When I was a young whippersnapper, I came from a single parent family and looked forward to Xmas with an unreserved delight. It was the one time of the year when I received toys and had an abundance of yummy treats to eat. From about September I pored over the Argos and Index catalogue, trying to work out what I would ask for. On Christmas Eve, I could not sleep a wink. The excitement of receiving new toys and books was just too much to handle. In the morning, I would have six or seven presents to open. It felt like I had won the lottery.
Fast forward 25 years and now I am the parent.
Last year my son started Primary School and I felt like this would be the first Christmas where he completely understood what was going on. The whole thing was just magical. We bought him a Nintendo DS along with many other smaller gifts and he seemed to be delighted. Two weeks later and he came home from his first week back after the holidays. “Mummy…why did I only get a Nintendo DS for my present? Somebody else in my class got a Nintendo 3DS.” Suddenly my Christmas bubble popped. I know that I am not alone in this experience; the unpleasant truth is that we are breeding a generation of spoilt little brats.
Ask any young person nowadays, especially a teenager and they will almost certainly know what they are getting for Christmas. PlayStations, X Boxes, I Phones, £150 trainers and tablets are just some of the items on the wish list. Some will be getting more than one off this list. I don’t know how people afford it. I mean, I do okay and am paid well above the average wage for my age in my town…but I could not afford to spend that kind of money on my son.
But it isn’t just Christmas. The expectation that teenagers place on their parents to supply them with the best of everything at any cost is just mind blowing. A case in point is the parent I know who has taken on an extra night job, on top of her full time day job, to furnish her daughter with a £1000 prom dress and transport to the event, fit for a princess. It is a joke.
Now we all know that teenagers can be quite shallow and selfish - we have all been there ourselves. However it seems that this “want” culture is also spreading to our little ones as well. Only last week, I took my son to visit Santa Claus. I shuddered as I heard him confide that what he really wanted for Christmas was an I-Pad. Not gonna happen. His other item on his wish list is a mobile phone! He is five! Who is he going to text? His teddy bear?
Feeling like the worst parent in the world, I explained to him that he would not be getting either of these items as they were too expensive. His response made me laugh and gasp in equal measure. “You’re a teacher, you can afford it. If not, put it on your credit card.” Dear me! What happened to a tangerine in a stocking…