Thursday, 28 October 2010

under pressure

Oh, curses. My days as a totalitarian mother are numbered: it has finally dawned on my little boy that other children get stuff he doesn't.
It started last week when (cue tragic face) he complained that 'everyone else has squeezy yoghurt in tubes.' Under questioning, 'everyone else' turned out to mean one little girl at his childminder's, but nonetheless it's clear: peer pressure has landed. He's since forgotten it, but I suspect the days of fobbing him off with natural yogurt plus fresh fruit and no E-numbers - or brown bread instead of white, or water instead of juice, or raisins instead of sweets, or anything instead of the stuff that kids with less drearily self-righteous parents allow them - are drawing to a close.
And as he gets older, I now see there will be trickier issues than lunchboxes. He can't read yet, but has recognised brands for at least a year: he doesn't watch TV adverts, but pounces on the endless toy catalogues coming through the door (despite me religiously ticking the 'no don't bombard me with your literature option' when ordering online) or anything featuring a picture of Fireman Sam. Advertising has its hooks in him already, like it or not: now comes the tricky job of explaining why you can't always have what you want - and why not everything that glitters (or squeezes) is necessarily gold.
I don't want to give in: I recognise that part of good parenting is teaching children to accept the limits of desire. But adults are subject to peer pressure ourselves: it only takes a few parents to buy their five-year-old an iphone for Christmas (and yes, unbelievably, some will) before everyone starts worrying their child's the odd one out.
For parents who are broke, it's torture: and even the comfortably-off could do without being dragged into the arms race.
So given this will be an anxious Christmas for many parents whose jobs are uncertain, it seems a good time to try and relieve the commercial pressure. Any ideas?


  1. Stay strong! I'm so thankful that my parents didn't give in (most of the time), despite my best efforts.

    They always pointed out alternatives; 'No we don't have a tv, but we do have a trampoline', 'why don't we bake one ourselves?' etc.

    Stay as firm as you can - then he'll start to realise that it just won't work. Instead he'll go and spend as much time at kids' houses who do eat McDonald's/play video games - but after a couple of years he'll be back on the raisins and doing papier mache.

    Good luck - Casper (23)

  2. Please can someone explain why ANYONE buys those yoghurt tubes?? (Actually, my best friend does for her son, but I don't really feel I can ask her.....)

  3. Am having an anxious middle-class moment - is squeezy-yogurt wrong??

  4. I have to hold up my hand and admit that I do buy squeezy yogurt for the lunch boxes, not to make the children like their 'friends' but because I was sick and tired of buying millions of tea spoons and never having any in the house! Choose your battles, that's what I say! x

  5. Sorry Gabby, you have lost me there. As a mother of three now teenagers, I took the middle road on most of your list, and yes, I didn't suffer the angst of those who swung one way or the other.

    My three were all served healthy homemade food instead of buying baby jars, well, until the middle one spat out my efforts quicker than I could remove the spoon. So, I had two babies brought up entirely on healthy home cooked baby food, and the other lived on bland baby jars. Yes, the the baby jar kid is now the least fussy, and a great cook in the kitchen.

    Indeed, I was always guided first and foremost by simple common sense and what works most effectively. My kids moaned about their lunchboxes at school, but then they came home one day beaming with pride after I was awarded a star for getting the contents just right. And that lunchbox included a healthy lunch and a very naughty treat.

    No, I didn't simple serve up my kids water to drink instead of juice, they got very weak juice because it was perfectly healthy for them to have that, and very sensible to introduce different tastes to youngsters. They also got lots of different yogurt treats, who cares as long as its healthy and doesn't fill them with e numbers?

    Yes, I did give them plenty fruit or raisin snacks, but they got a wee treat of choccie buttons or a fine biscuit too, not too much mind. It maybe a pain for most of us if some parents give their kids too much, buts its equally entertaining for the rest of us if you try to be too strict.

    I am still perplexed at what these mothers hope to achieve as their end game in all of this, more so now my kids are out there as teenagers without me being able to control what they eat any more than I can turn back time. But somehow, I think I got it just about right.

  6. One more tip for school break time snacks I learnt very quickly when my kids started primary school. I very virtuously started off with give son No1 by giving him a piece of fruit and drink. Within in a couple of weeks a wise old hand informed me that the reason the school bins were full of said uneaten fruit was because the kids only have a 15 min break to pack in eating a snack and burning off some energy by play. Fruit takes too long to eat. Give them something small and very simple like a healthy biscuit, mini jaffa's or something similar to give them an energy boost. Throw in a wee carton of a healthy fruit juice etc.

  7. It's interesting that my three children all differ with regard to stuff. No 1 (now 14 yrs) just isn't bothered by possessions and new things and never knows what she wants for birthdays and Christmas. Is delighted with anything - this time a bottle of perfume and a new bag which was £5.99 from a high street store, plus her favourite chocs and a bath bomb. No 2 (11 yrs) is totally obsessed with stuff, mainly large gadget-like stuff, saves up and buys it or nags us into buying some of it for birthdays/christmas and then moves on to the next obsession fairly quickly and sells the old one on ebay. No 3 (5 yrs) is even worse and wants something new every day. We just have to stand firm and never ever take him shopping if it can possibly be avoided, it's just not worth the agony. Museum and art gallery shops are our current bete-noir. We do think we're quite good role models, we don't replace TVs every year etc. but it is very difficult, there's more stuff around and more food items too. As with most child rearing, best not to agonise too much, the family budget usually dicatates what can be bought and when he's getting pocket money it becomes his problem to some extent.