Sunday, November 06, 2011

Do parents really do that?

Have you ever seen the Veggie Tales movie, "Madame Blueberry"? It's a sweet story about being grateful for what you already have and living with a happy heart. While watching it with Little Olive the other day, one part jumped out at me, even though I've seen the movie tons of times in the past. It's when Junior Asparagus and his dad are in Stuff Mart, and Junior sees this super fancy train set that he's wanted for a really long time. He excitedly begs his dad, so politely. But his dad explains it's a lot of money and offers to buy him a ball instead. Disappointed at first, but so understanding, Junior accepts the switch and thanks his dad with a cute song.

My question is, do parents really buy their children something just because they're in a store? When we're in stores, I avoid going into the toy/candy sections. I know Little Olive would go crazy. But even in the shampoo aisles, when she asks for the purple bottles, I just say no. Yeah, she gets upset for a little while, but I'm not filling my bathroom cupboards with Aussie conditioner just because my toddler wants it.

My sister used to work at Target and said parents would buy their children things to make them quiet, or to prevent a tantrum. Seriously?

As a child, we got presents twice a year: on our birthdays and on Christmas. Occasionally we'd get a special treat while shopping with our mom, like a bag of candy to bring home and share, or a pack of 25 cent Wrigley's gum. And these things were so special and exciting. A pack of gum, just for me?? Wow, thanks, Mom!

I grew up with eight siblings. We lived simply, but our Christmas's and birthdays were always so happy. You could tell my parents made sure those days were special. As we grew into our teen years, we became financially independent younger than most of our friends. But I really never thought twice about it. I learned early to save my money because that is how I would get what I wanted. I split my paychecks - half into savings, half into checking. I never had a lot of money - ever - but I learned to prioritize what I really needed. I paid for my own college expenses, a lot of my own wedding, and we pay for everything on our own now that we're married and living on our own. I think this is how it should be, and I never once wished my parents would have paid for things or bought me more.

But in this day and age, "saving for your children's future" seems to be a selling point for many institutions. They explain the simplicity of taking $20-$50 out of each paycheck and putting it toward your children's college. That must be nice for some people, but my husband and I just can't swing that. Instead of saving for our children's college, we opened up mutual funds. We took our tax credit that you receive when a child is born, and we placed that money in the account. We figure, we were given that money because we had a kid, so we're turning it around and saving it for them. We won't be able to contribute to it bi-weekly, monthly, or even yearly. But now that chunk of money will build and be there for them should they chose college, travel, or simply a wedding to settle down with a nice guy/gal.

I don't judge (or shall I say, I try not to judge) parents who buy presents or stuff for their children just because they're in Target. But I do question the mentality. Do we really want to impress materialism on our young kids this early? Do we really want to teach them that if they get over-stimulated and excited in a certain area of the store, have a meltdown and won't stop, that we'll give in and buy them a toy to shut them up? Classical conditioning, people. Pavolv's dog.

Now, for the disclaimer: I have timed outings badly and accidentally skipped lunch so we could run out. The crabbiness factor played a huge part in me buying "Puffs" for Little Olive so we could finish our errands. I have done this once. So I can understand pulling something off the shelf to calm your child. But not on a regular basis, and not because you're unable to tell your child no.

Maybe I'm too harsh. What do you think?


MB said...

Great points! It really gives you something to think about. That is a really great concept for saving for your kids i like how you said "we were given that money because we had a kid, so we're turning it around and saving it for them." Really smart.

Sheila said...

I always thought the trip to Stuf-Mart was a really big deal for that family, and that they went with the intention of picking out a present for the kid's birthday or something. Maybe I made that assumption because I never got gifts except for Christmas or my birthday!

Once we did buy our son a ball in the grocery store. He was so into those balls. But by the time we were checking out, he had no interest in the ball and only wanted a balloon! He does play with the ball now, so it was a good purchase, but I think the timing was off. Nowadays I often go by the baby or pet aisle and get something fun for him to hold, and then put it back before we check out. After all, he's definitely lost interest in it by then. Or else we just have fun admiring the produce and the canned food. I don't mind letting him help pick, but only stuff I'd be okay with buying anyway.

I would love to pay for my kids' college, so that they wouldn't have to start out like we did -- with the choice of going into debt or joining the military to finance their education -- but it's just not happening. We can't both have a lot of kids AND send them all to college. They're going to have to figure out their own way, and we'll help as we can, but it won't be much.

It's so easy to help your kids not be materialistic when you honestly don't have the money to spend on them anyway!

Amanda said...

I completely agree. The only thing Lena every gets (and not all the time) is a pack of tic tacs where she can have 1 if she's good after shopping is done. The pack lasts at least a month....I actually think longer! I don't think I've ever bought them anything just because, and esp not to reward bad behavior. I did, once, open a bag of pretzels to keep Avila from screaming like a crazy girl....