Don’t Spoil Everything—by Jamie Levine
The other night, my daughter, Jayda got mad at me because, after several warnings, I announced that it was her bedtime and she couldn’t stay up and play any longer. She ranted: “I’m angry! You’re not nice to me!” I responded, “Really? I think I do a lot of nice things for you,” and she countered, “You don’t buy me toys!” As I looked at her like she was insane, she continued, “….every day!” My jaw dropped. “You want me to buy you toys every day? You have more toys than you know what to do with!” Jayda glared back at me and said, “I need more toys. You’re not nice.”
While I did realize that Jayda was simply trying to goad me, and wanted to win the argument, I couldn’t help wondering if I was raising a spoiled brat—and the thought of that haunted me all night. My daughter does have a lot of toys, and knows how to manipulate my parents into buying things for her whenever they spend time together. But Jayda certainly doesn’t get everything she wants—especially not from me. So while she is showered with vast amounts of love and attention, that doesn’t have to translate into her feeling entitled to tons of toys. And if she does, I need to change that.
The next morning, Jayda sauntered into my bedroom and, after poking around in my book bag, found a package of glittery stickers I’d bought for the six language-delayed children who are in a group I’m running at graduate school. She asked, “What’s this, Mommy? Are these stickers for me?” “No, honey,” I answered. “They’re for my kids at school—you know, the five boys and one girl I told you about whom I’m teaching to speak better?” Then, fearing this would upset her, I continued, “You have tons of stickers—they don’t have a lot—so I need to give these to them.” Jayda thought for a moment, then said, “I need to run downstairs for a second,” and took off. She returned quickly with a sheet of smiley-face stickers from her vast collection and said, “Here, Mommy—give them these stickers, too. I can share.” My face exploded in a smile and I said, “Jayda—that’s so nice of you—and such good sharing. Thank you!’ Then, she quickly ran away again and returned with a sheet of her absolute favorites—My Little Pony—and said, “and give these to the little girl. But tell her they came from me.”
Being a mother is challenging—whether you have one child or ten. But moms of only children constantly hear that “onlys” have trouble sharing, and tend to be spoiled. Personally, I know plenty of kids from two- and three-children homes who don’t like to share, and I think it’s the parenting style that spoils a child—not the number of children being raised. So I’m simply going to keep parenting the way I have been…and keep doing my best to raise a kind, thoughtful, good-natured child. I can’t blame Jayda for asking for the world—but as long as I know she appreciates all that she has, and wants to help kids who don’t—I think my kid is going to turn out just fine.