My Latest Annoyance: Parenting In Excess

I had two graduations in my life. One in high school, one in college. So what is with the “preschool graduation,” “kindergarten graduation,” “second grade graduation,” “fifth grade graduation,” and “junior high graduation?” I am not there yet, since Fia is just now in preschool, but I can tell you one thing: it’s going to annoy the sh-it out of me when it’s our turn.

I think the last two decades have been an exercise in indulging our children. From our consumerism when it comes to the holidays (read my rant) to the idea that when playing sports, no one loses anymore. “Oh hooray for us!! We are all winners!!!” In my Participation Awards blog post, I brought this up because sometimes it’s hard to resist all the indulgence. But really, when trophies and medals are given out to both teams so that no kid “feels bad,” I say suck it up and toughen up. You think teaching your kids never  to lose is smart and useful preparation for life? I don’t know what candy-coated life you live in, but it ain’t mine, nor most of ours.

Speaking of candy…I read another mom’s blog called Rage Against the Minivan. Kristen Howerton’s hilarious rant about all the “new” holidays that set your kids’ expectations for more gifts–like candy–got me thinking about all these “graduation” issues, sports issues, and of course my own annoyance at the holiday toy overload.  They all stem from the same line of thinking: spoil and shield your kid from what’s real. Since I’m already having a crappy week, I figured I’d just continue to rant about it all.

Her take on St. Patrick’s Day is spot on. Her kids came home from school with the expectation of receiving chocolate coins from an elf. Seriously?  I mean, will it ever end?

This year at Fia’s preschool I didn’t even know it was Valentine’s Day. And luckily we were out of town so I didn’t have to deal with anything. But when we came back, there was a huge basket of cards for her from her “friends.” Written of course, from the parents of the kids she plays with. Okay, that’s sweet. But just like in Kirsten’s piece, I found some parents had put together gift bags of candy. I’m sorry, but that’s just not cool. It raises the bar for anyone who cares (I don’t, so knock yourself out. You’ll get a handmade doily from Fia every year that I don’t whisk her off to Hawaii during holiday weeks. That’s it.), but it also sets a precedent. One that is embedded in an already monstrous problem facing our society: obesity. Okay, okay, I get it. You think I’ve gone too far to equate a Valentine candy bag with obesity. But the snack epidemic is already out of control in this country and gift bags of candy don’t help.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in Parents Magazine by Sally Kuzemchak:

Obesity experts now believe that the frequency of eating, not just bigger portion sizes, is also to blame for the uptick in calorie intake for kids and grown-ups alike. “Our children are being offered food at every turn,” says Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. And adding just one extra snack each day can make a big impact. In fact, it’s possible that obesity is driven by as little as 165 extra calories a day for kids ages 2 to 7, say researchers at both Harvard and Columbia universities. That’s roughly the amount in a handful of potato chips.

…Or a bag of Valentine’s Day candy. Or chocolate coins left by leprechauns.

I don’t know what the solution is because it would truly take a village–where everyone is in agreement–to stop this madness; to stop creating indulgent children who have no perspective when they grow up and face the real world. I’ve seen the results in my extended family. It’s not pretty. But the village mentality won’t work. The addiction to consumerism and more, more, more is just too great.  I guess the only way is to try and shield my kids from all the excess. Ironic, since so many parents are doing the opposite: they are shielding their kids from real life. I wonder, who will grow up with the better coping skills?

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  1. by Chau

    On March 24, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I think it’s ironic that this blog is raging against “excess” and “indulgent” parenting, yet, the writer notes that she “whisks” her kids to Hawaii during the holidays! That’s the epitome of excessive consumerism in full swing. What ever happened to a long ride to Grandma’s house rather than an indulgent trip to an exotic island?

  2. by JDub

    On March 24, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Amen, Sister!!! This is getting WAY out of hand. I know many kids who think Easter is just as big as Christmas and make lists and expect large gifts from the Bunny as well as the Big Guy in Red come Christmas. Wow. I know in our house, there is NO WAY that Easter is going to become the second Christmas. That’s not how I grew up and it’s definitely not necessary. I’m also behind you on the “everybody wins” situations going on. Not everyone wins every game and that is something that kids need to learn. If they don’t win this time, then they can try harder next time. It does not help children to show them that winning is the only reason to do something. The journey and hard work is important, too. Our daughter is going to learn to work hard for what she wants just like we did. I don’t want her to have the out of control sense of entitlement that many kids today have. I’m okay with other parents who have the time to do special things for the holiday parties at school, but please don’t judge my kid or me if I’m unable to do the same. I work, go to school, and take care of my kid and house with my husband. I love my girl and I want her to have fun, but not at the expense of losing quality time with her just so I can make goodie bags for her class.

  3. by Jill Cordes

    On March 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks for the comments. I think JDub said it best in that why waste time making goodie bags at the expense of losing quality time with your kid? I’m sure many parents did it with their kids, but your point is still valid in a general sense.

    Chau–yes, I took the kids to Hawaii. We had an unexpected break in my husbands crazy busy schedule that prevents us from taking many family vacations. In Hawaii we never once turned on the television. We rented a house that was secluded. We went to the most beautiful botanical gardens. We played in the pool and at the beach, and went to the dock and bought fresh fish to grill. We looked closely at flowers and beautiful birds. We smelled the air. I hardly see that as “consumerism in full swing.” I’m lucky in that we had the time and money to do that. You could just as easily drive to grandma’s house and spend your week at the mall…and that would be far more “consumerism” in my opinion. I love to adventure. I love to travel. I want to show my kids the world. And I will. To each their own.

  4. by Jill Cordes

    On March 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    PS. I should add we flew the grandparents to Hawaii to join us. I buried the lead on that one!