Monday, January 21, 2013

Giving our Kids "The Best"

As usual I'm up late reading articles, tonight I saw an article suggesting that today we're going overboard in spending ridiculous amounts of money on our children on things that have nothing to do with necessity. Stated particularly were "$1,200 for gymnastics and dance, $5,000 on preschool, $144 on swim lessons"...etc. I honestly questioned my parenting. Wondering if I was a good mother for not enrolling my 3.5 year old in any type of lessons. I had to really ask myself some questions. Now let me be blunt, I don't give a fuck about "keeping up with the Jones" or whether everyone is doing it.

  • My sole question was, am I depriving our daughter from something crucial to her development? It became clear to me, that's absolutely not a concern. 
  • Is she a happy and loving child? Yes. 
  • Okay, is she just like any other independence seeking, random tantrum throwing 3 year old? From reading about her development on various forums I have to agree.
  • Was it that I really didn't want to spend the money? No, if I can justify it fine. I admit, I'm not frivolous with money, if it doesn't need to be spent especially on something so unnecessary as Gymboree, then fuck it, I'm not spending it. That's it. 
  • My next question was; What is my goal as a parent? Our goal as mothers and fathers is to raise children that can survive in the real world. Preparing them for the real world and molding them into human beings who contribute to the world is my goal. What's happening to humanity anyway?....
  • How do we prepare them for the world? Well with education of course...
  • Do I read to my child? Of course, education is where I put a lot of effort towards. 

I told myself "well there you go, why would dance, or Gymboree, or private school, or anything excessive be crucial to her development? She will go to school to be socialized, what other needs are being unmet?" I couldn't think of any... Somehow we rate our self worth as parents in whether we're able to give our children all the things we didn't have or wanted as children. Hell, I know my mom did too, she wanted to give us the world, and she damn well did, even though we never asked for it. My aunts used to tell her that she's giving us too much too, but even then at age 8, I knew that money didn't buy happiness. Happiness is just a point between two states of UN-happiness. The article explicitly states;

"Simply teaching kids the importance of hard work trumps even innate intelligence in predicting their success, according to Carol S. Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford and author of The Secrets to Raising Smart Children. Children who live in homes filled with books, regardless of the parents’ educational background or occupation, do much better in school, according to a 2010 study by researchers from the University of Nevada. “You can get a lot of bang for your book,” said author Mariah Evans, a sociologist. “It’s quite a good return on investment in a time of scarce resources.”

What parents don't realize in trying to give their kids the best, they forget about the basics. Kids need their thoughts and feelings validated. If parents succumb to material desires and  don't enrich children with love, affection and experiences that reassure them of their importance, children are likely to end up with low self esteem. We all have seen our kids go crazy for something they saw on TV, we go out of our way to get it for our child, and what ends up happening? They're excited for two minutes and a week later they want something else, or want what someone else has. What the hell? We're like that too as adults, we're always wanting more, we get what we want and by that time we want ten more things.

Our parents wanted to give us everything they didn't have but in turn they've overcompensated and our generation has become wrapped up in consumerism. Parent's aren't concerned with whether children are enjoying their childhood, having fun, playing, being silly, they're over-booked in activities, pushed to be competitive, and the focus is on keeping up with everyone else. I have a little confession to make: I like to buy things sometimes no matter how little it is...no surprise there because I like nice things, I desire beautiful things, and because of my upbringing, but to change it....how? I can't stop enjoying things like clothes and makeup, but at least I am in control. I'm aware of it. I' stay grounded and always ask myself is it necessary? Will it matter to me in 6 months?  I focus on leading by example, and stop questioning myself. I'm doing the best I can for my children, and stick to education. If they want to take up a hobby, or an extracurricular activity when they're older, then of course, that would definitely enrich their life through experiences, and by building self-confidence and an identity for themselves, but to start now while they're so young and blossoming makes no sense to me. Building relationships with our children is more important and reinforces my position as a SAHM. We may be home all the time, play with the kids, and sit on the couch a lot and watch movies with the kids on the weekend but quality vs. quantity is there.

If you ever get down on yourself about your child not being enrolled in all these camps, activities, classes, etc. check out the article, it's pretty amazing: Rich Baby Poor Baby; Why Overspending on Kids Is a Waste.

Instead invest in some books. Growing Books Boosts Child Education Attainment.

Read to them, play with them, be silly with them when you can, expose them to different types of music, sing and dance with them, listen, talk and laugh with them as much as possible, cook with them, and give and teach them respect, gratitude and religion if you believe in it. I know these are things I was particularly anxious to share with my parents growing up. One of my fondest memories are cooking side by side with my dad in the kitchen during a simpler time in life. Doing these things whenever I can, lights up the faces of my girls.