I was skipping through a page of Facebook updates and came across a discussion about what parents were spending on their little ones. The typical amount spent by these parents – on babies – was from $500 to $800 on a single child.
Call me old fashioned or Mrs Judgeypants if you like, but I am in shock. Babies under a year old don’t even know what day it is, and they’re just as happy playing with a cardboard box as the toy inside it. Most of all, though, I’m baffled as to what you could spend this amount of money on. What toy, for a child under two, could possibly cost several hundred dollars?
Even if children are old enough to know that it is Christmas, do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars on gifts? Will it make our children feel more loved? Or will we be encouraging a sense of entitlement – that they ‘deserve’ to be spoilt rotten? There really is nothing more nasty than a kid who expects to be so showered with gifts that the magic of surprise and appreciation is dimmed for them.
It might be time to do a quick reality check. Are you burning up the plastic because you’re feeling pressured to spend more than is sensible? Ask yourself: are we doing this for our child or ourselves? Are we competing in some way with other parents? Are we being seduced by advertising to prove to ourselves – and everyone else – that we’re great parents by putting more and bigger packages under the tree?
Perhaps it’s also time to step back and consider the bigger picture, not just one day of the year that will be over in a flash anyway (sorry to be a Grinch!). As you race around, trying to find the perfect gift for your little ones, consider that among the most precious gifts we can give our children are those that will last long beyond the festive season: roots and wings.
As you nurture your baby intensely and relentlessly around the clock, you’re helping him develop roots. Rather than doubting that you may be creating ‘bad habits’ or ‘spoiling’ your baby, cherish each moment by reminding yourself that you’re teaching your little one to love – and to love life. As these roots grow deep and strong, your baby will feel safe and secure enough to spread his wings and reach out for the world beyond your arms.
And whether your child is a baby learning to crawl, a toddler taking his first tentative steps, or a teen who thinks he’s worldly enough to fly ‘solo’, it isn’t always easy to let go. Being a responsive parent requires us to constantly surrender as we adapt our nurturing to match each new stage of our child’s development. Above all, we each have to trust that when it’s time, the strong roots we’ve nurtured will allow our child to stretch those budding wings and soar!
I’d like to wish you and your family a warm and wonderful Christmas, and to offer suggestions for other special gifts we can all give to our children, regardless of how we choose to celebrate the festive season:
- Self confidence: Help your child understand and accept that nobody can be approved of all the time, so when she encounters disapproval she needn’t feel immobilised, and that she must trust herself, not the opinions of others. Give this gift with a hug.
- Possibilities: Give children the freedom to be anything they choose, rather than limiting them with labels or roles. Teach them, by example, that a boy or girl can sew or play football, cry or be brave, mow lawns or do dishes. Give this gift with a smile.
- Life without needless fears: Encourage children to become ‘doers’ by showing them that you’ll tackle problems and not be a worrier yourself. Give this gift with a laugh.
- The gift of loving life: Encourage children to be fully alive in every way. Allow them to have adventures, a chance for laughter, fun, and creativity. Give them the supreme gift of being able to find happiness in virtually all circumstances. Give this gift every day throughout the year.
If you're after the gift of silent nights, check out Pinky’s book Sleeping Like a Baby.