Peer Pressure

My youngest girl is eight and my oldest is fourteen. I have just six years (if I’m lucky) to teach Neela to avoid the pitfall of finding her worth by comparing herself to others. 
Arwen walked into a new high school as a grade nine student two months into the school year. I was thinking of hanging a sign around her neck that says LOOK AT ME but am glad that I didn’t. I was a little scared for her actually. 
It’s not that her high school is different than most, but I found myself wondering if I was cool enough for the kids in the hallway? Insecure kids with cracking voices, no jobs, sweaty armpits, and no clue about anything but looking cool in hallways. 
Why on earth would I care what they think of me? 
It is definitely hard to pass that sentiment along to Arwen when I remember my own high school experiences… the rites of passage (mostly how disrespectful to teachers you can be and how well you make fun of weird kids), the thrill of finally fitting in with the cool crowd and realizing the bar wasn’t set that high to begin with. 
Neela is eight and she doesn’t give a rip about being cool and that’s why she has so much fun and why I secretly think she’s cool. Everything is awesome when you’re in grade two! If your friend shows you a song you’ve never heard, your first thought isn’t “I’m so NOT COOL for not knowing this song! Please like me?”, it is much more likely to be “That’s amazing! I like you!”
Dear Peer Pressure:
Thanks for making the lowest common denominator the new norm. Thanks for making me want to impress insecure people and stay away from talented ones who actually believe in kindness and cheering for the underdogs. Thanks for making me want to agree with someone no matter what I’m actually thinking to impress people I don’t even like! Thanks for making me follow the crowd to decisions better avoided…
Katie is ten and she also doesn’t give a rip about being cool. She has a beautiful brain so who cares if you have cookie on your face? Her sense of humour is quirky and a bit odd but I don’t think changing it to make a group at school accept her is even on her radar. She secretly thinks it won’t matter when she’s Prime Minister.
Ailish is twelve and is starting to care about her image. Kids her age have figured out how to point the finger at someone else so no one notices their imperfections, if unconsciously. I’m on it though, even when it takes time that I don’t feel I have. The thought of her looking a certain way or acting a certain way to impress the people I’ll later be counselling because of poor decisions drives me onward. “It all started when I was young…” I’ll take a solid “pass” on that for her. “No, let me tell you how things really work sweetheart. Don’t fall for that…”
Arwen will make her way through life just fine. I’ve let her know where the path some kids take goes. We have strict tv and internet rules at our house and I tell her exactly why and she appreciates that. Love isn’t being naive and giving access to ridiculous options that I wouldn’t trust myself with! When I explain how friendships work she has all the freedom in the world to choose her own friends, but I’d rather she made an informed decision than find out the hard way you don’t get to unpress some buttons. 
We never make a rule that doesn’t come with a story and most of them are about our own regrets. It just makes sense, but being that intentional isn’t cool these days, not if “cool” means letting everybody do whatever they want in the moment! 
“Dad you’re not COOL!”
Right… like YOU would know? Cool isn’t being faithful and good day after day, doing what’s right when no one else will, saying No now so you can say yes later, and standing up for the one who can’t stand up for themselves?
The beauty of love is its exclusivity, not its options. The older I get the more I’m impressed with the character it takes to stand beyond the crowd and find a better path.
I made fun of my dad only once that I can recall as a teenager. 
His response?
“Why are you so insecure?”
I can’t even remembered if I managed to splutter a reply,
I’m pretty sure it was met with a gentle smile…

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