you pick her up, at the door, for your date; earning funds to provide for your (age-appropriate) entertainment; being a gentleman and adhering to curfews; caring about her feelings and conversing with her about all sorts of stuff...girls LOVE to talk about ALL THE STUFF!
3) How to right a wrong, even when it feels bad. Sometimes I think the more uncomfortable they are, the more likely the lesson will stick. When you ask a girl out and you really shouldn't have, you have to own up to it. When you do, one of two things will happen: she will be sad or she will be relieved. But if she's worth having as a girlfriend, she will understand you made a mistake and are trying to make it right.
Our son has been open and mature during these conversations and he regrets that he allowed himself to be pressured. But these are his two biggest concerns: he doesn't want to hurt girl-who-shall-not-be-named's feelings and he doesn't want to be made fun of by his friends.
I get it; he gets it, part of it. So we'll keep talking.
In the meantime, feel free to use this example with your children in whichever way it will support your conversations about peer pressure, good choices, consequences of one's actions and crack! If your kids know my kids, please leave names out. I don't know what I'd do if my children made me stop writing about them...they provide the BEST material.
Coming soon: Hooker shoes - the 8th grade trend.