The Upside of Peer Pressure

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I have one daughter who came along after three boys. None of my children have been particularly sporty in the traditional way. A couple of them did the obligatory baseball, soccer and basketball teams which were fun for a while, until they weren’t. Our kids swam on our neighborhood swim team for several years, which I loved even if they didn’t. They weren’t particularly talented swimmers but I liked that they were on the same team, with boys and girls and kids of all ages.

My daughter has resisted sports of any kind, besides dance, and doesn’t feel especially competent or confident when playing sports in P.E. at school. I secretly wished that one of my kids would show some interest and ability in a sport. The grass just always looks greener on the other side, and I know that sports have a multitude of well-documented benefits.

Spring was approaching and my daughter, now 12, is in middle school. I breezily suggested she might like to try track. Who knows, I told her, you might be good at it and like it. A vehement, “I don’t want to do track Mom,” accompanied by an eye roll was her reply. Oh well, I tried.

A week later she came home from school and announced that she and her friends were going to run track.

“Really? What a great idea,” I sarcastically thought inside my head. Clearly, peer pressure is more compelling than mom pressure.

Experts say facing the influence of friends represents an important developmental step for teens on their way to becoming independent-thinking adults. While it can coax kids into unhealthy behavior like drinking or speeding, it can also lead to engagement in more useful social behaviors such as studying or training harder in a sport. Apparently both peer pressure and learning to resist it are important developmental steps to self-reliance.

Peer pressure lessens as we age, but adults still feel it. I took up running as an adult because my sister was doing it. She had joined a running group and seemed to be having so much fun, so I joined too. I probably never would have been a runner otherwise. Peer pressure in adulthood takes many forms – where we live, how we dress, dress our kids, send our kids to school, give to charity, go on vacations, etc. Just like our kids, we can be pulled up or dragged down by the company we keep.

For now, I’m elated with my daughter’s friend group and their decision to take up track. She’s turned out to be pretty fast, which is a pleasant surprise to her and it’s fun to see her grow and evolve into an athlete. Like their swim team, there are kids of all ages and both genders, so the younger ones can look up to the older ones who get to be role models. Even though they race against each other, they are always trying to beat their own time.

Watching her hit the road makes me wistful for my running days, which are long behind me. Blessed with long legs she looks way better than me in her running togs.

May her miles be many and her chafing be minimal, and may her peers continue to push her in a positive direction.

 

 

Paying It Forward

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After the recent blizzard, parking lots were a mess with piles of snow taking up many parking spaces. After finding my zen in a yoga class I was dreamily strolling toward the parking lot. Scanning the area to find my car, I noticed a young man inspecting a minivan’s bumper, gently wiping off salt and dirt, clearly looking for damage. It wasn’t until he walked away that I realized it was my car he was checking. I tried to run after him but he had crossed a busy street and was gone. It was a frigid day and I didn’t have the energy to leap through traffic to track him down. Instead, I returned to the scene of the crime.

Flustered and irritated, I checked the bumper, which was mildly scuffed. Was it new or old, I wondered? Not being one to take much notice of those things, I had no idea. I grumpily got into my car, resigned to the fact that people are horrible, no one takes responsibility for their actions anymore, and I was just another victim of a faceless crime. Then, I noticed a piece of white paper, fluttering in the wind, stuck underneath the windshield wiper on the passenger side of the car. It couldn’t possibly be what I hoped it was, could it? I hopped out, grabbed the note and read it. The person had left his name and cell phone number and said he didn’t think there was damage to my car but to call him if I needed to have it fixed. I held it up like a trophy, feeling elated that there was goodness in the world. A woman was walking near me, heading to a store and I gleefully told her what happened. “You made my day,” she said.

Is it sad that I sometimes expect so little of humanity that a little scuff would bring me such joy? I told my husband about it and neither of us could get excited about a little scrape on a four-year-old car. It definitely wasn’t anything worth my time and trouble. I was determined to send the guy a text and thank him for his goodness, a little cosmic positive reinforcement for his mensch-like behavior. The weeks flew by and I forgot about it until I discovered the note in one of my household piles. Knowing that it is never too late to act, I sent him a text:

Me: Hello, You left a note on my car last month in a shopping center after scraping my bumper. I’ve been meaning to write you to tell you how happy it made me to know there are still good, honest people in the world. I saw you as you were leaving but couldn’t catch you. I was so frustrated and then I found your note. You really made my day. And no worries about the bumper -it’s not a big deal! Let’s both keep paying the kindness forward!

The Reply: Wow! You made my day too! That was my 17 year old son and he left my cell because I am easier to reach. Thank you for your kindness and understanding and I just shared your note with my son who is driving and really appreciated it. He was backing out slowly and a waiting driver was being impatient and honking and he got flustered. So your kindness was a great antidote! We will indeed pay it forward. Have a great day from both of us!

I wasn’t expecting a mom to mom interaction, but it made the whole thing even sweeter. Clearly, I told her, she was an outstanding mother with award winning parenting skills as she was raising a fine young man. I have an 18-year-old son. Would he have left a note? Would I? I never asked for her name, nor she mine, so it remained a lovely, anonymous interlude that I suspect we will both remember fondly.

I try to take the peace and tranquility that I learn on the yoga mat out into the world. Take a deep breath, clear out the clutter in my mind, be kind to myself and to others. I love that it’s called the “practice” of yoga. Human beings are always practicing too, trying to get things right. This young man gave me a gift. You never know what the universe will send your way.

 

 

A New Direction

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I was at a friend’s house recently on a weekend afternoon and asked where her husband was. She said he had taken her son to a birthday party and gotten lost.

“Who gets lost anymore?” I asked.

Not me. I have wholeheartedly embraced Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. This somewhat technologically-challenged middle-aged mom is on board. When my husband first told me about the concept, I scoffed. After all, I usually knew where I was going or I could use the GPS in my mini-van. I didn’t need a new-fangled app thing to tell me where I was going.

How wrong I was. I love Waze. I use it, even when I know where I’m going, to check which is the most direct route given traffic, construction, etc. at any given time. Anything I can do to avoid sitting in traffic makes me happy. Sure, I could make use of time in the car listening to books or podcasts but I’d rather be laying comfortably on my couch reading a book or catching an episode of something on Netflix. Sitting in the car for no good reason – not so much.

One may lament the fact that it’s difficult to get lost these days. After all, sometimes the road less traveled takes you to unique, wondrous places. Ah, fear not. The beauty of the crowd-sourcing app is that it takes you down streets and through neighborhoods you’ve never seen without the anxiety of having no idea where you are. You still get the glorious feeling of wandering off the beaten track while feeling confident that you will get where you intended to go. Win-win in my book.

My husband told me that at first he was skeptical of the lovely lady voice telling him where to go, as sometimes it just seemed like an outrageous route she would suggest. It was sort of the equivalent of not wanting to ask for directions. It turned out that he learned to trust her and would get burned if he went against her advice. I too have learned to trust the lovely lady in my phone and have come to think of her as an adventurous, wise friend. My husband went so far as to buy her a stand for my car, a pedestal if you will, where she can easily be perched to safely aid in my following her directions. I hang on her every word.

This app has opened up my world, giving me confidence to drive to places where I may not have ventured by car before. My late mother would argue that public transportation is the way to go – she was a poster child for the subway, but I prefer the comfort of my car with the ability to come and go as I please.

I have a new mission control to help me get around in the form of a handy app. I feel like an explorer. It’s the “Marco” to my “Polo.” Just me and my girl Waze, oh the places we’ll go.