A few years ago the Associated Press ran a story that came out of Gavas, a town in eastern Turkey. According to the story, one sheep from a very large flock walked to the edge of a cliff and jumped to its death. A second sheep soon followed. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. The A.P. report read:
Stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff.
Incredibly, only 450 of the sheep died. The rest survived because their fall was cushioned by the bodies of the sheep that had jumped before them. I guess there’s something to be said for being toward the back of the line, after all.
Here’s a typical parent-child conversation:
Jimmy: “Dad, can I take my skateboard and try a triple-spin-reverse off the front porch?”
Jimmy: “Why not? Tommy does it.”
Dad: “If Tommy jumped off a cliff, would you follow him?”
That comeback about jumping off a cliff has traditionally been the go-to line that parents have used to keep kids from caving in to peer pressure. It reminds me of the “You’ll shoot your eye out” line from the movie A Christmas Story. As little Ralphie says about his mother using that line as her excuse not to buy him a BB rifle, “That deadly phrase uttered many times by hundreds of mothers was not surmountable by any means known to kid-dom.”
Truth be told, though, parents have to warn their kids about jumping off cliffs because peer pressure is such a powerful force. In his book There’s A Sheep Born Every Second, David Kirkwood uses that A.P. story about those sheep and writes, “Imagine the peer pressure that last sheep must have felt. Surely 1,499 sheep can’t be wrong, can they?”
So, consider today’s post a word of encouragement to all you parents who are still trying to hold the line. Keep up the good work. Don’t make the mistake of giving in to peer pressure yourself, the pressure other parents put on you to let your kids: watch anything they want to watch, listen to anything they want to listen to, wear anything they want to wear, think anything they want to think, say anything they want to say, go anywhere they want to go, buy anything they want to buy, and do anything they want to do. Can 1,499 sheep be wrong? You’d better believe they can! And that’s why you can’t let your child be number 1,500.