11.3.10

Thoughts that keep me awake at night

I don't know why exactly, but peer pressure never affected me much. At some very young age I decided that I didn't care what other people thought about me, so long as I was happy with myself. I remember that my defiant mantra in junior high was, "The opinions of worthless people are worthless."

In case you were wondering, yes, I was a total nerd. But unlike the nerd stereotype, I wasn't one to longingly gaze at the popular people wishing I could crack the code and become one of them. I do remember thinking they were quite silly and doing stupid things and knowing I wanted no part of it. I also knew that I didn't want for friends anyone who could be so two faced and nasty in public, not that all of them were.

I remember a popular boy asking me out in front of the whole class in grade 8, probably for a joke, and his shock and obvious discomfiture when, without even looking up from my book, I snorted, "In your dreams."

I'm sure he thought it would be impossible for anyone to turn him down.

I remember walking past people I knew in high school, smoking out behind the shop buildings and them calling, jokingly because they knew me pretty well, "Hey Carrien, come on over and have a smoke. Everyone is doing it."

So I laughed and replied, "Yeah, you look really cool right now huddled all together trying not to freeze to death. I'm going inside where it's warm, suckers."

A girl once threatened that I would "get it" after school for refusing to abandon a friend that everyone else thought slept with another girl's boyfriend when I was sure it was slander. (In junior high! No wonder I home school!) I laughed in her face and later that day passed home unmolested. There was no one to carry out the threat. I don't know how I knew so early that the rules of the playground were artificial and didn't matter anywhere else, and so could laugh at them.

I don't know how, and suddenly I wish I did. I want my children to have the same ability to sift through the debris of public opinion and ignore the things that don't matter, to not be swayed by crowds or peers or anything that doesn't ultimately matter. But I'm not sure how to give it to them.

Was it simply genetic? Did the inherent stubbornness of my Irish and Mennonite blood mix together to make me this way? Was it because I was an eldest child? Was there some sort of genius parenting that went on that I don't remember?

My little sister was a self-described chameleon, adapting herself to every situation she was in, gauging her behavior on what would best please those present. She was ever eager to make others happy. At home she played the perfect daughter, at school the fun loving center of things, at parties...well there's a very long story there. She is almost 30 now and is just happily coming into a really solid sense of self and finding the strength that was always there yet not often grasped.

So, what do I do with a girl such as mine, so generous, so concerned with pleasing others and making them happy, so sweet, and so apparently malleable? Though don't let that fool you, there is steel in there when you least expect it. I want her to lose none of these qualities. Yet I worry constantly as she gets older about whether or not she will be strong enough to resist those things I want her to be able to resist. To withstand those who would take advantage of her.

I don't know how to give it to her. I suspect she needs to grow it on her own. But how do I create a childhood for her in which she has the chances she needs to grow that strength. How does one do that?

8 comments:

  1. This keeps me up at night, too. Because I WAS one of the nerds who wanted so badly to belong to the 'popular' crowd, and I can't remember why. All I remember now are the chances I could have had to reply with pithy one-liners to mean things those popular ones said. Or how much more fun I would have had if I'd just blown it all off and been as confident as I wished I was.

    Now, I'm more confident in my own unique worth. But...I'm almost 30. I want my girls to have that confidence much earlier.

    Let me know when you find a formula :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. It seems to me that might be a question your sister would be well qualified to answer. If she has walked through it, she may have some good advice. There either wasn't a lot of peer pressure in my small-town school, or I was just unaware of it. At 43, I wonder which it was. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous7:13 AM

    love this post. I spent so much of my life being friends with people that were mean, petty, backstabbing. I overlooked others because they weren't popular - and I am sure those others would be friends I would have kept. So I advise my daughter to find true friends and so far, she has - she's not popular, she has her own beat, but I don't think she is immune to the whole "fitting in" as you so obviously were. My oldest niece is similar to how you describe yourself and I've asked her how that developed and she can't explain - she's just always been that way!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't know either, but I would certainly like all my children to learn those skills. Perhaps just continue loving her well, and teaching her to value herself? And then maybe add in extra large doses of critical thinking skills as she gets older? I think a big part of that ability to sift through situations is about stopping to really think about what something/someone's behavior really means and how that matches up with your personal desires and beliefs. But as I said, I don't really know.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was only a little jealous of the popular kids... but mostly I was mystified - what made them think they were so great? Why did everyone else think they were so great... because it was very clear to me that they were no more special than the rest of us.

    I'm not a parent... but I was raised by two of them.
    My dad was the one who was unaffected by the trappings of what other people thought.

    When I was home the summer between my freshman and soph year of college - I became the subject of a rumor that I had slept with some 23 year old guy in town.
    I was pissed... as of course I was still a virgin - and even my brother thought the rumor was true --
    As I sat on the floor at the foot of my dad's living room chair, bemoaning the unfairness of all this... and wondering how to correct everyone... my dad said, "People can think whatever they want. That doesn't matter, as long as you know the truth. It's between you and God."

    Instantly, I felt better.
    And I've followed that for my entire life since.
    People will believe what they want. You can't please them or change their minds. So let them. BUT YOU DO WHAT YOU KNOW IS RIGHT!

    if you can teach your kids that... they'll be fine. And strong.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Atara5:23 PM

    I was some where in the middle as a teen, cared but didn't. I mostly did my own thing because I could think for myself. I feel like I can relate to both you and your sister. As far as 'Little' goes, you sound like a Mom. Most women really don't come int their own until they're 30. It takes that long to realize your normal, strong, beautiful, and at least have some wisdom and hopefully the wisdom to listen to older women that love people really well. As a mom I find myself sometimes wishing for my daughters never to get hurt because of their strengths and weaknesses. But that is silly. I truely think the best parenting/guidence is love. If our kids grow up in love, they can make as many mistakes and be hurt multiple times and it will make them self aware. Because they will know truth and that will be their anchor. If they can see it sooner it will mean less heart ache, and that is what I pray for my kids. Not that they won't get hurt but that they will embrace God's love sooner and that I will always be open for them to come to.

    You have great posts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was only a little jealous of the popular kids... but mostly I was mystified - what made them think they were so great? Why did everyone else think they were so great... because it was very clear to me that they were no more special than the rest of us.

    I'm not a parent... but I was raised by two of them.
    My dad was the one who was unaffected by the trappings of what other people thought.

    When I was home the summer between my freshman and soph year of college - I became the subject of a rumor that I had slept with some 23 year old guy in town.
    I was pissed... as of course I was still a virgin - and even my brother thought the rumor was true --
    As I sat on the floor at the foot of my dad's living room chair, bemoaning the unfairness of all this... and wondering how to correct everyone... my dad said, "People can think whatever they want. That doesn't matter, as long as you know the truth. It's between you and God."

    Instantly, I felt better.
    And I've followed that for my entire life since.
    People will believe what they want. You can't please them or change their minds. So let them. BUT YOU DO WHAT YOU KNOW IS RIGHT!

    if you can teach your kids that... they'll be fine. And strong.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It seems to me that might be a question your sister would be well qualified to answer. If she has walked through it, she may have some good advice. There either wasn't a lot of peer pressure in my small-town school, or I was just unaware of it. At 43, I wonder which it was. :)

    ReplyDelete

I want to know what you think.

Facebook Share

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...