This was originally posted December 5, 2006 on my self-hosted blog.
I routinely read parenting articles, many more than I share with you here. I happened along this article yesterday and I’ve thought about it ever since. Let me ask you:
How many gifts are too many? What’s the limit? Is there a number? When does it cross over the threshold of thoughtful to obscene?
How many gifts do you buy your children at Christmas? How many do they expect? Do your relatives go overboard on them? Do you set a dollar limit on their gifts? Is your personal gift giving to your children based on guilty feelings? Are you trying to overcompensate for your parenting skills?
I confess, I’ve spoiled our boys in the past. I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but I ended up giving them everything on their wish lists for quite a few years (I think one Christmas they actually got 11 gifts each. Doh!). Of course that was before their tastes matured and the gifts were under $20.00. Now they’re lucky if they get a couple of games apiece because geez louise those suckers are expensive. I wonder if I would continue to spoil them if they were not?
Why have I done this? Why do I feel compelled to spoil them now? I had never really thought about the psychological reasons behind this in the past but now I wonder if perhaps I was subconsciously trying to make up for all the times I was mean/strict/harsh with them?
I’ve kept this thought in the back of my mind for the past two days and I’ll go out on a limb here and be brutally honest with you ( as opposed to all the times I sugar coat it *grin*) – yes, I think perhaps I have been overly generous with them on their birthdays and Christmas in a warped way to appease my conscious. Oh sure, I want them to have a good holiday; I want them to have good memories and a warm, loving childhood, but is it more than that? Am I trying to make up for all the times I’ve yelled at them? For discipling them? For saying no?
I’d like to think I’m a stronger person than that but what about the Nintendo Wii? (We went to GREAT LENGTHS to first find, and then buy, a Wii for the boys in 2006 – perhaps I’ll post the story to that soon). Why were we so adamant about buying a hard-to-find toy for our boys? Does it go beyond the simple desire to make them happy?
I’m not sure I want to analyze it, quite frankly. It’s a sobering thought to think that perhaps the driving motivation behind my desire to make the boys happy is so that they will love me just a little more.
I have a relative who does that – brings gifts nearly every time he/she comes over. I really think this person does this because he/she doesn’t really know how to relate to them on any other level.
Though I know how to relate to my kids (at least, I hope I do), I still feel compelled to buy them the latest and greatest thing. Part of it might be due to the fact that their friends all have it, but I think the real reason is because I want them to love me, perhaps even LIKE me, that much more. The time is coming, and it’s just over the horizon, when the kids won’t want to be around me. It’ll be uncool or it’ll simply be time for them to test their wings and fly away. I want them to feel like they can come back home when things get tough, that I’ll be here for them through thick and thin.
I guess I want to ensure, or at least try to secure, a place in their hearts just for me.
I wish I could say that I’ve matured since writing this article in 2006, but honestly? I don’t think I have. I STILL feel compelled to spoil these boys rotten and I still think it’s partly due to the fact that I feel the need to fill in all of my rotten parenting moments. It’s sad, actually.