Will Your Kid Be Material Girl (or Boy)? Check Their Christmas List

Christmas listBack at the end of 7th grade, Girl Child was turning into a label groupie. In her limited little world of fashion, it was all about Juicy Couture. I was perplexed, 1) because we were wearing that stuff when I was in school and I wondered how it managed to stand the test of an almost twenty-year generation gap when 2) it’s really not that hot. 

My analysis was blowing in the wind. As far as she was concerned, it was Juicy, Juicy, Juicy. Then it was Polo, Polo, Polo. Before we moved on to the next great American tween fad, I had to nip that mess in the hindparts.

Being fly and fabulous, I told her, is all about having the style to take something from a thrift store or Wal-mart and make it look like something in the window at a hot boutique or swanky department store. Whose name you have slathered across your front or backside has no bearing on how well you dress. 

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After that pep talk, we haven’t had a problem since, especially since she discovered that her mother — the undisputed reigning diva of discount shopping, thank you very much — can make money stretch a lot further on a sales rack. But I’ve overheard her friends’ name-dropping and now completely understand where the draw came from.

“I asked my mom for a pair of Uggs for Christmas,” one little gal bragged during a teen/tween outing to the mall. “They better be the real ones.”

“Ummm,” I interjected, from the driver’s seat. I was playing chauffer, which is usually a great opportunity to blend into the background and listen to their random musings on which boy is soooo cute, which classmate is soooo annoying, which singer is soooo pretty, which class is soooo hard, which teacher gives soooo much homework. You know, the deep stuff. Every now and again, though, I have to pipe in with an adult point of view with at least a little hope of being hip while I’m doing it.

 “Real Uggs cost like $180, my dear. Why would you want your mother to pay that much for a pair of boots you’re probably not even going to want any more in a few months?”

She giggled in a silly-Miss-Harris-you’re-so-old-and-clueless kind of way, then gave me the simplest of answers: “Because they’re sooo cute!” Figures.

I’m all for paying a little extra when quality is a concern. Sometimes you have to try the cheap version only to discover the higher-end real deal is worth shelling out the extra money. But I’d venture to say a good 65 percent of the time, you’re paying for the opportunity to be a walking billboard for some brand name or designer, and with that, socially accepted among your peers for wearing the right kind of clothes.

Aside from being a skoosh wasteful, that wouldn’t be so bad if kids didn’t determine who was cool or popular or even worth talking to based on the kind of clothes and shoes they wear, even the kind of cell phone they carry or if they have an iPod or iPad.

When I was coming up, it was bamboo earrings, leather jackets, and Air Jordans. Now parents better be ready to pony up a constant stream of cash to keep their kids in the upper echelons of stylishness.

That’s good for Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister and of course, Uggs, but too bad for the kids whose moms and dads just can’t afford to deck their children out — or who might not have parents to deck them out at all. Sometimes they end up being the victims of merciless teasing or outright bullying because they haven’t fallen in line. When I was a substitute teacher in Baltimore, I had to break up a fight between two second graders after one made fun of the other’s no-name sneakers. Second grade. Sigh.

On the flip side, there are kids whose self-worth is so tied up in material things, they couldn’t figure out who the heck they weren’t if they didn’t have Ralph Lauren or Kate Spade to point them in the right direction. Materialism, for some folks, is a way of compensating for other areas they feel are lacking — a not-so-pretty girl feels more empowered in pair of designer jeans, a not-so-cool guy can fake it ‘til he makes it in the $225 Nike Foamposites.

January 3 ought to be real interesting in schools everywhere if some of these outrageous Christmas wishes are granted, I know that much.

Are kids too materialistic?

Image via Valerie's Genealogy Photos/Flickr

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