My eight year old daughter probably needs braces. At her last appointment, the dentist informed us it was time to talk to the orthodontist. We had the same reaction as every other parent on the face of the earth: “Damn, I had plans for that seven grand.”
So I made the appointment, and somewhere between the dental appointment and last week’s orthodontist’s appointment, my husband, who is normally an incredibly intelligent human being and usually a more than mediocre parent, told my daughter about his experience with braces, including the pain of having them put in and the pain of having them taken off.
Had I known about this conversation, I sure as hell would have made him take her to the appointment. Needless to say, it was the second most painful experience I’ve had with my daughter, ever. Actually, I had a spinal when I gave birth, so really, it was the single most painful experience.
After the orthodontist appointment from hell and after the seven minute car ride home during which I screamed myself hoarse and after the outrageously adorable apology letter she wrote, we finally sat down and had a rational conversation about this experience and why she chose to act the way she did.
She informed me that the conversation with her dad — who, at this point in her life is the King of the World — was the pivotal moment from which this horrendous experience stemmed. It never occurred to her little girl mind to ask for a second opinion. After all, this was her dad. And if he said they hurt that badly, well, she sure as hell wasn’t getting braces.
My response was to point out that if you walked into any given middle school in the entire universe, you would see more metal-filled mouths than not and if so many kids had them, braces couldn’t be that bad, could they?
While my daughter gave serious consideration to this comment, I thought about another situation, an entirely different situation, during which my son asked if he could download a video game that was rated XXXXX and had more sex than a romance novel. When I nixed his request, he said, “But all my friends are playing it.” To which I replied with the age old but never out of style, “If all of your friends were jumping off a bridge…”
Totally different scenarios, yet so similar in that I as a parent used peer pressure to get my point across. Except in each situation, the way in which I used peer pressure was literally the exact opposite.
Does that make me a bad parent? Or just a hypocrite?
I suppose the good thing is that I’m not alone in my bad parenting hypocrisy. How many of us tell our children not to drink until they are twenty-one, then regale our friends with stories of our usually less than stellar drinking moments from college — or even high school? How many of us waited until marriage?
So if we cannot manipulate the peer pressure concept to fit our current parenting tactic, how do we manage this parenting gig?
If anyone has the answer to that question, could they please share? Because the next time my son says he should be able to stay up as late as he wants…