People talk about peer pressure among kids in middle schools all the time, but seldom talk about peer pressure among moms. Trust me, it’s a thing. Even though my oldest is only three, I am already feeling it.
I am certain that the older my children get, the worse it will be. Take my mom, for example. She was what one would call a strict parent. (60 years ago, she would have been an ordinary parent, but I digress.) We didn’t spend the night at friends’ houses until we were in high school, we never saw movies with a rating above PG-13, and sometimes not PG-13 movies, depending on the content. I am still proudly one of the only people I know who hasn’t seen “Titanic.” When I was in seventh grade, it was because of the premarital sex scene. When I finally could watch it, I was a history major who knew the historical inaccuracies would drive me crazy. An aristocratic seventeen year old flitting about the ship unchaperoned and risking an illegitimate pregnancy fathered by some penniless guy she had just met? Really?! I digress again (I tend to do that. Hence the blog). We weren’t permitted to watch TV on school nights and our curfews when we could drive were embarrassingly early. My first bikini I was permitted to wear I finally purchased at age 14, and makeup was forbidden until 15. And then the crimes against makeup I committed were unforgiveable. Glitter eyeliner for daily wear? Why?! My first high heels were also at 15, and I tottered around in them until college when I had to walk the campus too much for that to be practical. My first date was at sixteen, and the guys I went out with always had to talk to my father first and have me home by 9:00.
Needless to say, we had a lot of rules that were not common with the other kids, when I was in middle school in particular. My mom would be phoned over and over again by offended moms who wanted to know why we were not allowed to do something that their children were permitted to do. “We drop our sixth grade girls off at the mall for the evening all the time. Nothing ever happens to them!” “Sorry,” my mom would say. “My husband and I have decided that is simply not something our daughter will be doing.” The other moms would try to pressure my mom into allowing her children to do things she felt uncomfortable with to soothe their own wounded egos. But the thing was, my mom wasn’t telling the other moms “no” because she felt that she was a better mom and wanted to make them feel like bad moms. She was refusing because she felt it was the right decision for her family and she didn’t give a damn what other people thought.
Well, this made my mom not all that popular in the mom community. If the moms had gotten together and voted for the mom homecoming queen, she probably would have come in dead last. Thankfully, things got a lot easier when I switched schools and all of my friends had “strict” moms as well. But we still had rules that weren’t super common. At the time, I thought my mom was ruining my life. I tended to favor the melodramatic.
Looking back on it all with the gained perspective of having children of my own, you know how I feel now? Gratitude. Immense gratitude. I can honestly say that I had a happy and most importantly, innocent childhood. I had the whole rest of my life to be worldly and jaded. And mom was right about everything she said “no” to. We had a hilarious discussion recently where she felt so vindicated because I confirmed all of her suspicions about the events she famously did not permit me to attend. Yes mom, the senior trip turned out to be a huge orgy of drinking and debauchery. Yes mom, people mostly drink and get high at certain concerts. No mom, there was no chaperone at that post prom sleepover and it mostly resembled a teenage bordello. From what I heard, at least. I was amused that she had no idea she was right for all these years. She stood strong and trusted her instincts even if she only had uneasy suspicions. I know it must have been hard work. I know it must not have been easy having fellow moms AND her children telling her that she was wasting her time, and her children were just going to go buck wild once they left the house. (She had four children, and not one of us did anything of the sort. We are all happy, successful, well adjusted adults). And I am eternally grateful.
I was talking to my close friend the other day and telling them about all of the rules my parents had when I was growing up. I was telling it like it was an amusing story but was stopped dead in my tracks when they looked at me and quietly said, “At least your parents cared.”
So to all my children who are lamenting the fact that my rules are ruining your social life and are telling me they hate me and will never forgive me: I’m saving your life, no you don’t, and yes you will. I will even go as far as to say you will look around you when you are an adult and thank me. But if not, that is ok. I am not in this parenting gig for the praise. I am in it to do the best I can with these precious souls entrusted to me. Just like my mom before me. I love you, mom. Thank you.