This morning, as I was working (and by “working,” I mean Facebooking, Tweeting and scanning parenting blogs), I came across an article about a mom who hand makes a different Disney princess dress for her daughter EVERY TIME they go to a Disney Park. I’m not lying. The woman makes a dress for her daughter. By hand. For the many times they go to Disney.
Here’s the thing: I don’t remember my mom doing that for me when I was a kid. And, what’s more: I don’t remember ANYONE ELSE’S parents doing this for my friends, either.
Here’s what else I don’t remember:
1. I don’t remember my mom or dad sitting at every single sports event, play or chorus practice my brother or I attended. In fact, I remember being dropped off with a rolling stop at the curb and being told to be back in that exact spot in two hours when practice was over.
2. I don’t remember my mom coming into the classroom for every single class party, field day, assembly, play, award ceremony or birthday celebration. I remember my parents coming to a violin recital when I was in second grade, and I remember them attending the major milestones of my activity career, but, um, I can assure you that my teachers spent more time with me during the day in my formative years than my parents did.
3. I went to Disney twice. In my entire childhood. And I wore one of those turquoise, velour, one-piece shoulder tie numbers, tube socks and fake Keds. And my mother didn’t make them for me. We got the ensemble at Sears off the clearance rack.
4. I don’t remember words like “Issues” and “Play Dates” and “Conscious Uncoupling.” People had bad times, kids just played and people got divorced. End of story. No one “Ferberized” their baby to sleep, no one “reasoned” with a 3-year-old, and no one asked their 4-year-old how they felt about sleeping in their own bed. Nope. You got spanked and sent to bed without dinner. And, trust me, one night on an empty stomach was enough to make you rethink mouthing off.
5. I don’t remember my parents listening to my every conversation, tracking me with sophisticated technology or friending me on The Facebook so that they could be my friend, too. Nope. I had my own phone line (OK, yes, that was the ONE thing I was spoiled with as a teen…forgive my parents for showering me with affection in the form of an additional land line from AT&T) and, as far as I know, they never answered it or recorded the calls à la The FBI. They knew my friends and gave me the freedom to be out with them with no means of communication other than a quarter in my pocket to use at a pay phone. And, if I missed my curfew, there was no discussion or “reasoning”: I was grounded. And lost my car privileges (which was a 1989 Chevy Celebrity station wagon that I shared with my mom, incidentally. And by “shared,” I mean “was allowed to use on alternate Tuesdays if my mother deemed it necessary”).
6. I don’t remember my parents being MY FRIENDS. They were my parents. Whom I had to respect, listen to and argue with. And roll my eyes at. And ask for money. They weren’t my social circle, and if The Facebook had been around when I was in high school, they wouldn’t have been the least bit interested in being my friend on there, either. Because they were MY PARENTS. Not my friends. Frankly, truth be told, I have NO IDEA what they did with themselves during the four years I was in high school and hanging out with my friends. I’m sure they had a good time, though.
7. I don’t remember birthday parties that involved catering, cakes that included fondant recreations of Holly Hobby, Wonder Woman or the Smurfs, or favor bags filled with gift cards. Halloween costumes came from the grocery store and had plastic masks that made you look like Little Orphan Annie no matter the character you selected. All of your Christmas presents were purchased at Sears or Kmart and the Easter Bunny brought you jelly beans, a chocolate bunny and green grass that you’d find around the house for six months. That’s it. And we liked it.
8. I don’t remember being involved in dance, Brownies, karate, track, gymnastics, cheerleading and drama all at once when I was merely eight. I also don’t remember my siblings being involved in baseball, basketball, wrestling, Cub Scouts, and debate all at the same time. I don’t remember parents worrying about exposing their children to “new experiences” and “things they didn’t get to do as a child.” I don’t remember parents shelling out thousands of dollars on 12 dance costumes for one recital or hundreds of dollars for baseball camp so their son’s pitch would be improved in time for team tryouts. Nope. If you liked an activity or sport, you tried it, you played it and you went home. And your parents didn’t stay to watch you practice it (see #1). I don’t remember hearing a single parent say, “But Denise just loves ballet so much that I have no choice but to let her go to classes five hours a day, six days a week.” Do YOU remember hearing anyone say that when you were a kid? I didn’t think so.
Now, don’t get me wrong here: I am just as guilty as the next parent of trying to Keep Up With The Mommy Joneses. My kids are over-scheduled sometimes, we have an entire floor of our home dedicated to toys and they have already been to Disney twice at the ripe old ages of nine and twelve. Christmas morning is an embarrassment of riches around here, and I had to stop myself from buying $25 organic chocolate bunnies for their Easter baskets. And, yes, I make their Halloween costumes by hand.
And I KNOW my mother laughs at me for doing so.
What I’m saying is that maybe we should all collectively step back and think about the culture we are creating for our kids. The fact that handmade Disney princess dresses are necessary for a trip to visit Mickey Mouse is actually ludicrous. And we all accept it, in some way, shape or form, every day. From designer invitations to over-the-top birthday parties to handmade dresses for trips to overpriced theme parks, we are telling our children that more is always better and teaching them to never be satisfied with a Duncan Hines box cake.
What does that say about us as parents? When does it end?
I know one thing’s for sure: If my mother ever caught me making dresses for my daughter to go to Disney, she’d send me to bed without dinner AND take away the station wagon on Saturday night. And I’d probably be grounded. And I’d listen to her. And stop. Because I really need the car Saturday night…