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    March 25, 2013

    A bunch of haphazard thoughts and worries about spoiling your kids

    So right now I am trying to figure out what I think about going big on holidays, buying stuff for your kids when they don't need it, buying stuff for your kids for no reason, giving them treats, spoiling them. I think I'm trying to figure out if what I feel right now, and what I want to do for Easter, is Not So Great Parenting. 

    See, I feel like I messed up Christmas. We didn't do an Advent calendar this year and I don't really know why, other than I was lazy. We didn't put tons of thought into gifts for our kids - I think I put more thought into gifts for my nieces and nephews than I did for my own kids. And Molly really truly wanted this Disney princess doll. She saw it when we were shopping for something else in the Disney store. It wasn't the Barbie kind, it was one of the "toddler" or "little girl" princesses and they were actually pretty cute and I honestly don't have much of a problem with Disney princess stuff. I asked the clerk if I could buy it without Molly noticing, but it didn't work out and I ended up not getting it. Instead I gave her a doll with a huge collection of handmade doll clothes. My grandmother had bought sixteen-inch dolls and made wardrobes for my sisters and my one girl cousin and me when we were all too old for dolls. I've had it for years and always thought I would give it to my daughter one day. This Christmas I thought: hey! I'll save my money! I'll give her something meaningful! It could be a Family Heirloom! It's not another Disney princess piece of crapola! This is better! 

    You guys, it was not better. Molly liked the doll, but the clothes were too hard for her without my help. The clothes were more the kind of thing you and I would think are cute rather than a four-year-old girl. The doll itself was super cute, but not any more special than Molly's other dolls. Months later I still massively regret not buying her that stupid Disney princess doll. It wasn't super expensive. It wasn't inappropriate. It was the one thing she happened to really glom onto around Christmas time. WHY DIDN'T I JUST GET HER THE STUPID DOLL?

    In my family Christmas is a big deal. So is Easter. My mom used to make us these huge Easter baskets and hide them around the house. We'd have big dinner or brunch with family and friends. Our outfits were super special. We got to sleep in CURLERS for Easter. When I found out that Phillip's family was barely registering Easter this year (and my parents were going to be out of town) I made sure to create our own Easter celebration. We'll have friends and food and an egg hunt. And I've been buying Easter basket fillers for weeks. WEEKS. I want the Easter bunny to knock their socks off this year. 

    And yesterday? When Jack was sick and just Molly and I went to church? Afterwards I took her out to lunch at a restaurant she specifically requested, then we went to the mall and bought a [Disney princess, natch] necklace at Claire's because she's been dying for "kid jewels". No reason! No occasion! She wanted it and I wanted to give it to her. 

    Half of me is "WHY NOT" and half of me is "oooh, this is NOT GOOD".

    I don't feel like I spoil Jack. He's the oldest and I know I'm subconsciously harder on him (I'M THE OLDEST TOO, JACK. WE'LL CHAT ONE DAY!) He's never really been INTO a certain kind of toy or theme. And he goes to full day kindergarten. He's just not AROUND as much. 

    But Molly, and Emma by virtue of being my SWEET WITTLE BABY... man. I'm sure a lot of you think I'm terrible for taking those girls out for coffee and pastries nearly every morning. Part of it is just what we have to DO, to manage the silly drop off schedule, but we'll do it even when we don't have school. I love going to coffee shops with them. I'm very much aware that Molly will be in full time kindergarten in just a few months and I CHERISH that time. I really honestly do. Should I let them eat chocolate croissants and cookies and chocolate chip muffins nearly every morning? That doesn't sound like a very concerned or involved or aware parent. AND YET. I am so happy to spend my cash on morning treats, so happy to have that little half hour of sweets. 

    And they're only little for so long. There's only a few years when Christmas is THE BEST DAY EVER!!!! and Easter is super exciting and your birthday is a high holy day. (Okay, some of us still treat our birthdays as such.) Plus they have a mom who loves sugar, loves presents, loves parties, loves celebrations. 

    But they also have a mom who wants them to learn the Reason For The Seasons (gag) and doesn't want to create spoiled little brats and wonders how much is too much indulging and cares what her stricter friends and family think. I don't feel like I SUPER indulge my kids. I am certainly not going around buying them every which thing, but I've been known to buy a superfluous pair of pink shoes, cookies when there are bagels, and we always hit up the Target dollar section. 

    I don't know. I think I'm freaking out about both of my big kids going to school in the fall. They're, you know, a package deal. Once they're in school that's it. Life goes faster and they get bigger and the last thing Molly will want to do is go have a coffee with me before school. OH I FEEL SO SAD ABOUT THIS. 

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    I share so many of the same concerns about "spoiling" the kids. When I was little we NEVER went out to eat, getting a soda or a pretzel at the mall was a HUGE deal. Now, with my kids? We eat out every weekend, always buying drinks or snacks while out and about. I worry what kind of message this is sending them.

    I am good about not buying things outside of holidays or giving out money for arcade games etc.... I've also started giving an allowance for cleaning up their messes at night, which they've been saving and spending at the dollar store or toy store. So hopefully there is a message about earning it vs. getting it. But it's hard. I hear you!!

    The years I don't do anything, for whatever reason, (like last year we went to Disneyland so we didn't do Easter baskets) I always feel like I FAILED. The years like this year where I am on the ball and I have all the easter stuff bought ahead of time and a day planned to dye eggs and outfits picked out? I worry that I am a super duper spoiling Pinterest over achiever. So basically, you can't win, and I think we are the same.
    But I don't think your kids are spoiled. I think you want them to be happy more than you want to say no, or maybe that's me, because that's what I do. This $1 flower headband makes you happy? Why the hell not?
    I just love to give stuff though, I think, is my problem, so I over do it on that stuff. But some of my best memories are of these occasions, so I also like to make sure it's carried over for my kids.
    Oh, and the first year we lived together? Erik made me this Easter basket that he had to hide in the other room because it spread for FEET around the basket onto the floor. It contained LIVE plants. It was AMAZING. I have never forgotten it. Seriously it was filled with so much love. That boy. He was a keeper.

    Glad you got to the actual source of your feelings. On spoiling I think if you are raising your kids right, they will be good kids. I think spoiling also involves them manipulating you, which you never really talk about. You know what is right, and I am just cracking up as I say don't worry so much. Love, Meghan

    I think that those coffee dates and things with your kids will be special memories that they'll have. Those are the fun things they'll remember- the spending time with you and eating treats.
    As for the holiday/reason for the seasons stuff: I know we're different in this (we're a secular household, though I was raised Lutheran, my kids are baptized, we've been to church) but I try and emphasize the things about the holidays that are important to us: being with family, celebrating the joy of having this wonderful web of people around you and celebrating our family and life. So, while my kids do get very generous presents (2 sets of doting grandparents) I try and play up the important parts.
    Don't be too hard on yourself, you're not spoiling them. I think that only happens if they turn in to jerks who demand things and you are manipulated by it.

    I think that those will definitely be special memories. You aren't out buying them things every day and unless they start demanding things or being bratty, I think you will be ok :)

    That said, I totally get it. My oldest will be in preschool 4 half days in the fall and his younger sister 3 half days of preschool and then the baby at home who is about to turn 1 next month. They are a package deal like Jack and Molly...15 months apart and do everything together....school, skating lessons, etc. I am not ready for them to be gone all the time either!

    I will also say I had those special memories of holiday traditions growing up as well. For my kids we take them every year on Holy Saturday to bless the Easter (food) baskets to then eat after Mass on Sunday. This is a European/Slavic tradition my husband and I both grew up doing with our families we feel is important to pass on to our kids. Then we will do an Easter Egg Hunt etc. We have to enjoy this time when they are little!

    We have this conversation nearly daily these days. It doesn't help that Spencer is in the phase where he's an ungrateful little shit when he doesn't get exactly what he asks for (I say that with love, truly). We just recently got Disney annual passes because we don't live far and it seemed like a great thing to do and every weekend I think, "I went to Disney twice in my entire childhood and these children are going every weekend?"

    We don't buy things on the regular for the kids (my siblings grew up getting "one thing" every time we were out and they were "good" which I promised myself I wouldn't do) but I do go a little overboard on the Easter baskets, and Christmas this past year.

    We spoil with things, but not with behavior. And I am fine with that. Elizabeth behaves well and even though she gets a lot of crap, she also knows that if we say no, there's no way.

    My first thought was that you should get that princess doll and put it in her Easter basket.

    I think its hard for moms to not spoil their kids, especially if you're a giving person, which you obviously are. I've always loved giving presents, especially at Christmas. The process of finding the perfect gift for each person on your list, the anticipation as they open it, the warm happy feeling you get when you know they love it. Of course this only got worse for me when my daughter was born. Her birthday is Decemenber 21, which makes it hard because we have to buy all her bday gifts and Christmas at the same time. However, we learned this past Christmas not to over do it. We bought way too much stuff for her, and she received so much from friends and family for her bday and Christmas that I think she was a little overwhelmed. There are some toys she got that she still hasn't played with. It was just TOO much. Not to mention we have no room for all of this STUFF in our house. So next year I plan to scale it back quite a bit. Plus if kids receive less, the things they do get will be more significant, right? I still remember some of the big presents I received from my childhood, but not really any of the small stuff. So maybe it is a good idea to not overindulge them. Just a thought. Oh and I don't count taking kids out to eat as spoiling them. But giving them sweets every morning instead of a healthy breakfast may be spoiling just a little. :)

    My husband and I go back and forth about this, too. I feel that he spoils our son a lot, though I know it's not on purpose. He just wants to make him happy, and if he can find a way to do it reasonably easy, he does. But sometimes it's ok to say no, no matter how easy it is. Our son often demands things now, and it drives me nuts. He's got more toys than he could ever need, yet he always asks for more. And then holidays come along and he has to get more, let alone what little treats he's gotten at any point in between. When I just had a baby six weeks ago, it made for a weird situation because he was acting out in jealousy, but it seemed risky to do special things for him because it could be perceived as a reward...but he still needed the attention. Ugh. When I was little my grandparents' favorite restaurant was a fancy one, and we went there with them a lot. Perhaps we were spoiled, but I think we still knew it was special and I wouldn't trade those experiences with them for anything. As for Easter, I have a couple pieces of chocolate, a book, and a set of sight word flash cards. Trying to keep it small. I'm more perplexed by the baby, since I feel like he should have one (because the Easter Bunny should bring something to everyone, right?), but the baby doesn't really need much, let alone candy. I think I might buy a book and maybe a little stuffed animal and call it good. BTW--we totally failed at Christmas, too. We wanted to get him a bike but Toys 'R' Us screwed up and we were out of luck at the last minute. We bought a giant Lego set in panic, but then decided it was too big considering how he'd been behaving lately. However, it was a good sale so we were hesitant to take it back, and it's still in our closet. We never did replace that gift, but he was so spoiled anyway by other family that it didn't make sense to bother. It's such a balancing act, though. As long as the girls know it's a special treat and not something they can demand, I think you're OK :)

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately, as we get closer to the "she will REMEMBER this!" and "parenting choices matter now!" phases with Eliza. Like, girlfriend is obsessed with basketball right now, so the other day we just went out and... bought her a toddler basketball hoop. Some random Saturday. Shouldn't we have saved that idea for a holiday gift? When we do stuff like that, are we teaching her that she is entitled to whatever she wants, right this second? I DON'T KNOOOOW.

    I am reading Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel, about Thomas Cromwell) right now, and in it one of the big things that is jumping out at me is Cromwell's approach to raising his son. He himself had a horrible childhood that resulted in him running away, but also quite dilligently MAKING something of himself. You know, learning a bunch of languages and trades and how to fend for himself (and also break up England and Catholicism, oopsies, but he would have DIED maybe (sooner) if he hadn't done that and humans are weak and OH I DON'T KNOW ANYWAYS, the man is portrayed as quite capable and smart). And he worries that by sparing his kid a lot of the hardships he experienced, his kid is becoming kind of soft and incapable. And I'm reading this great historical fiction and coming away with PARENTING STRESS, so I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong, but whatever. RAMBLE RAMBLE.

    It depends on the behavior and the message associated with it, doesn't it? If you are doing those little things to show that you love them and they are special to you, then fine. If you are doing it to bribe them into decent behavior or giving in because they are whining for it, then not so fine. I have a hard time with creating the expectation of doing something special every time so my tendency is, unfortunately, to skip more of the opportunities than I probably should. My rule is--if you whine, then the answer is no (obvious exceptions made for things like going to the bathroom) and if you don't say thank you, then you lose it until you are willing to. But when we went out with the grandparents the other day, I let E. get chocolate milk instead of regular, just because it was fun to make the most of the occasion.

    I used to get wrapped up in the notion of buying the perfect gift. in the end i realized we all already have SO MUCH STUFF. So now i try to make a point of giving my time and attention. a special outing with each individual child is time well spent and lifelong memories made. for birthdays and christmas we ask for money instead of toys. then we let our child chose how they use the money, for a designated outing (bowling/arcade/jumpy house) or on-going activity (a dance class).

    I struggle with this, too, but I really think that spoiling them when you can (not being irresponsible about it - I'm not going to buy my kid a toy I can't afford just because he/she wants it) is okay. A friend of mine takes her one not-school-aged daughter for a Thursday morning pastry every week. The little cherub gets (1) whatever she wants from Panera (a giant cookie? sure! A chocolate pastry? why not? But you have to pick ONE!) and I think that she is going to remember this for years to come.
    I have simple memories like that of me and my mom. How on my birthday every year since I was 14, she takes me for a makeover at a make up counter and we get facials and they do my make up and she buys me a bunch of the supplies. (now? I count on that and you can see me pulling the dregs from my make up pots in the weeks leading up to my birthday because I can't afford to refill my make up when mom is gonna do it for me in a couple weeks!)
    I think there is a difference between spoiling your child and spoiling them rotten. I think there is a difference between spoiling the kid(s) you just generally spend more time with and showing favoritism. You just have to find the line. And every once in awhile, make sure you get an extra treat for the one who often gets left out, too. :)

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