The last post leads nicely onto something that nags me sometimes, peer pressure.
In a way, it’s one of the primary justifications for children having things they shouldn’t. When i was at school, it was trendy trainers and superior home computers, nowadays it’s all about the latest smartphone gadgetry and the most expensive clothing brands. This is very much how the smartphone and tablet epidemic started – weak parents, myself included, giving in to children who plead that their lives are incomplete and will be permanently stunted unless they have that device in their hands to save their lives, enhance their academic opportunities and worldy knowledge. The sad reality being it’ll be used to avoid any real mental and physical development as they text their friends and relieve their boredom on the school bus.
It’s certainly something of a modern epidemic that it starts earlier and earlier. I really don’t remember ever encountering this kind of peer pressure until I started at senior school, aged 10. Before that school seemed simpler and even the children who’d grow up to be societally challenged were largely OK. Now I was being told that my 7-year-old child needed a smartphone, minimum iphone 4 please, in case of missing a bus or being abducted. I prevaricated, but invariably I would have to give in in the end, my pleas for my children to just be children and lead a simpler life devalued and ultimately ignored on account of my non-samfund inferior upbringing and failure to understand modern childcare methods.
The funny thing is, I thought I had left this behind as I got older but it creeps up on you again without you noticing. Certainly, by the time I bought my house in Brighton I had accepted I was slightly different to many of those I met. Whereas they almost all strove for the status symbols of a certain level of car, house and holiday, I was very happy with my Lada Samara – it met my key criteria of doing the job while being economical and not something anyone would want to steal. I was very happy with my house – it sat outside the absolute city centre, solid if unspectacular, with 1970s carpets in fair condition that I promised myself I’d change some day. Expensive foreign holidays were also not for me. My holidays often involved a week off back in the ancestral home of the North East rather than exotic destinations. It’s a trait of my family that all of us have most pride in not having paid a huge amount for something and that we are happy making do often rather than overspend just to get that perfectly matching kitchenware or the conversational bragging rights of the big holiday. It’s interesting that this seems to be a trait of few other people I ever meet.
Thinking then and now, I’d love to travel back in time and tell that younger me to live with it, that one day you’ll have risen way above those idiots whose only claim to anything is that they wear Hi-Tec trainers, while you wear Dunlop or that they have a Commodore 64 while you only have an Acorn Electron. I feel I have, even if along the way I made some big mistakes.
Over a period of years, much of the life I was happy with was gradually peeled away. Much of it went in the bin, to my lament. Not just physically, but also mentally and financially, as the careful savings of my younger years were eroded by high expectations way above anything they had probably experienced in their younger years – I know Danish welfare is generous, but was it really that generous back in the 1980s?
Call me sexist, but I think some women have a certain competitiveness with other women that seems to make them keener to not only keep up with Joneses, but strive to overtake them, regardless of the cost and pressure it may put on their partner. Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping up Appearances is only humorous because somewhere behind it is a stereotypical truth many can relate to, even if it’s exaggerated for comedic value. And that’s what happened here.
Don’t misunderstand me, I have invested untold thousands in my children. Before you start thinking about money, I’d say thousands of hours and thousands of pounds. It’s what a loving Dad would do, including sending them to private school because I wanted them to avoid the school days I did. That feels like good value to money to me, but if you choose to do that, there should be equivalent economies elsewhere, shouldn’t there? And ultimately, isn’t the most important thing that the children learn that nothing in life is free, everything has a price and whether that price is worth it? Without those values, that sense of value, the child is bound to grow up with a distorted mindset.
Summer, as I write this, is an interesting time to reflect. In the early years, when I still had some sway, summer holidays were restricted to affordable shorter trips to places like Sweden or simply at home. This was fine with me, but over time I was undermined. From 2009-16 the summer holidays were spent in places like Italy and Spain, minimum two weeks. After all, that’s what everyone else does, isn’t it? Except with 4 children economies have to be made, I argued, especially if one partner isn’t working. While I enjoyed these times with the children, the burden of booking and financing fell squarely on me, every single year and every single year I would sigh deeply, knowing the £5,000 cost was drawn against my own future, one way or another.
I wonder if some day, the children will ever think about any of this, or whether they’ll just continue looking down at their smartphones, comparing their lives and possessions to others. Always victims of
Pia Peer pressure. After all, that’s what everyone else does, isn’t it?