I have just packed off my daughter, pretty bow-clips and all to yet another birthday party. She was her usual anticipatory self, full of excitement for a party that will more than likely be a rehash of about a hundred party tricks, cakes and games that she’s been to before. Yet, minutes before she left there was a lot of sulking that happened.
It involved the ‘G’ word. The gift – the compulsory exchange material for attending any party!
Over the last few years, this was one thing, which had rarely been a bone of contention. But of late, the size and the contents of the gift have become easy breeding grounds for dissent. My once nonchalant child (or that is what I thought) has now become a monster in gift giving! Even if I take the utmost effort to wrap the gift beforehand and make it look as uninteresting as possible the debate will just not abate.
Here’s how a typical exchange between us goes :
Me (taking deep breath, ensuring that there is no other thing making us hang around at home before we leave): “Here love, this is the gift for Little B’day Gal”.
Her (immediate frown crinkling her recently cleaned and prettified face) : “What’s inside it?”
Me (trying MY nonchalant act): “Oh just a Very Boring Thing!”
Her (forehead crinkled in utmost consternation): “What do you mean? – The Very Boring Thing is exactly the kind of thing that I do not have and have always wanted!”
Me (now becoming vacant eyed, non-compromising Momma): “Listen Kiddo. If you want to go to the party you carry this gift. You don’t want to give the gift, stay at home!”
Her (just inches away from meltdown/angry tirade): “You ALWAYS do this to me! I always don’t get a good gift.”
And the story goes on… till we more or less reach the venue.
When did my daughter turn into such a materialistic tyrant? And why am I supposed to hide behind skinny gifts and gift certificates just to pander to her petty jealousies? I fume at her sometimes that if she is so petty about giving gifts she will not be receiving good gifts of her own.
This may seem like a trivial issue, but as I speak to parents of other children of the same age I realise that this sort of behaviour is much more common than I had thought. Not just party gifts, this competitive streak runs onto the size and type of parties, clothes and accessories and even umbrella patterns (you’ve got to live in Mumbai to know how many patterns are available!). Much of it may be explained away as childhood peer-acceptance pressure. Yet, it keeps getting scarier by the day. Just because a friend does a foreign trip (or any trip for that matter) every holiday, does not mean that we’ll be jaunting out every given occasion.
Dealing with these pressures on a daily basis is quite a tightrope. One realises that the pressure on the child is as real as the pressure on the parent. A child is usually reactive and easily influenced and doesn’t really think through where the demands are actually coming from. I have realised that establishing the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ early on is very important and helpful as the child grows up.
Nowadays whenever Kidlet starts a tantrum with “But I always wanted it” I try to get her down to thinking if she really needs it. Not as simple as it sounds but surprisingly it works most times than not. She realises that in most cases it is the novelty and ‘he/she has it’ factor that was fueling her desire – and not an actual need. Sometimes I give in when my own twist on cost-benefit makes me realise that I cannot be the ‘No’ mummy all the time.
How do you handle demands and ‘wants’ from your kids? Would love to know new tricks and strategies!
Nidhi Dorairaj Bruce is a Freelance writer from Mumbai who also manages a parenting website : thechildrensdaily.net . With no formal education in Parenting, she has been getting on-the-job training ever since her daughter, affectionately referred to as ‘the kidlet’, arrived on the scene 5 years ago. You can connect with Nidhi @typewritermom , nidhibruce.com