Like most mothers of school-age children, I devoted a good chunk of August to school preparation. New shoes? Check. New clothes? Check. School supplies, water bottles, backpacks? Yep. Hair cuts, dental appointments, immunizations, physicals? Check, check, check …
You get the idea. It was a busy (and expensive) month.
If only school started after Labor Day. Then most of August — our warmest, most glorious month — could be spent enjoying summer rather gearing up for school. But, that’s the subject of a different article…
With all the appointments and purchases we completed prior to the first day of school, I thought we were well prepared. After the first day of school, I learned otherwise.
My fourth grade daughter, age 9, bounded out to the car in her sparkly new sneakers and skort, and delivered another request. “Moooooom, can I get a back to school manicure? Pleeeeease! All my friends got one.”
I paused for a minute to let the words sink in. Back to school manicure? Did I hear that right? Is this now the standard for fourth-grade preparation?
Apparently, she informs me, I’m years behind the times. Even girls in kindergarten are getting back-to-school manicures. And these are not the at-home versions from mom or older sister. We’re talking professional, salon manicures. French tips for all I know.
Don’t get me wrong, manis and pedis are among my favorite indulgences. I’m all about creating an excuse to get one, and the first day of school works for me. Moms should celebrate the beginning of school with some time at the salon!
Still, these services are luxuries. I was about 28 years old before I had my first real pedicure, and I’m not that eager to begin springing for trips to the nail salon for my nine year old.
This is just the latest in a growing list of indulgences we lavish on our kids. Limousine birthdays, shopping trips to New York City, $300 doll furniture, shiny new cars…the list goes on.
Is anyone else questioning the sense of this? Is it smart for us to embrace these extravagances for our kids that could be experienced more slowly and gratefully with age?
There are many reasons why we over-indulge our children. First, we can.
Products and services are more available and affordable than when we grew up. Families today are also smaller and often earn two incomes, so parents have more money to spend on excessive birthday parties, toys and other non-essentials.
Another culprit, though, is impatience. High-speed technology has us addicted to speed. We struggle to wait for anything.
I find myself pacing while my Kurig instant brew, single-serving coffee maker produces a hot, fresh cup of delicious dark coffee in less than a minute. I can unload half the dishwasher in that time. Why does it take so long?
We expect to reach people instantly, and will call, text, email, facebook, twitter and otherwise relentlessly harass until we get a response.
With instant cash, instant credit, instant information, and overnight delivery we have little reason to wait for anything. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise when our children see or hear of something they like and want it. Now. As quickly as the latest app on an iPhone.
It may not always feel like it but as parents, we are driving this run-away vehicle. We are in control. Maybe we ought to step on the brakes more often.
We moan that “kids grow up so fast now adays” while standing in line to buy high-heeled pumps for our four-year-old. (Guilty!)
When children who have been regularly indulged with their latest cravings grow into hormonal teens, what sort of affect do these indulgent tendencies have on them? Why would they be inclined to wait before drinking alcohol for example. Or having sex.
Will they learn the self-control needed to say no to such strong desires when the consequences are more serious than a twisted ankle caused by high heels?
Our fast-paced culture encourages immediate gratification. Yet many of life’s greatest rewards require time, persistence, patience. There’s no instant route for earning a degree, learning an instrument, perfecting a sport, growing a garden, saving for a home, raising a child.
Even if we have the cash or credit to indulge our children’s fancies, it’s ok, even smart, to save some privileges for a later age.
My daughter isn’t scarred because she didn’t have a back-to-school manicure. But she might just be if I don’t help her learn to wait.
Julie Fedorchak is a Bismarck writer. Write her back at firstname.lastname@example.org.