Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's your thing?

About a month ago my mother-in-law emailed me to see if it was alright if she bought Vivian a doll for her birthday. I'm not sure why she felt like she had to ask me, except that she knows I'm not much of a girly-girl and maybe she thought I'd be annoyed by a doll or something. I learned long ago not to try and understand where MIL is coming from, though: she can be a wonderful and generous person but her motivations are often beyond comprehension, if not suspect.

Anyway. She sent the email, and I responded. "Of course!" I said, "Buy her whatever you want. Just do me a favor and don't go overboard. She's only two, after all, she doesn't need every possible outfit and accessory for the doll, too." I only added the last bit because my mother-in-law is a complete Ebay addict, a collector, AND she had three sons. Vivian is her first chance to buy dolls, and I knew that she might get a little crazy. (This woman has over 400 of those Carolers, the little singing Christmas dolls. I'm not kidding.) MIL agreed, and that was that.

(Ha. Ha. Ha. Oops, excuse me.)

Before we left for vacation, MIL handed me several new outfits she had purchased for Vivian's birthday. She wanted her to be able to wear them back East, so she presented them early. Great. I thanked her profusely and went on my way. The day before we left, MIL dropped by with a doll and diaper bag she had purchased for the doll. The diaper bag was full--6 outfits for the doll, new shoes, baby lotion, baby powder, a tiny teddy bear for the doll. "Here", she said, "this is so Vivian can play dollies with her cousin. I thought they'd have fun doing that." "Oh. Okay. Well, uh, thanks. Vivian, what do you say?"

So a bit more than I had asked for, but whatever--she's the grandma, I'm not going to rain on her parade. What's a couple of outfits for a doll anyway. Cue our return from the East Coast, when we walk into our house after a long long flight only to see a twin baby stroller, with two more dolls. Attached is a balloon that says "Happy Birthday Vivi!". Oh but we're not done yet. Last weekend, Vivian received 4 more outfits for each doll, 6 new baby blankets, and two doll sleeping bags. Unwrapped, but at my MIL's house, out for Vivian to play with, was a doll pack n' play, another stroller, and several more assorted cribs/blankets/doll teddy bears.

It was like being at the Bitty Baby store. Everywhere I looked was another present or another toy. I know all of this makes my MIL extremely happy. She finally has her girl to buy for! I really don't want to take any of that joy away from her, and especially now, when Vivian doesn't have a clue what's going on. But it makes me grit my teeth. It is so against my main tenet (my only tenet?) of parenting, which is: DO NOT SPOIL YOUR KIDS WITH A BUNCH OF UNNECESSARY CRAP.

You know how everybody has a "thing"? Something that is really important to you, or really gets under your skin, or something that you are acutely aware of? For me, it is elitism and entitlement, and I'm sure the reason I have such a bug up my ass about it is that I went to a prep school, with tons of extremely rich kids, and many of them were complete assholes. I really don't want my kids to be like that, or to be around that. I have an extremely difficult time with people who just expect to be given a free ride, who think that by virtue of their birth they are entitled to everything they want.

In my opinion, buying a lot of "things" for your kids is wrong for a couple reasons. In the first place, if you buy your child everything they could ever want, how are they going to learn to appreciate anything? If they get a Mercedes for their 16th birthday, what's going to top that? Do you really want the peak of your kids' happiness to be at 16? Nevermind that giving them everything they want denies them the opportunity to work hard for something, to earn it, and to feel proud of themselves. I want my kids to be self-sufficient, and if I buy everything for them, how are they going to learn to do anything for themselves? Secondly, I think buying things just for the sake of buying them is a waste. A waste of your money and a waste of the environment. Of course it's nice sometimes to buy nice things, even if you don't need them. But I like to impress on my kids that you can be just as happy with fewer things. Things don't make you happy.

I'm not articulating this very well. But here's another way of saying it: $300 worth of crap from the American Girl store does not equal love. At two, Vivian would have been just as thrilled with one doll and one outfit. At six, maybe she'll want more. But if she gets five bajillion things today, what in the hell are we going to have to get for her at six? Furthermore, isn't there some value in learning delayed gratification? Like, if when she's six she really really wants the double stroller for the twins, she can ask Santa for it, or save her allowance? And then if she gets it, think how thrilled she'll be! Oh wait, we've denied her that joy, because she already has the thing. Which she got for doing approximately nothing, when she was two years old. When she had never even heard of Bitty Baby.

Anyway, I'm probably making too much of this. I know that the whole spending-too-much-on-the kids-thing is my own personal cross to bear and I'm over-sensitive to it. Still, those Bitty babies are making me itch, and not in a good way. (Is there a good way to itch?)

Is there something in particular about parenting that gets to you? Something that react to more strongly than you maybe should? Or am I the only freak out here?

1 comment:

isimsiz kahraman said...
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