We talk a lot about spoiling our children. We don’t want to provide them with too much and make them feel greedy or entitled, but we also don’t want to do so little that they feel unloved. Finding that happy balance seems to be the most common frustration I see from my fellow soldiers in the trenches (aka parents.)
Spoiling children is that point where you go from being a generous provider to overcompensating for something. From what I can tell, it seems to be a moving target–moved around, of course, by other people.
We live in an age where there is SO MUCH information out there that there is such a thing as too much research. We can now know too much about parenting, people!
Do you remember, back in high school, how you either loved or loathed everything “The Popular Girl” had? Everything “The Popular Girl” had is what made her popular in the first place. As adults we’re supposed to know that popularity is a false perception, and one that is different for everyone. We should know that false perceptions can’t really exist.
To really get to know someone, we have to look at a person beyond what they have, pay attention to who they are, and how they treat people. That shows a person’s character; their character is how we decide if we want them around us or not.
Now, I didn’t learn all of this epic parenting wisdom from a book or from my mother, I learned it all through experience–through the experience of being a spoiled-ass brat.
The Art of Getting Spoiled
The main influence for my life–the woman I look up to as the person who made me who I am–is my grandmother. My parents played a role, of course, but everyone has a person that is their “due north,” and for me, that is my grandmother.
I lived with her off and on–mostly on for the majority of my childhood and teen years. We lived on a very fixed income in a very small town. Most of the time we lived on nothing much at all, yet whenever she could, which was almost always, she bought me whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it.
I wasn’t exactly Veruca Salt, but I did throw a mean tantrum when I wanted something.
I know now, of course that behaviour was wrong. I know that wanting material things over longterm security is an unhappy way to live, but at eleven years old I didn’t care. I didn’t care about our longterm finances, because I WAS ELEVEN YEARS OLD. I didn’t even understand the concept of longterm finances because nobody really taught me the value of money. The only thing I understood about money was its relationship to my happiness.
My grandmother loved to see me happy after giving in and letting me have the things I really wanted. I didn’t understand then the lengths she would go to give me everything I wanted, if only to see me happy for a few minutes. She really wanted nothing more than to make me the happiest kid in the world, and I love her so so dearly for that, but I know now, as a mother myself, that it was short-sighted.
I loved my grandmother for so much more than what she gave me. I say “loved” because the woman who gave me everything left this earth last summer, unexpectedly but peacefully. It was all of her giving, her spoiling of me, that really helped me see how to un-spoil the next generation, my own children, who are now 3 and 4.
The Art of Getting Un-Spoiled
The people I know in my life, at my age, who are doing the best by my own personal standards, and who seem balanced emotionally, physically, personally and financially are people who had parents… or a support system that taught them how to make lemonade out of lemons. Being spoiled is the equivalent of being given ALL of the lemons and no recipe.
Gifts are a wonderful way to show our children that they are loved and secure, but gifts aren’t exclusively material things.
Because I understand that the gift I’m giving my children — the gift of not having life be a decade-long ice bucket challenge — I don’t really need to care about what Xanthibby got from the Tooth Fairy or what Apple got from the Hanukkah Armadillo.
Instead, I teach my kids about traditions and family values by celebrating holidays and creating memories, and I do my best to make them feel special. I know now, as an ex-spoiled brat, I would not have loved my grandmother a smidgen less, or been any less happy without all of that stuff.
The Art of Raising Adults
The thing is, this isn’t about if my way is “better” or whether it will make my kids somehow better, because there is no such thing as better. Just like there is no such thing as popular.
“Better” and “popular” perceptions in our minds that don’t really exist, but we seem to be dedicating more and more time to these false perceptions. And worse? They are the measure by which we judge ourselves as parents, and sometimes each other, too.
I have nothing left from being spoiled.
I have been given a thousand amazing things from my grandmother over the years, more than I ever could have possibly needed, and I still have maybe one or two. Not for the materials they are or the brand that made them, but because they were my Grandmothers, or they remind me of her in some way.
It’s the other things she gave me, the non-material things, like her mischievous smile, her wry wit and her stubborn tenacity. Those are the only things she gave me that I ever really needed, and the only gifts I need to give my kids beyond my unconditional love and guidance. Everything else is just gravy.
And who doesn’t like gravy? In moderation, of course.