Parenting is sometimes overrated. Yes. I said it. Its hard! People long to have babies (me! me!) and then they grow up into teens. (RUN!)
I have a total teenager. He is hilarious, bright, sensitive, and full of teenage angst. He let us know at dinner that he has decided that it would be cool to become a social reject.
We asked our 14 year old what inspired him to make this statement, and he said because popularity is stupid. Oye! I have to agree with him. He said this after we had a family conversation at the dinner table discussing popularity, and peer pressure.
Teens face such incredible peer pressures that its almost too much for a kid to bear. When does it start? More importantly, when does it end?
According to my research with my own three, and reading tons of "Your child at..." books, talking to other moms, and doctors, it seems that its pretty much universal. My 8 year old doesn't like the fact that her best friend can have more friends than just her. She doesn't like to share. It ruins her day if her friend wants to play with someone else other than her. Will this limit her to fitting in next year, when its important to? How do we teach girls (Who can be horrible to each other) the self confidence and self esteem to thrive in any condition, and show her the values of being a universal friend?
Around 9, they discover that they like having a lot of friends. They start to form cliques. The groups turn into being popular, and not so much. Of course then there is the in-between crowd. Where you universally fit into every group. I was in that group. Growing up, I had my best friends, but I also had great friends that belonged in both groups.
My 11 year old struggles with peer pressure. He SO wants to fit in with the popular group. Even though he has wonderful friends from both sides. He is mortified of being a "geek", or made fun of.
This week, he had an experience that taught us all a very big lesson. He has made a friend. This boy is a very nice boy, and he really likes Kayce. This boy is NOT popular. In fact, it is said that no one likes him. Why is this? I find him charming, exuberant, and happy. Unfortunately he doesn't know when to set his boundaries, and he comes across as over doing it, which turns the kids off.
But Kayce befriended him. In private. They hang out on the weekends (We live relatively close). But never at school. Kayce had been pretending that he doesn't associate with the boy at school. This isn't right.
A few weeks ago, Kayce spent the entire weekend with the boy's family. They went out to dinner, to movie, and to a hike. They had a blast. A few days later, the boy, who now thinks Kayce is his best friend, shared their experience with the kids at school. Kayce became mortified. He blared out "I never spent the weekend with you!! We...WE... just bumped into you on our hike!" The boy, devastated, agreed with him in public, saving face for Kayce.
I never even heard about this. I didn't know. But when the boy's mother called me the other day and shared with me what happened, I was very upset to hear how unkind my boy was. Yet, I totally understand the stress and why he did it. I am not saying this is right, but I understand.
So here I sit, with a grounded boy who is so mad at me he could spit nails. He is my outdoor boy, on the first beautiful day of the spring.
I have tried coming up with a consequence for his action. I have decided to have him (mind you I did not say 'MAKE") volunteer to work with kids that have special needs. I don't know where to start looking, so if you have any ideas, I am game. My reasoning behind this, is because I want him to be aware that there are amazing kids out there and that judging the book before you read it, is potentially a big mistake. I want him to have the understanding that we are all one, and that we all affect each other with our actions. I want him to realize that he needs to stand up to peer pressure, because its uncool.
So, I guess if my older teenage son decided to be a "social reject" (though I do wish he would use a different term), because he thinks identifying himself with a group, or a clique, wearing a label to choose how you are to others is stupid, that's fine with me.
The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist. ~Laurence Leamer, King of the Night