I always thought that peer pressure was something Netra would have to face when she entered her troublesome ‘pre-teens’. I dreaded how it would influence her but I was pretty sure that I could handle it – after all, though my own adolescence is shrouded in the mists of time, I think I can, with an effort, recollect a thing or two about resisting peer pressure.
Imagine my fright at discovering that this phenomenon does not wait for adolescence. My daily battle has begun, and it started in the most insidious way possible.
We had planned to buy Netra a bicycle for her birthday so she could pick up the skill and we could together explore the extensive parks in Singapore. But my daughter put her chubby foot down and said thank you very much, but she would much rather have a scooter – those two-or three-wheeled slender contraptions with a perpendicular bar that are such a menace to the general public – since all her friends in the condo had one. And it had to be purple or pink, and it had to be of a certain brand (needless to say, the most expensive one).
I did not realise it, but this was the beginning of pressure, exerted oh-so-subtly by her peers on my daughter, and transferred from her onto me. So, I will painstakingly plait her hair in the rushed mornings and she will come home with her hair undone and hanging loose because ‘that’s what all the girls do’, I will neatly tuck her shirt into her shorts and she will come home with her shirt rakishly, and shabbily, hanging out, because she does not want to look ‘funny and different’, and eventually, I will buy her the same overpriced and thoroughly un-usable stationery that all the other children possess, lest she be the only one without it!
I am ashamed to admit it – I caved in! I know that the girls never actually ride their scooters; rather they are appendages to cling on to as they stand around chatting in groups, but how could I watch my daughter huffing and puffing on foot behind them, trying to catch up, as they sailed around the play park on the infernal things, for all of two minutes?
So here I am, mother of a five-year old, faced with the classic dilemma that I am sure all mothers face – do I battle the influence of peers on my child and insist that she maintain her individuality, or do I give in and allow her to conform?
Ideally, I would like her to take her own decisions, uninfluenced by others, and be happy with them, but my heart aches at the thought of her feeling deprived of something that her friends have, or even worse, that she could be ‘left out’ or considered a freak because she does not fit in and conform. After all, I cannot take her to all the grand birthday parties and then not throw an equally grand one for her in return. I cannot simply refuse to take her for the parties either. In either scenario, I would be setting her up for rejection and isolation.
And much as I hate to admit it, there are enough occasions when I, as a parent, also cave into peer pressure – whether it is enrolling her for that Mandarin class that all the other kids are going to (which she so doesn’t need at this stage, especially when she has enough, more relevant languages to learn in any case) or buying her that scooter she doesn’t need.
Well, what would you do?