For my 18th Birthday I got a shiny Yamaha RX100. I still remember how my parents hid the bike in a neighbour’s compound and gave me a small box on my birthday. Although I tried hard to conceal my disappointment at not getting anything big, I’m sure my parents could see through my brave face. It was only when I found a pair of bike keys inside the little package did I hit the ceiling, and if I remember correctly never came down.
In a few days my daughter celebrates her 12th birthday. I know it’s unfair to draw parallels with our lives but I can’t help myself. As my wife and I racked our brains on what would excite her, we found ourselves only naming expensive electronic gadgets. I-pod? I-pad? I-book? New phone?
As the enormity of the bills hit us we resorted to the old parent trick – to justify a big gift as something practical and needed. “She needs a desktop 27’ inch Mac anyways” we told ourselves missing the irony. When we finally went down to the store my wife and I fretted some more on whether we were setting an unhealthy precedent. Would her expectations every year only grow manifold? But finally guilt won and we lost. We were guilty of denying her a pup for her birthday because it was unhygienic for her baby brother.
We walked away from the episode with a lighter wallet and a few valuable lessons. One, dealing with teenagers is tricky. Forget how naïve you were at that age and how you never asked for anything. These days it’s perfectly fine for a child to clearly state what they want. Two, never engage their ideas till you’re sure you will act on them.
My wife and I made the cardinal mistake of not putting our foot down when my daughter first mentioned a dog to us. We paid the price by feeling guilty for something we had never done. If you don’t plan to get them something just say no. It may hurt but it will pass. It’s better than getting sucked into a cycle of guilt. Lastly, if you do buy something big and don’t intend to repeat your mistake then make sure you make the child realize it’s a one-off and not likely to happen again till the next Haley’s comet visits Earth.
Kartik Mani is the founder of Merry Men, an ad agency. He lives in Mumbai with his gorgeous wife, 2 kids and 3 dogs. He still regrets selling his Yamaha RX100 and wishes he can get it back. Let him know if you’ve had a similar experience or disagree with his ramblings over here.