Mildly Inappropriate Mommy presents a cautionary tale of parent pushiness…
“Come on. It’ll be fun. Just do it.”
Uh oh. I thought this part of my life had ended not long after puberty.
“The other kids are doing it,” the friendly but persistent voice urged.
Peer pressure: We’re all taught we’re supposed to resist it when we’re teens facing after-school special types who demand we do bad things like drink, smoke or wear socks with sandals.
But what happens when you’re a parent and the peer pressure is coming from another parent? And what if the vice you’re being urged to partake in is not really a vice but an innocent activity — in my case, putting your son on a slide.
Allow me to explain: On a recent playground trip, I ran into a father with two children just a bit older than my son. The children were enjoying taking trips down the slide. My son gave a little yelp and pointed, indicating he too was of the sliding persuasion.
The problem was I didn’t want to let him on. I had my reasons, but the main one was that the slide was really, really dirty. Unless you are the laundry maestro of your house, you are NOT allowed to judge me for this.
And then said father — apparently not a laundry maestro — piped up. Let him on, he urged. He’ll have fun. “I can hold him as he goes down if you’d like.”
I caved, watching my little one’s face erupt in smiles while more and more dirt caked itself onto his pants with each successive slide.
Was I establishing a pattern? I pictured a future of PTA moms strong arming me into bake sales and carpool dads goading me into signing my son up for kiddie base jumping, robot water polo or whatever the “it” activity of 2021 will be.
My concerns about facing more parental pushiness are not, at least according to one expert, unfounded.
Parent-to-parent peer pressure has, in fact, become more common, says Dr. Alex Barzvi, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Barzvi attributes this, in part, to the fact that parents are able to communicate with one another now like never before through social media. Every status update and photo post could potentially invite not-so-welcome feedback like, “He should be wearing shoes,” or “That’s the robot you chose for water polo? What were you thinking?”
Parents using social media to share tips with one another, meanwhile, can be a very positive thing. But it can also be rather overwhelming and add to parent peer pressure, especially considering that, these days, parents have more than enough information to choose from.
“We are inundated with information on the newest thinking on child development, the best practices in child rearing, and the newest studies and research finding on promoting good mental health and physical health,” Barzvi said.
Fortunately for me, this flood of information happens to include a 2009 study that found that of all child tibia fractures treated at a particular physician’s office, nearly 14 percent were sustained from riding playground slides. Not feeling so smug now, are you, Playground Dad?
(I haven’t found a study yet on the malicious effects of dirt found on playground slides, but if Google and I spend enough quality time together, I’m sure I’ll turn up something.)
So what to do when facing an onslaught of unwanted advice from fellow parents? Both Barzvi and Dr. Alan E. Kazdin, professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University and the director of the Yale Parenting Center, agree that it’s important to have confidence in your own decisions. Unsolicited guidance from others, Kazdin added, can be good starting points for conversation between you and your partner about parenting issues.
“Take suggestions from everybody,” Kazdin said, “but ultimately you’re the one with the responsibility to get this child to become a decent adult.”
So there’s my answer. Someday, if someone else is a bit overzealous in their insistence that my son try the slide or another dirty piece of playground equipment, I’ll confidently explain that, in my opinion, clean pants are an important part of my child’s journey to becoming a decent adult.
Or I could just bring up the tibia thing: “I’m sorry, Playground Dad, no sliding today. Unlike you, I treasure my son’s tibia.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have laundry to do.
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