My four-year-old son is a spoiled brat. And I’m owning it. (Well, most of it.)
I realized just how spoiled my son was at a recent birthday party for one of his pint-sized friends. When my son was handed the loot bag, he took one quick glance, and asked loudly, ‘Why did they only give me two things in here?’
He was not impressed with the loot. I was not impressed with my son.
I realized, at that moment, I have to really step up my parenting game with my youngest, who really does expect that every time we go out, he gets a present or a toy. Why? Because he’s a spoiled brat!
This is my fault. And also the dollar store’s fault. And Dollarama’s fault. These stores weren’t as ubiquitous as they were in Calgary, where my daughter was born more than a decade ago. I took her to the park for fun when she was four, but with my son, we make dollar store trips (there are at least three of them within walking distance from my house). An outing to the dollar store not only kills time, he gets to pick out toys that will kill at least another hour once we are back at home. And, it’s been our ‘thing’; our special mother/son outing.
Since it’s the dollar store, I never really put a strict limit on how many plastic action figures or books of stickers he can get. It was the dollar store. Everything seemed so cheap. (Have you ever noticed how nothing at the dollar store is actually one dollar? Except maybe a packet of Thrills gum.) Between their sneaky marketing and my son’s persistent negotiations, I’ve never actually left without spending $30. I now realize that I should have put my foot down and said from our very first visit, ‘You can pick out ONE thing!’
Also, like many other parents who travel, I always get him a few things when I go on a trip—not only to show that I was thinking about him, but also to make up for the guilt of having left him in the first place. This also set a bad precedent.
Between his father’s travel schedule and mine, the kid gets a lot of gifts. So much so, that a couple of weeks ago, I came home from a day at work—at work!—only to hear him ask, ‘Did you buy me a present?’ as if I had gone on a trip to Hawaii instead of to the office for 8 hours.
‘You don’t get a gift just because I went to work,’ I told him.
‘But I want something,’ he said, and since it is easy and close, and he gets such joy out of picking crap from the dollar store, and because I was too tired to deal with a tantrum, I actually said to him, ‘I’ll take you to the dollar store after dinner.’ Yeah, I’m parent of the year!
So, yes, I’ve created a monster! What I should have said is, ‘You have so much crap it’s ridiculous! You don’t need more toys!’
Part of it too is that he’s the baby. And since his sisters are all at least a decade older, they don’t get jealous when I buy him whatever his heart desires at a dollar store.
My daughter is the least spoiled person I know. It’s actually kind of weird. The only thing she’s ever asked for is a rescue dog. I would take her to toy stores and say, ‘Pick out something,’ and she would always say, ‘I don’t really need that.’ Even now, when I take her to department stores or stores for teens and beg her to try on a cool pair of booties, her response is, ‘I don’t really need another pair of shoes.’ I mean, what mother of a 13-year-old has to beg her daughter to buy clothes?
So, now, I’m left wondering how I can backtrack and keep my son in line, and make him a little more like his sister. Is it possible to rewind a couple of years, to the days when he couldn’t talk? Well, no, obviously. But moving forward, I can certainly change the amount of toys he can have and also the frequency of how often he gets presents for no reason.
In this generation of parents, who seem to place blame on everyone else but themselves, I feel kind of empowered to admit that my kid is spoiled and I’m not proud of it. I’m thinking of the parents who call the school to complain about the teacher when their child fails a test. Or the parents who insist that it’s not their teen’s fault they skipped class, the teen’s friends are to blame. I don’t doubt these things do happen, but I also believe that maybe your kid didn’t study enough and/or maybe your kid made the choice to skip school, because there’s always a choice when it comes to peer pressure. Look at me, even I’m blaming the dollar store for my spoiled child, when the blame should be solely on me.
I’ve now explained to my four year old that no, he doesn’t get a present every time I leave the house. I’m going to limit my dollar store visits with him, and also, maybe start teaching him the value of a dollar. I’m going to say ‘NO,’ to this kid, even if he is my baby and the toys are cheap and he’s so damn cute and I’m too damn tired to deal with tantrums. It’s time to pull up my Big Girl Underwear and nip this in the bud. Like I’ve said, I have a spoiled four-year old. I’m owning it’s my fault.
Parents need to ‘own it’ when they screw up, because, let’s face it, we all screw up, and it’s nice to know others are in similar situations. And better late than never, because I don’t want to raise an entitled, spoiled brat.
I’ll leave the spoiling to the grandparents. I’m okay with that. That’s what grandparents are for. But from here on, I’m going to have to be Strict Mommy and perhaps punish myself if I buckle…with some Thrills gum from the dollar store.