Friday, December 02, 2016

Helicopter Parents May Ruin Childhood Christmas

It's Christmas time, and you know what that means! It's time for parents to drive themselves deeper into debt by buying their children's happiness and getting them into a good college. Their biggest purchases are usually in mad pursuit of the year's hottest toy, designed to bring minutes and minutes of joy before the kids get bored and start thinking about their birthdays.

In 1983, the big toy was Cabbage Patch Kids, and there were riots at several retail stores as crazed would shove, hit, kick, and even whack each other with baseball bats, over the plush toy.

In 1996, it was Tickle Me Elmo, and parents spent as much as $1,500 for a $29 toy. Again, people rioted. Two Chicago women were arrested for fighting, and a Walmart clerk in British Columbia received a broken rib and a concussion when 300 people trampled him to get an Elmo.

Because nothing celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace like clocking some jackwagon over a child's toy.

This year's must-have-toy-or-Aubrey-won't-get-into-Harvard is the Hatchimal. It's a furry animal that hatches from a plastic egg, and grows and develops mentally, as a kid plays with it. The toy retails for $60, but some parents are paying as much as $500 so as not to disappoint their children. Because, as everyone knows, life is never full of disappointment and sadness.
The Hatchimal goes through three stages of life, and sings "Hatchy Birthday" at each new stage. They go through the fourth and final stage when the kid gets bored and quits playing with it, usually around February. Parents can then get the Li'l Griever's Five Stages of Sadness decorating kit. (Viking Burial accessories sold separately.)

Typical of any good toy craze, Spin Master, Hatchimal's maker, has run out of the toys, and is making more, which they expect to have in early 2017. They're not very happy about the profiteering, and are encouraging people to pre-order the new batch, and get rain checks that they can claim in January.

Meanwhile, some parents who weren't lucky enough to snatch a Hatchimal for little Oliver or Wicker are putting off important life lessons of supply-and-demand and bitter disappointment, and are instead writing apology letters from Santa.

There are two sample versions of the letter online for parents to use. One is an IOU, a promise that the child's Hatchimal will be arriving soon, once Mama and Papa Hatchimal can find a little free time in front of a warm fireplace, play a little smooth jazz, drink a little wine. . .

I can live with this. My family and I have often done the IOU thing before. Print out a photo of the gift, and wrap it in a big box, with an explanation that the gift will arrive soon. It's not a great solution, but it teaches patience.

But other parents are helicoptering their children into maladjusted adulthood by writing apology letters from Santa, explaining that he can't get any more Hatchimals, and he's very sorry, but he won't be delivering their fondest Christmas wish at any time at all ever.

Cheese balls!

Don't get me wrong. I love Santa Claus. He visited our house for years, when my kids were still young enough. But we had a rule that Santa didn't give the cool presents, we did. If anyone was going to get credit for giving a cherished childhood toy, it was going to be us. And if we couldn't get a particular present, we didn't scramble for it. We didn't spend half the mortgage on a single toy, and we didn't blame Santa for our unwillingness to have our children feel a single negative emotion.

These helicopter parents are so afraid of their children feeling sad for even one second that they're too cowardly to tell them no. Instead, they pile the blame on Santa's shoulders, along with the mountain of organic gluten-free educational toys he's bringing to their already-entitled children.

Hopefully Santa knows some good young adult therapists, because this will no doubt come up a few times before the parents walk their children across the stage at their college graduation.

If you want your kids to learn to cope with life's disappointments, tell them that Santa can't do everything. Tell them he'll bring the toys he thinks will suit them, not the copy-and-pasted toy catalog they sent him.

Better yet, toughen your kids up with a little emotional blackmail. Use this as a teaching opportunity, as well as a way to get a little peace and quiet for yourself.

"Dear Wicker and Oliver, I didn't get you a Hatchimal because you haven't been very good this year. Your incessant bickering and whining gives your parents a headache. Suck it up and try better next year. I'm not kidding, Santa."

Photo credit: 'Santa's Portrait' byThomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly, 1881 (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)



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1 comment:

  1. Many times I felt sympathy for kids with helicopter parents. One child I taught was upset that he got third place in the science fair. I told him what the flaw was. To which he replied, "I know, but they wouldn't let me do anything" referring to his parents.

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