"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Entitlement

In 1982, the hottest, most-wanted toy for Christmas was the Cabbage Patch Doll. I was 8 years old, and I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid more than I'd ever wanted anything. It was the only thing I asked for for Christmas, and I couldn't wait to find it under the tree. To stare at the shiny cellophane window on the box before I tore it open, to admire the pretty (yarn) hair, the dimpled elbows and knees, and the little outie belly button. To rip off all the clothes to check for the mark of a true, original Cabbage Patch Kid... the Xavier Roberts signature on its little cloth derriere. Oh, how I wanted that doll.

At eight, I was old enough to be relatively aware of what was going on around me, and I heard the dire proclamations on the evening news. They were sold out everywhere. Fights had broken out in all the department stores. People were literally getting trampled to get the last one on the shelf. Oh NO.

My mom sat me down shortly before Christmas and said, "I know you've heard that they're sold out everywhere. I hope you're not too disappointed if you don't get one for Christmas."

I then proceeded to lie to my own mother. "Oh I won't be disappointed, Mom."

And to make a long story short, I wasn't disappointed. Because come Christmas morning, against all odds, she was there. And she was perfect. To this day, that Cabbage Patch Kid remains my hands-down, no contest, favorite Christmas present ever.

I still have that doll. She's usually naked now, she's lost a few strands of hair, and her face is permanently dirty. But she's still loved. I last saw her yesterday afternoon in my bedroom, where the girl left her after pretending to nurse her to sleep.

I so love and appreciate that my parents got me that doll. And it wasn't just the doll. They also got the purple Nikes that I so desperately wanted. And the Guess jeans. And the Swatch watches. I appreciate it even more now that I'm a parent myself... knowing that things weren't always easy financially. Knowing that they sometimes made sacrifices themselves to make my sister and I happy.

But I never felt entitled.

Yes, I grew up with a sense of personal responsibility. I worked hard, I paid my bills, I was respectful and polite to those around me. I was none of those things that people continually - and mistakenly - chide today's youth for being. Why? Because as much as I remember the dolls and the fancy sneakers and the fun "stuff", I remember something else more.

I remember that my parents gave me their attention, and that they gave me their time. I remember that they gave me love. I remember that they gave me their support, their friendship, and their acceptance. I remember hanging around after dinner hanging spoons from our noses. I remember playing dice games and card games and laughing until our sides hurt. I remember a lifetime worth of quiet moments, inside jokes, and family adventures.

I see parent after parent complaining about today's youth feeling too "entitled."

Kids today think their parents owe them everything!
They think life should be handed to them on a silver platter!
They're overindulged!


I see articles like this one, instructing parents with a set of rules to follow to stop this "entitlement epidemic." Stop pampering them. Make them buy their own things. Don't give in to their pleas. Require them to do a certain amount of chores (and then punish them when they don't.) Give them an allowance (and then dictate how they can and cannot spend it.)

I think we're missing the boat here. Strategies like the above only widen the gulf between parents and kids, and further the "us vs them" mentality.

Why not give freely and abundantly to your children just as you would to any person that you love? I want to give all that I can to my kids, just as my parents gave all that they could to me. Not because they've "badgered" me into it, not because I want them to like me, and not because it keeps them quiet (all reasons I see touted over and over again in these negative articles) but because it feels good and right to give to those we love. To give our time, our attention, our love, our companionship. To give our acceptance and our unconditional support. And yes, to give when we can those toys, games, and "things" that make their lives a little more fun or interesting or exciting. We give freely to our kids, and they in turn give freely to others.

I think that the kids that people refer to as being "overindulged" and "entitled" are not kids who were given too much. I think they were simply kids who weren't given enough. No, I don't mean not enough stuff; I mean not enough of their parents. We are all looking for that love and attention. We're all looking for a connection... with somebody, with something, with anything. When we don't get it, there's a void. Kids who are not getting what they need from their parents learn to fill the void with "things." And it's not because their parents were too lenient or too permissive or too indulging. It's because their parents neglected to give them more time, more attention, more unconditional love.

As a society, we're told parents need to be more strict. Need to lay down the law and show our kids who's boss.

I think that's going in the wrong direction.

I think we need to give our kids more. They didn't ask to be here. We chose to bring them into the world, and into our lives. We should give to them freely and joyfully and completely, just as we would give to anyone else. (In fact, even more so, because they are OUR CHILDREN) We should give of our time, our attention, and ourselves.

And Cabbage Patch Kids are okay, too.



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