My physics professor friends sent this link along: Are Today's Parents Getting a Raw Deal? As in Susan Greenfield's article about having it all, these concerns inhere to a privileged class, but lots I agree with in her post. Really, as Rhonda Stephens explains in the post, in many ways it's the spoiled kids getting the raw deal, missing out on the chance to learn coping skills, delayed gratification, independence, endurance, and I would add, appreciation for what they have.
Everything is over the top now. We went to a charming, small-town St. Patrick's Day parade and the people in the parade hurled candy at the watchers the entire time. At first I thought it was a lollipop here or there, which seemed okay, but no, the kids came home with giant bags of candy, like Halloween. If that's St. Patrick's Day, what does that do to Halloween? And what does that do to the kid the next time he watches a candy-less parade? All he'll be thinking is: Where's the candy?
People shower the kids with gifts now, too. Multiple gifts for holidays, including holidays that never used to be associated with giving gifts. Random gifts just on any given day. Our babysitter brought a brand new pink plastic doll house for Petra a few weeks back. I was so frustrated (so was Wally, who didn't get a gift -- but now that I think about it, maybe that was a more valuable lesson), but I was frustrated because I have been saving in the closet the beautiful, only slightly graphittied wooden dollhouse my parents gave my nieces a few years ago and now my nieces are passing along to Petra. Now, how can the stowed way, handed down, slightly-graphittied wooden dollhouse possibly have the same effect?
Do I sounds like a whiny, spoiled or maybe even curmudgeonly parent to even raise these concerns? Woe is me! My kids get too many toys! Holidays are too much fun! Too many people love my kids and shower them with presents! Yes maybe I am whining and spoiled wanting, in my own nonmaterial and non-materialist terms, the ideal childhood experience for my kids. But that doesn't negate the fact that there is a real price of all this consumerism and consuming. And that our kids are the ones who have to pay it. That's the real point, not that the parents are getting the raw deal, but that the kids are.
Even my mom, who so generously buys Easter candy and stuffs a million eggs, buys too much. There are always so many eggs per kids, with tons of unstuffed candy left over. Profligate. Simple supply-and-demand economic principles expose the real cost of too much: How can any single egg have the value that it would previously have had? They're not just missing out on lessons in grit, but they're missing out on the joy of having something you really want, or even of wanting something you never get. There is a distinct lack of joy that attends this embarrassment of riches, epitomized by the spoiled child stamping his or her foot, crossing her arms, surrounded by mountains and mountains toys.
Many more examples I would like to give of kids being over-indulged, more processing of this raw data I would like to do, but I can't now, so I'll just shoot this out there:
Someone in favor of all the too-much-ness of everything, the literal spoiling of our children, can you tell me what it is you think they gain from having everything they think they want? If the parents are getting the raw deal, and the kids are missing out on the chance to learn an essential lesson about real life best summarized by the Rolling Stones, and the kids are missing out on the chance to really enjoy things if the only ones really gaining are those making money off the endless, colossally decadent consumption, I think we should ask ourselves: Who gets served?