Call My Kid Spoiled. I Dare You.
You remember what you were like when you were pregnant - or even before - and you had all of these silly ideas about how you were going to parent? Let's all take a moment to laugh at THAT ridiculous person. This person who had not yet met their magical mini-me, whose eyes that look up at you are like oceans that you could pour your whole heart into; whose little voice asking for "milt" (milk in Aya's vernacular) is probably the cutest thing you EVER HEARD IN YOUR LIFE. That before-person was an idiot. Let's just all agree.
There are two extremely annoying competing discourses that flourish in contemporary society - by parents and non-parents alike, and of all ages - that you should both meet all of your child's needs and sacrifice yourself, your happiness, your relationship, and your sanity to ensure that you do meet those needs, and other discourse that says we spoil children unmercifully and, in doing so, create the brats of the world who, I guess, care only about themselves, vote for Trump-like candidates, and kick the elderly. Well, my oh my. What's a parent to do? When "too much" love becomes spoiling and discipline (however imagined) becomes the way to create kind and caring citizens, we might say that current discourses on parenting are pretty fucked up.
So someone recently joked to me that my daughter might be spoiled. My first reaction was "SHE'S TWO AND TWO YEAR OLDS ACT LIKE DRUNKEN TYRANTS!" After I took a minute (or a few days, whatever) I realized two things: 1. Parents are susceptible to other people's judgment because they are trying to do their very best in what can be very trying circumstances; and 2. Everyone forgets what it's like to have a child. Like TOTAL AMNESIA. This leads to judgment on the side of the spoiling accuser and shame for the parents. Like, I KNOW this person was joking and that they don't truly care if my daughter is spoiled (because they do some of the spoiling) but the instant throat-gripping shame that befalls us parents when any kind of judgment is causally thrown around is hard to swallow.
So here's my philosophy: I'm going to embrace that other people might think I spoil my daughter because maybe I do. So what. But, then again, let's analyze the underpinnings of the notion of "spoiling."
- When something is spoiled, it's rotten. Do we really think any child is rotten? Do we really?
- Spoiled now implies even worse later (in the logic of contemporary child-rearing). There is a future-orientation here that I believe acts as a caution to parents and really has nothing to do with the child. People are "alerting" parents to the fact that they are "spoiling" so that the parents will stop the behaviour so as not to ruin the child. Well. What do we think of that as parents? I think, fuck that. People wield "spoiled" as a weapon to control your behaviour. I'll have none of that shit sandwich, thanks.
- Spoiled - as a caution, a admonition, or a throw-away joke - only has the power we give it. We must reject the notion that love and care and concern for our children - that is by the way, DEMANDED of us as a prerequisite to being a parent at levels that sometimes seem suffocating and completely overwhelming- equals spoiling.
- Where you spoiled? I can easily say that I was spoiled, particularly with material goods. Am I a monster? The answer to that question, in case you were flip flopping, is a hard no.
When you look into the oceanic eyes of your child, and wish to pour as much love into their little bodies, minds, and souls as possible, don't be fearful of spoiling. The beauty of parenting is that, no matter how much others don't like it or are wanton to tell you how to do it, you get to chart the course for how you want to live your life as a parent and how you want to raise your child. You get to create the kind of loving nest that your child can rest in. You are in charge and the only thing that can tarnish that power is letting others determine the way you will feather that nest. I don't actually think we are afraid of spoiling our kids, I think we are afraid of the massive judgment that will result if others deem that you were too lenient and that's why little AJ hits or bites or smokes weed or doesn't know what he wants to do with his life at the ripe old age of 17.
The reality is, the judgments will just keep coming. They are not going to stop no matter how perfectly you try to parent. So I would suggest that it would behoove all parents to embrace spoiling - whatever it means.
Some of us only have one chance, one child, one precious opportunity to give our child the kind of life that dreams are made of.
Why would we trade that opportunity just because others can't, or won't, remember or try to understand what it's like to have small children - or children at all - and choose to pass judgment instead?
Don't let them get you down.
I promise it'll never be worth it in the end.