The other day, I was sitting chit chatting with some girlfriends. They asked me about the new old car sitting in my driveway. One of my girlfriends asked “How does your daughter like her new car?” I found myself getting very defensive about that question, even denying it was my daughter’s. I said, a few times, “It’s not hers yet. It’ll be hers next semester at college.” Even as I said it, I wanted to rein in my denial and my tone. My voice was a few octaves below agitation. I didn’t fully understand why I felt the way I did. I mean, the purpose of buying the car was so my daughter had something to drive at college. Why was I attempting to even cover up that fact?
Flash forward a few days later and driving in the car with one of the girlfriends who was part of that conversation. The new/old car was brought up again. I had to hold in another burst of overreaction. I took a deep breath and said, “You know, I feel kind of guilty about the whole car thing. My parents never brought me a car.” There! That was it! I finally admitted to guilt over my over-indulgence with my daughter. The car represented everything I wanted to fight into today’s society.
Today’s excessiveness for our children isn’t just in the cars we buy them, or the fast food they eat or their must-have electronics. It’s in the designer Coach purses eleven-year olds carry, the trophies their teams receive when coming in last place, the flowers given to three-year-olds at ballet recital (which always leads me to ask what would these same ballerinas get when they reach thirteen – an orchard?) and then there are the grades – oh boy the grades. There is an increase in grade inflation over the past years – a subject that would make an entirely new and interesting blog. For the purpose of this blog, let’s just say it does exist and lends itself to my theory we live in an excessive society.
We are the parents of excessiveness. Oh sure, our intentions are pure…in our minds anyway. We want our children to fit in. We want them to feel worthy and productive. We want to help them deal with the stresses added into a society so much bigger than ours growing up. We want them to feel good about themselves as though somehow a negative thought is a reflection on us. Yes us. Don’t kid ourselves. We are trying to make our children feel good so we feel good. We are a society of insecure parents and money, possessions and grades are way to ease our anxieties. And perhaps, we are a generation too involved in our children. Somehow we morphed into friends instead of parents, and like friendships, we want to share with our children. Instead of having them pay their dues like we did, we want instantaneous equality, but they are not our equals. Not that they are better than or less than, just not equal. They do not have the life experiences to be at our level yet and if we give them too much too soon, or protect them too much – from feelings or failure – they may never develop their own skills to become a productive generation.
Despite my girlfriend defending my action of buying my daughter a car – yeah, she is the best – I look at the new 2003 Pontiac Vibe in my driveway and think perhaps my husband and I have contributed to the excessiveness of our children. We have tried to keep our kids humble. Who am I kidding? Financially, we were forced to keep them humbled. Yet I do cringe when I think about this upcoming generation at the hands of our parenting. I wonder if we have gone too far. While we may have done better with our children than our parents in so many aspect, over indulgence is not one of them.