We are all standing around the kitchen trying to decide how to spend a rare free night with the family. My 11-year-old son wants to watch a movie, and is very vocal about his choice. I think a game would be more enjoyable, despite the varied ages of our four children. In my mind, I picture the six of us sitting around the kitchen table, slurping smoothies and eating chocolate-covered pretzels, while enthusiastically cheering one another on regardless of who wins or loses. The stuff Disney movies are made of. Who needs to sit down and watch one when there is potential to live it out, right here and now?
From past experience, I can vouch for the fact that this little pipe dream is certainly no reality. Nonetheless, the idea of playing a rousing game of Apples to Apples or Uno Spin beats laying around watching yet another prescriptive kid's movie, while my husband falls asleep on the couch. I suggest several more games, and my oldest doesn't bite on any of them. He is quite sour that the movie idea has been nixed, and he lets it be known in no uncertain terms.
"You know, in a few years I won't be around to watch movies with you guys," he says finally, using every ounce of persuasive energy he can muster.
"Why?" fires back my husband. "Where are you going when you're thirteen?"
We who are parents have probably experienced it in greater or lesser degrees. And if not as parents, we have most certainly used it in the past on our own parents throughout our growing years: the power of kid-pressure, cousin to the better known peer-pressure, an agent of guilt infliction with the purpose of bringing about selfish gain via the power of persuasion.
It started when he was in kindergarten. My son wanted a John Deere Gator. When his teacher asked him what it was that he wanted more than anything else, he said "a Gator." He poured over John Deere catalogs, and visited the dealership any opportunity he could get his doting parents to drive him there. That part was easy, and we even left each visit with free reading material, complements of the store.
But as time wore on, I almost had myself convinced that to not buy one might bring about permanent psychological damage in the form of repressed desires sometime when he hit the age of forty. With the best of intentions, we found and purchased a used pedal tractor at a yard sale that sufficed for a while. Not good enough; it always came back to the Gator.
The years flew by, and the year he turned six, we finally had the money to buy a brand new Gator for him as a birthday gift. The box was delivered and set on the lawn. We waited expectantly for the expression that would cement in our minds that this ludicrously overpriced child's toy would be worth the wait. But alas, six was too old. He rode it around the yard a few times, and quickly lost interest. The highs and lows of kid-pressure gone awry.
Sometimes kid-pressure is just misinterpreted mommy-guilt or daddy-guilt. I think I am doing my child a disservice to not keep up with the other trendy parents eagerly buying up all the Aididas, Abercrombie, Aeropostale or some other brand for which I cannot find a way to show alliteration, at outlet stores all over North America. Not to say I won't buy, of course I will: I just don't want to be "guilted" into it by kid-pressure. Let the power of advertising work its magic; it has all the power and then some to get me to the mall in double time, without my child getting involved.
Of course, we all know that peer-pressure is often times directly proportional to kid-pressure. Kids want what other kids have. What other kids have will drive your child to kid-pressure you into buying that "must have" flavor of the week. What is a parent to do? When in doubt, don't. Kids get over it. So, whether it be an activity, a brand name, an event or a destination of desire, I say parents need to stand strong and not let their kid "guilt" them into making hasty decisions influenced by the child's need to have or do. There will always be another trend to follow.
Long ago, back in the Ice Ages when my children think I was born now that they have watched the movie, I wanted to go to that never land of dreams, Disney World. I am sure I used every trick in the book to kid-pressure my parents into taking me there. They tried the old distraction ploy on me a few times, and then used the "cheaper and lesser known" theme park second option card, as well as just plain told me straight up, we would not be going there because it was too expensive. End of story.
But wait for it...
The other night, I announced to our own little family that although we are not going south this winter, next year we will be going on a family vacation to Disney. My girls got excited. My son told me that if we didn't hurry up and get on it, he would be too old to care. My point is this: I wanted to go to Disney as a child, and that dream was never accomplished. Now, as a parent of my own little brood, I am living out vicariously through them the unrealized dreams I had as a child.
Parents, take heart. When you say no, understand that you are paving the way for your offspring to one day live out their dreams of whatever it is that you are refusing, and they will do so when they have their own children and their own bank account. It's a win-win situation, and eases up the parent guilt load. Parents win and kids eventually win, although it may take a few years.
And who knows? One day you just might find yourself on a plane headed for that balmy Floridian park of all parks, sitting in economy with your grandchildren, courtesy of your own adult child's paycheck. While you kick back for the in-flight movie, your grown-up child will be justifying to your temperamental grand-kids that seats in economy are certainly just as suitable as those found in business class.
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