kids

"I can't stop buying stuff for my kids. Am I a bad parent?"

My daughter had a new friend over for a playdate a few weeks ago. This little girl was stunned by two things.

“Wow, did you really drink all that beer?” she gasped, looking at our collection of boutique beer bottles lined up behind the bar.

Why, yes, we did.

“Wow, your kids have so many toys! Are you really rich?”

Uh, no, we’re not.

Do our kids have a lot of toys? It made me think.

Recently I’ve noticed a tendency among parents, especially ones who have plenty of money, to say that they don’t buy their kids a lot of toys. “We only give them a few small presents at Christmas, after we’ve taken them to the soup kitchen and got them to serve Christmas lunch to the homeless, to make them appreciate how lucky they are.” That kind of thing.

Parents blog proudly about taking their kids’ toys away. The less toys kids have, the better for them, apparently. Minimalism is the way to go. Instead of spending $15,000 on toys for our kids during their childhoods, all we need to give them is $10 worth of beads, thread and pencils.

Meanwhile, the British mum who bought her kids 100 presents each last Christmas was accused of abusing them.

Somehow, giving your kids just a few toys has become a sign of good parenting, while buying them heaps of stuff suggests bad parenting.

Time to give away your kids' toys? Photo via iStock.

Well, I buy my kids heaps of stuff. I’m constantly justifying it to myself. Books? Well, obviously, they don’t count as presents, because they’re educational. Art supplies? They stimulate kids’ creativity. Lego? Construction skills. Board games? Maths. Outdoor toys? Well, that encourages them to go outdoors, of course.

As a parent, I like to see my kids having a good time doing anything that doesn’t involve a screen. iPads and iPhones and computers are more than appealing to kids, they’re actually addictive. I see it as my job to make them realise that other things are just as much fun. In my mind, if I buy my kids books that are so engrossing they’d rather read than play Angry Birds, then it’s worth the money. Same with a cheap plastic cricket set, or a classic old board game like Cluedo or Monopoly.

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Of course, I don’t just buy my kids books and board games and other vaguely educational things. Sometimes I buy them total garbage. My daughter loves stuffed animals. Toy dogs, cats, zebras, camels, meerkats, dugongs, etc. There’s almost no room on her bed for her.

I can’t help buying them for her, usually as a reward for when she’s been good. I love the way her eyes light up, I love to hear the name she gives to the toy, and I love to see her sleeping with it held close when when I check on her at night.

I get a lot more pleasure out of buying things for my kids than I’ve ever got out of buying things for myself.

Too many toys, too many books? Photo via iStock.

I’m not spending much money, just a few dollars here and there. I almost always buy books secondhand, and sometimes games and toys too. I keep birthdays and Christmas low-key, I don't spend much on clothes for myself or my kids, and... oh, there I go, justifying it again.

I do worry a bit. Not that I might be turning my kids into selfish little monsters (they don't seem to be, yet), but that things won’t mean as much to my kids as they meant to me. I feel like I can remember every one of my childhood toys and books, and they hold so many special memories.

I don’t know. I guess I’ll stop buying stuff for my kids when their eyes stop lighting up.

Do you buy a lot of stuff for your kids?

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