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Tempted to follow the flock

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POSTED: January 21, 2014 2:00 p.m.

Last week, I had my first parental brush with peer pressure. No, my daughter didn’t come home from daycare complaining that her 1-year-old classmates are trying to influence her clothing choices or persuade her to join their social cliques. I was the one who felt an urge to conform, or rather, an urge to help my daughter conform. Then I realized that thoughts like the ones swimming through my head very well could be the reason why peer pressure exists in the first place. Kids have to learn it from someone.
Usually, my husband handles all the daycare drop-offs and pick-ups. The “school” Reese attends is about five minutes from my husband’s office, so it’s not an inconvenience for him. I, on the other hand, work more than an hour away from the facility. One day last week, though, Reese had a pediatrician appointment, and since my husband and I usually take turns with “doctor duty,” I made a rare late-afternoon appearance at daycare.
As Reese’s teachers got her ready to leave, they told me I could fetch her coat and lunchbox from her cubby in the hall. I stepped outside the classroom and reached for my daughter’s things. As I did, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly all the other children in her class had pretty, brightly-colored cloth lunchboxes embroidered with their names or monograms. Slightly put off, I grabbed the compartmentalized Rubbermaid cube I pack Reese’s midday meals in and made a mental note to hit the Pottery Barn Kids and L.L. Bean websites when I got home. My little girl couldn’t be the only one without a personalized canvas tote to house her diced fruit and whole-grain crackers!
I couldn’t help but wonder if all the other parents just instinctively knew what kind of lunchbox to buy their children, or if one child got a classy lunchbox and all the other parents noticed and quickly followed suit. How had I missed the memo?  
Later that night, I asked my husband if he’d ever noticed the array of embroidered bags as he gathered Reese’s belongings from her cubby. Predictably, he told me I was nuts and tried to dissuade me from forking over $30 to Pottery Barn for an unnecessary purchase. I had my credit card out and was all set to select the color and font for Reese’s monogram when I paused for a moment and stared at the computer screen before me. Truthfully, my husband was right.
My daughter, who will be 21 months old next week, does not care what kind of container her lunch comes in and, more than likely, neither do her peers. I was the one who cared. I cared that the other parents might notice Reese didn’t have a personalized cloth lunch sack. It dawned on me that I wasn’t exactly sure why I cared. After all, I’ve never even met the parents of the other children in Reese’s class. Why was I about to lay down a chunk of change to impress them?
I put my credit card away and went to pack my daughter’s lunch in an inexpensive yet very convenient partitioned container. It’s one thing to cave in and humor a child who’s made a plea for a product that all of her friends are carrying proudly. It’s another to fall prey to a “trend” that very well may have been a product of my own imagination.
My husband tells me that Reese’s little friends run to greet and hug her every morning when she arrives at school. They don’t stop to examine her outfit or her lunchbox. If they aren’t worried about judging or being judged, I definitely shouldn’t be.

 

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