Yesterday at soccer camp was Wacky Wednesday--wacky clothes, wacky hair, et cetera. So, we did Amanda's hair with three random braids, and two random ponytails with brightly colored (unmatched, of course) fuzzy ponytail holders. As we were walking out to the section of the field where her group meets, she didn't see much wackiness as the other campers were arriving. "Mom, what day is it? It's Wednesday, right?" I assured her that it was. "I don't want my hair this way. I want it down."
"Honey, are you embarrassed because no one else looks wacky? Look, there's a guy in your group with blue stripes on his hair. And that boy is wearing different socks."
"No, I don't want it this way. It feels weird," she said as the tears began to come.
So, I took the ponytails out and left the three braids in, while still trying to convince her that it was Wacky Wednesday, and her coach would be happy that she had chosen to participate. As I turned to walk back across the field to the car, I noticed a wacky girl heading to Amanda's group. I had walked about ten feet when I heard, "Mommy. . . . " and turned to see Amanda running towards me. She grabbed me around the waist, crying.
"What's wrong, honey? Do you want your hair back up?"
She nodded. "Everyone was saying, 'What's wacky about you, Amanda?' " So, I put the ponytails back in, gave her a kiss, and watched her return to her group.
When I picked her up and we were walking back towards the car, I asked her if she knew what peer pressure was. She didn't, so I explained that a peer was someone her age, and peer pressure was wanting to do something that everyone else did, to fit in. I told her that "Pretty soon, maybe in 5th grade, or 7th, or 9th that some kids might be smoking and some other kids will join in, even though they know that it's unhealthy and their parents have told them not to. These kids will want to do what the other kids do, not what they know is right. Peer pressure can also be positive, like if you want to do as well as your best friend on the spelling or states test, so you study extra hard." I told her that "People will use peer pressure to try to make you act like them. Maybe they will make fun of you for liking to read so much, or going to church." I concluded by reminding her to really think about why she's doing something. Is it because it's the right thing to do or something she really wants to do? Or is it just because it's what everyone else is doing, or not doing? I reminded her that she was doing the right thing and doing what she had been excited about by fixing her hair for Wacky Wednesday, but it was peer pressure that caused her to doubt herself when she didn't see others who looked that wacky.
I'm glad that we had the opportunity to discuss this regarding a safe and harmless topic, but I have to wonder what will come next. Just like it did yesterday on that soccer field when she was doubting herself, my heart aches to know that she will have to make some tough choices. I know that she will probably face ridicule for being a goody two shoes, or too smart, or not smart enough. I just hope that I'll be the one she runs to, and that I'll be there to put her ponytails in or to take them out. I hope that I can teach her to make the right choices, not just the easy ones, while I have her under my care.