How Much Is Too Much?

Okay, so as a mother to my daughter, one question I’ve consistently asked myself is – ‘How much is too much?’ What began with my excitement at having a baby and going out and buying those tiny things has percolated down to my little one too. And I can’t blame her really.

How Much Is Too Much?

With so much consumerism happening these days, and with markets and malls cramping the little minds and visions with so many lovely things to choose from, there has to be a reaction, right?

Of course, I acknowledge the fact that these days most young parents have a bigger spending capacity and tendency than parents from the previous generation. While our parents may not have had to lug us around the mall to find that perfect dress or that new Barbie that’s an absolute necessity since so-and-so-friend-has-it-and-didn’t-share-it, they had the quintessential local neighbourhood market to go to. I remember how my brother and I would go with my parents on such weekend treats to the markets, holding on tightly to our parents’ hands, looking at the wonderful things hanging from the shop fronts and displayed around the entrance.

If you remember the neighbourhood markets of earlier (I’m referring the ones I used to visit in Delhi, but I’m sure it wasn’t been quite different in any other city), then you sure remember that the display style used to be pretty much this – some special toys hanging from the shop awning and other special toys displayed near the entrance to make you want to get inside and check out more stuff. My parents were from the typical middle-class working community, and I’m happy and proud to say even today, that though me and my husband may have a lot of spending capacity and we literally buy the best and the most expensive things our daughter may need, our thoughts and mentality are still very middle-class, very grounded, and very much connected to our roots – and that’s how our children’s thinking will be.

So, coming back to the question of ‘how much is too much’ – I was having this conversation with my five-year-old daughter some time back, and she came up with answers and solutions that left me smiling, amused, and thinking at really how naïve our little ones are, and how the media and the mall-mentality plays into their little minds.

My daughter’s especially fond of books (she absolutely cannot overlook the bookstores in a mall and will sit and cry for hours holding a book if she feels we won’t buy it for her and that she’s going to be parted from it!) and her latest craze is also (much to my dismay!) Barbies!

So some time back after a particularly heart-wrenching-and-others-staring-at-us-bad-parents scene involving my daughter and a Barbie doll at one of the stores, I sat her down at home and had a ‘talk’. I told her that she already has much more than lot of other kids her age do, and of course too much more than the kids we see on the streets. She didn’t have an answer to that, and the mommy in me was feeling proud at my smartness! Then she said ‘but mamma, I can share these with my friends na, they will also like it!’ Hmm..I knew she wouldn’t let me relish the moment for long.

I told her that things cost money, and that mamma-papa may not always want to spend so much money on these, or we may not even have the money to spend. She didn’t even have to think this one out. Her response – ‘Mamma, you can always go to Axis bank! They will give you the money and you can buy my books and Barbie.’ (Reference to Axis bank as they have recently come up with a lot of new ads, and it somehow gave my daughter the impression that walking into a bank means a smiling uncle or aunty who will hand out cash to you! I’m still in search of ‘that’ Axis Bank). And the next response was of course ‘Mamma, ATM haina. Let’s go to the ATM machine and we can get lots of money.’ Wow! Now, what do I tell her?

That part is still unsorted. So what we decided mutually is this – for some time now, she’s only allowed any one thing a month, either a book, or a toy. And that too, not a Barbie each time. Also, we tell her an amount within which she can buy, and anytime she picks up something she can check the number written on it (amount) and see for herself if it fits or not. She has of course said ‘okay’, but I’ve had enough ‘okay’s’ from her that have been followed by those scary episodes at the book/doll aisles of the stores. So, fingers crossed!

Debolina Raja Gupta loves being a mommy and best friend to her 5-year old princess. A working mom, voracious reader, social activist, photographer, poet, travel freak, beauty writer and an everything-of-sorts. Best fun is story time and our fashionista time together. My blogs: The Book WormA Few Thoughts Here And ThereMy Little One And MeBeauty Makeup And More.

  • this is the most important lesson kids must learn- the value of money 🙂 i know its difficult but all the best !! 🙂
    hope ur kiddo finds some meaning in your words..

    • Supriya: You’re absolutely bang on! Teaching kids about the value of money is extremely important, and extremely tough too! We are still trying, and our fingers are always crossed 😉

  • with the mention of neighborhood market and all that, you brought back the childhood memories… the libraries, the book reading, the play grounds and such simple down to earth lifestyle 🙂

    every decade and generation brings in change with it and there are of course ups and downs attached…so this is another age for our kids…

    for the kids’ kids it will yet another scenario 🙂 wonder will our kids then recall their own childhood and think how good it was? 🙂

    Value of Money, however, should always be instilled in young minds to make it stay with them forever and keep them grounded 🙂

    Lovely Post!

    • Scribby: Yeah, nostalgia and all those lovely memories flooding over my eyes 🙂 I do miss those neighbourhood market trips, though we still make it a point to go to local markets with our daughter, rather than just the mall. You’re right that every generation brings with it a new lifestyle, and again, a new wave of nostalgia. Just hoping we remember our nostalgias and keep them alive somewhere inside us 🙂

  • Sometimes an ‘I can’t afford it’, or even a ‘Do you think it’s worth spending so much money on?’ can go a long way in teaching children the value of things as well as showing them that not everything they covet can be had! A lesson which we will simply have to to teach children in an increasingly materialistic world that encourages instant gratification of wants!

    Kritika Srinivasan
    http://www.parentedge.in

    • Kritika: Yes I definitely agree….there’s no shame in saying ‘we can’t afford it’, or that ‘I don’t have the money to buy you this’. Telling kids a NO and letting them know that mum and dad will not always allow buying anything and everything does not make us bad parents 🙂 In this increasingly materialistic world, parents can imbibe a sense of right and wrong by setting some smart rules and being honest with kids.

      • Chandrima Saha Datta

        Reading you felt like I was re-reading myself ..saying no to kids has to start at home ..we as parents need to get them ready to survive and withstand the world …the way and times we grew up in we’re so different..as parents however much we may want ..we cannot recreate those times ….I look around and see kids who feel entitled …starts with barbies.toys ..iPods …wii ..ohh the list does not end ..but more than the entitled kid I see the scared parent who gives in ..not because he has more spending capacity …but because he does not want his child to feel left out …with the ‘havenots’…I believe conscious parenting has nothing to do with the size of your wallet ..it is just about the responsibility of a healthy ,wise and grounded nurturing .loved your write up ….and your budgeted rules …I have been practicing it with my 10 yr old ..it works like magic ….most often the meltdowns are only till the mall…they forget as soon as they get home …I tell my 10 yr old …’if you miss something 10 days later after you see it ..come to me ..with 5 reasons why you want it ..we will start working on a plan .how to save and get it for you by your birthday or Christmas “…

        • Yup…am glad that more and more parents these days are understanding that it’s not just about ‘giving everything to your child’ in terms of materialistic pleasures, instead, it’s more about giving yourself and your values to your child that are way more precious and priceless…if we can get them to understand this important lesson in life, the way to creating a mature, sensible teenager/adult with a much better outlook towards life and fellow beings is already paved !!

  • Hi Debolina, A very cute informative piece on an equally important topic- money and the attitude towards it.

    I am still trying to make my son learn this. I hope he eventually does…..

    • Shail: Many thanks and yes, I’m sure your kiddo will soon understand this too, as you’re already one of those parents who thinks on these lines 🙂 It’s difficult yes, but it will eventually happen! Cheers to us….

  • Sai

    Hi Debolina, it made me very happy to read about your healthy attitude towards money and your honest, direct and un-offending way you are approaching this issue with your little one. I have no doubt she will turn out as sensible and smart as you and your husband. I know how difficult this can be, but your approach is 100% correct. Best Regards. -sai nellore (Hyderabad)