Where Do You Draw The Line?

So, I'm sitting in the pedicure chair Saturday afternoon chatting with Mimi, my manicurist, when I notice over at the manicure station two little girls having their nails done. When I say "little" I mean "little." They were 4 and 6. Their mother was in the pedicure chair opposite me.

After their hands were done, the girls moved to the pedicure chairs. This is when I perked up and really started watching. They were so small their feet didn't reach into the water basin, so they perched on the side of it, raising one leg at a time to be scrubbed and polished.

I had to ask. Mimi said they had been coming regularly for a year.

Their father entered the salon and walked over to chat with the mother, casually looking as his daughters showed him the colors they had chosen for their nails. Then he sat down to wait for them to be finished.

Um, this just has to be bad news for these kids. A birthday party where little girls get all done up is one thing, but regular mani-pedis? Pa-leeze.

These girls were exceptionally well behaved and it was, honestly, kind of cute. Except for the disturbing fact that it was actually happening.

I know a lot of parents who worry about how much their kids have and what kind of expectations are being created. It starts with the proliferation of toys that creeps up so fast you soon find yourself in an endless binge - purge cycle, with one hand out trying to hold the grandparents at bay so you aren't completely buried in a plastic mountain of broken and neglected junk.

Shark Boy is a gift shop junkie. No matter where we go, from NASA to Sea World to the zoo, his constant refrain is "When can we go to the gift shop?" and "Can I get three things?" and "I want to go now, not at the end!" Oh, the bargaining!

But serious and consistent overindulgence, like what I witnessed on Saturday, is a real issue that affects the way a child will view and handle money as an adult. My husband is a financial advisor and he sees this all the time. He can almost always trace the way a client views and spends their money back to how their parents handled it.

See how everything really is always the parents fault? (ha.)

Consistency is not my best feature, *ahem*. But I have always purged the toy boxes before Christmas and birthdays, to at least try to make room for the new stuff and weed out the broken or outgrown things. And I always had my daughter give away toys still in good condition to a charity once a year, something we should start with Shark Boy. We ask grandparents and aunties to donate to the college fund and limit the toy giving.

There is certainly more we could be doing. One problem I have is that it really takes a birthday that results in serious toy overload or an experience like seeing these little girls in OPI nail polish to make me really stop and think about it.

How have you decided to limit what your kids receive, from you and others?


Anonymous said...

My kids are young (6 & 3). I will buy used toys from the consignment shop and if there is something larger that they want, I suggest that the extended family contribute to it for a birthday/Christmas gift. I've tried not inviting family to birthday parties, but the next time we see them, they've got gift in hand.

I give away clothes and toys to younger cousins or "the Needies" (how's that for an un-PC term?) several times a year.

carrie said...

We've always tried to limit - fairly. And for the most part, our families support this too. But it is so hard - kids expect so much more than we did as kids and I find myself in a constant tug of war with them . . . the entitlement is ridiculous!

So, we try. And we have boundaries. And we limit. And society keeps telling them to consume!


Michelle Smiles said...

It is amazing how hard it is to set limits - and my child isn't even 2 yet. She isn't able to ask for or covet much yet. But the grandparents?!? We nicely asked both sets of grandparents before Sabrina came home to please limit Christmas and birthdays to 2 or 3 gifts. She doesn't need a lot and it is wasteful and just takes up space in our house. We also asked them to limit the number of battery operated, headache inducing toys. My mom said she was offended that we would try to limit her but that she had already decided to contribute to a college fund and keep the toys to a minimum. His parents said they would do what they wanted and there was nothing we could do about it because it was their right as grandparents.

So after our Christmas trip up north, many things went straight to charity. (Seriously, we had to ship her gifts home because they wouldn't fit in the car.) If they won't respect our boundaries, we have to do what we feel is appropriate. But I have no idea what we will do about all of that when Sabrina is aware that 1/2 of her loot didn't make it home.

Meredith said...

We would love to have the grandparents contribute toward college, but only 1 of 3 sets ever does.

Instead, we deny ourselves the pleasure of toy-buying much so that they don't get overloaded with grandparent toys.

Because to me, it's so much fun to buy toys for the kids! And it's hard for me to have the discipline not to do it--even when they are yard sale cheap.

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

I admit I really overindulge. My son is the only child, only grandchild and on Pup's side, only great grandchild. At least at Christmas I've gone the good route: 1 present on St. Nicholas' Day (to show who "Santa" really is), 3 on Christmas (just like Jesus), and 1 on Epiphany (like the Wise Men).

Lisa Dunick said...

Mine is still very young, but I'm dead set against giving him a car. I think it's more meaningful to earn the money to buy one yourself- I'm not sure that the hubby agrees. I strive, though, to give him experiences-- traveling, going places, doing and seeing things. Those are the things that really shape a person, not the stuff, ya know?

Amy said...

I'm with Meredith - it's just so much fun to pick out toys that they'll like! Very hard to resist.

And AFF - we overindulge too. It's really hard not to.

Now that I have actively overindulged the first two, Bear can't just play with Shark's left-overs, ya know? So I must maintain him in style as well.

See. It's just hard.

Anonymous said...

We live in an affluent area so remaining within my limits is such a challenge. My kids are constantly feeling like they are missing out. I hope that one day they will understand why I chose to not over indulge them.

Anonymous said...

I think the thing to keep in mind is everyone's idea of indulgence is different. My girls aren't swimming in toys or video games or dress up dresses. We don't "do" gift shops. but my six year old does go with me to the salon.

As a full time working mom it's one of the times when we can get some alone time with just the two of us.

She gets her nails done and her toes painted. We live in Florida and a pedicure is considered as much a part of personal hygiene as brushing your teeth. She lives in sandals or flip flops most of the year, teaching her to care for her feet is like teaching her to care for her hair.

So I guess what I'm saying is it's all a matter of perspective.

Anonymous said...

Our niece had her first manicure at Elizabeth Arden before she was 2. it is not just about too much, it is also about gendering so early. What we teach our girls sticks with them. I watched a five-year-old put on make up yesterday from a compact shaped like a toy phone.

Unknown said...

My daughter had her first mani/pedi with nana at the age of 6 but that was it until she turned 8 and then she got one for her birthday. She has not been back and I tell her it is a treat. :0)

You can check out my post today on teaching kids about money. We are working on that right now.

Rachel said...

Most of my kids clothes are second hand or really good sale, just because.
I get a pedicure, oh about once a year :-) I got a gift cert for two for mother's day and one has been done.
Princess (4 1/2) wants to come with me next time. I think I'll let her come and just get her toes and nails painted while I get my pedi. It'll be a treat for her before we go on our trip.
Back to your subject... I think that regular mani-pedi's is probably a bit excessive for anyone who can't pay for it themselves (read kids). We try to teach our kids the value of money and the importance of responsibility.
here's to hoping.
Good post Amy.

S said...

yeah. that would have shocked me. both the excess (it being totally unnecessary) and what it's teaching to girls about their bodies and how they need constant maintaining.

Anonymous said...

Mani-Pedi's for little girls?! Ridiculous.

Treasia Stepp said...

It's astounding to me that today parents will take children this small for mani/pedi's. Here I am 46 years old and never had the first one yet. At least by a shop. My daughter just had her first a couple of weeks ago for her Junior High Prom.

Having recently married into a ready made family we are having a hard time with limiting. I limit my daughter and hubby (whose children are 10 and 8) never limits his two of much. This is one of our big disagreements. His 10 yr. old wants a laptop. We already have three computers in our house and I think a laptop will about make me want to leave.

PamelaMKramer said...

Goodness, when you find out the secret please let me know. I've tried the please only buy one toy to all my relatives but they don't listen! I purge the toys before birthdays and Christmas. Still we end up with a mound of toys! Although my son is more than happy to sell his toys in a garage sale. LOLOL - He wants the money to go and buy more updated toys.

Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction when I saw two elementary-aged kids being treated to dye jobs and cuts at a pricey salon awhile back. Craziness.

As for my limits, I always say I'm going to cut back on the toy-buying, knowing they only play with a fraction of them. Then I end up still buying a bit too much stuff. I have stopped buying toys except for Christmas and birthdays, though, so that those occasions are kept special.

Unknown said...

Since we just had a birthday in our house, I feel like I'm being over run with toys! We received gifts from people that I would never expect. So I'll be rotating toys tomorrow, not ready to purge I guess. My older sister did start a college fund for our little one this year, so I think that's great that they'll be donating to that instead of sending gifts.

Re: the mani-pedis - I think doing them at home will be treat enough when she gets older. I'm not going to pay someone to do something that I can do myself. And I barely get a professional mani-pedi once a year, so it's a rare treat, even for me!

Great post, Amy!

Nell said...

It's hard! Here's the thing that I've found works: plan to move halfway across the country, and then think about what you really can't live without.

Okay, so it's not that easy. This is a constant battle for me with my in-laws, they go overboard every single holiday and it drives me nuts. I've tried everything I can think of. Now if the girls get way too much stuff (most of it junk) I have them choose one of their brand new things to donate.

As for the mani-pedi thing, well, I've never had one, but Matilda has gone a couple of times with her Aunt. It's a special treat, and she loves it, but regular mani-pedis? Weird. Money aside, how high maintenance do they want their kids to be?

Great post, Amy!

SinlessTouch said...

whoa, easy on the adult toys buying spree. Maybe, try playing outdoor games with the kids so it keeps their minds occupied and not think about toys.

Amy said...

Roger - what the hell were you reading? It wasn't my post that's for sure. I even re-read it just to be sure I didn't make an adult toy joke (which I would totally do).

You on commission with the sex toy link site or what?

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