When you're the mother of an only child, you tend to live with a heightened awareness of what it means to be "spoiling" your child. You're being warned right and left that it's inevitable, so you try your darndest not to do it. And yet, as I read writer Amanda Low's article "I’m Afraid Not ‘Keeping Up With the Joneses’ Does a Disservice to My Daughter" this week, I realized that what some call spoiling is just something I call protecting my kid.
I'm not as far gone as Low. I don't feel like my family needs to go out and build a house just so I'm giving my kid a childhood that's "as good as" her friends'. And yet, there are things I refuse to let her go without that are undoubtedly a mark of caving to societal pressure.
My daughter wears name brand clothing (just not the insanely expensive stuff).
She gets at least one or two "hot toys" for Christmas.
She watches at least a few of the "hot movies" every year.
She is very much a normal kid, and by normal, I mean a mainstream American child. In many ways, her experiences mirror those of the kids in her class at school.
We draw outside the lines too -- we go to museums, we make our own chicken nuggets at home, we buy some of those name brands clothes at the thrift store instead of the mall, and with many things, we just say NO -- but even as we try to give her a childhood that's as well-rounded as it can be within our budget, we err on the side of good, old vanilla.
Why? It's simple: I don't want her to be the odd kid out.
It's hard being that kid. I know. I was one. I wore cheap clothes and glasses, and I didn't get to watch television. I didn't listen to the same music (until high school), and I wasn't allowed to watch most of the movies my friends were watching.
I had friends, but I was picked on. A lot.
I don't want that to be my kid.
We work hard to teach our child not to judge other people on their belongings. We are trying to make sure our kid is never the bully.
But we don't want her being the bullied, either.
Realistically, I know there's only so much I can do about that. It's hard being a smart kid who is kind of klutzy (she gets that from her mother). There will be plenty for the bullies to pick apart if they so desire -- and we all know they will.
So why should I give them MORE ammunition?
I realize I'm fortunate in being able to make purchases not all parents can make; there's no shame in going the cheaper route if it's what you can afford (and you'll note I hit the thrift store too!). But the fact is, I can do at least some things to protect my kid. So why wouldn't I?
Because it might appear that I'm trying to "keep up with the Jonses"? Oh well, I'll take that dig. If it keeps my kid from being the little girl sobbing in a school bus seat while bullies play monkey-in-the-middle with her headband ... before snapping it and handing it back for her to bring home to her mother, who will be furious that she has yet another ruined headband (can you tell this is a true memory?), I'll take it.
Do you try to make sure your kids have at least what their friends have?
Image by Jeanne Sager