OK. Let's have a show of hands here. Who else went out and bought silly bandz for their kids because "everyone has them mom!"? Because really, why else would I spend five dollars on 12 rubber bands that are going to get broken, lost, or discarded in a matter of days? Was it because they came in different colors? Because of the cool shapes? Because my kids would have hours of fun with them? NO - I admit it - it was because I didn't want my kids to feel left out. I knew having the silly bandz to show off to their friends would make them feel happy and 'cool' so I bought them. As much as they want to fit in, I want them to fit in too.
But I did stare at the silly bandz display in the store for awhile deciding what to do. I actually left the store empty handed the first time. But then I saw more and more kids with them over the next few days, and heard more and more 'please moms' from my kids so I decided to surprise them and go back and get them. Where they thrilled? Of course. For a few days. But now as predicted, many are lost, others broke in half, and the rest are scattered around their rooms. They come out again when a friend comes over wearing them, but otherwise they sit untouched.
And that is what I thought about as I stood staring at the silly bandz in the store. Was getting these for my kids because everyone else had them really a great lesson for my kids? I want them to learn to be individuals, to do their own thing and be proud of it. To be their own persons, stand up for themselves and not care what others think. I also want them to learn that happiness comes from within and that money and possessions won't bring you happiness. Material things might make people want to be your friend, but they definitely don't bring true friends into your lives.
So then why did I buy the silly bandz? Probably because they were only $5 and for $5 I could make my kids happy even if only for a little bit! But if it starts with $5 silly bandz, where will it go from there? What about when my daughter wants the brand new American Girl doll because everyone at school has it? Or when my son wants the DSi in addition to his DS because the kids at school all have the new one. Cell phone? Ugg boots? Lucky Jeans? A car? Obviously there is a huge difference between getting my children silly bandz and getting them a cell phone, but is the message any different if the reason for getting them is because everyone else is doing it?
Growing up, I remember my own obsessions with what was 'in' at different moments. Cabbage Patch dolls that parents were getting into fights over. Jordache jeans (with the white stitching). Boom boxes. Leather bomber jackets. I remember feeling that I HAD to have these or I would be left out. Some I got, some I didn't. But none of them made me very happy for very long. Although I wouldn't have admitted that back then!
In trying to figure it all out, I often look to a best friend who has two girls ages 13 and 11. They moved a few years ago to another town in their state because it had a better school system. While they are happy with the schools, they didn't count on the extra peer pressure that was going to be involved with moving to a more affluent town. Almost all of her girls' friends have cell phones and have had them since they were 9 or younger. The clothes are designer labels, and the birthday parties sometimes involve limos and trips to the city. The easiest thing for her to do would be to let her girls have a cell phone, or have them shop only where everyone else does. But she chooses not to do that and makes no apologies for it. She sets the rules for her girls and sticks with it. Do they give her problems? Sometimes - but they also have learned to make friends based on interests and similarities rather than by popularity. They are amazing at sports and this confidence in their abilities makes them content in being their own person and letting their friends see who they truly are. Her oldest still loves Coach handbags and clothes from Abercrombie, but she has also learned that she better really want them because she will be spending her own money to buy them or waiting to get them as gifts. And when she wanted to start wearing make-up like everyone else, my friend waited until what she felt was an appropriate age and took her to get a make-up lesson and help her with her first purchase. Both girls have lots of friends and have learned to deal with any razzing they get about not having the latest gadget or fashion accessory. And they also have chosen to separate themselves from some former friends and classmates whom they feel are spoiled and no fun to be around. They are happy, respectful, friendly, confident, well adjusted kids and it has a lot to do with their mom setting limits and rules and sticking to them.
So when the next silly bandz like craze comes out will I go running to the stores? I don't know - I guess I'll have to make that decision then. I do know that I recently lost my iPhone (an adult version of having to have what everyone else does?!?!?). At first, I was going to run out and buy another one no matter what the cost (I truly did love that phone!). And then I thought about it a bit. Did I really NEED to have it? Yes it was fun and came in very handy at times, but I did live for almost 40years without one. So I decided to wait. I'm back to my phone that is just a phone and I am surviving. And I showed my kids that even moms can't always have what they want even when everyone else has one. Or that when we lose something, we can't necessarily just replace it - we need to be more careful with our things. They see that my friends are still my friends and that I can laugh at myself when these friend tease me for having a boring phone!
On the other hand, don't judge me if you see me walking around with the new version of the iPhone coming out later this summer. Hey, I'm only human!
May your heart be at ease,