One of my favorite parts of the day with my kids is our long drive home from school. As they chomp on snacks and I down my third cup of coffee, we chat about our day, from spelling test results to how much of their lunch they ate—all the most interesting news, at least according them them, anyway.
“Today we dissected a fish head!” my son exclaimed. The girls moaned and made gag noises.
“Andrew squeezed my hand too hard and got in trouble!” my younger daughter shouted, a regular occurrence for poor Andrew and most of the girls in the class, apparently.
Then my oldest piped up. “Mom, Marly got an American Girl doll from the tooth fairy!”
I did my best not to scream “WHAT?” and laugh, but I couldn’t help myself. The idea of a child getting a $100 doll for losing a tooth was just too much for me to maintain any sort of composure.
Between my loud giggles, I bombarded her with questions.
“How did the tooth fairy fit that under her pillow?” I asked, half sarcastically, hoping that perhaps my wise, grateful child would understand the ridiculousness of what she just told me.
So much for that.
“WHY DOESN’T OUR TOOTH FAIRY BRING US AMERICAN GIRL DOLLS?” she asked, then continued, “We only get a dollar.”
Like most children with reasonable parents, I whispered under my breath.
I did my best to try to find some reasonable explanation. “Was it her first tooth?” I asked, hoping desperately that maybe that was the answer, but alas, it was not, though apparently a couple of her previous teeth had either been swallowed or lost. So much for my speech about “All tooth fairies are different, and maybe it was a very special tooth.”
Now with four kids and almost nine years of parenting experience under my belt, I’ve been judged for my choices more times than I could probably count. And I’ll be honest: I’ve dished out my fair share of judgment, albeit inside my own head—well, for the most part anyway.
And in most cases, the choices of other parents rarely affect my own kids, save the kids who play their video games at a party for the whole time or the child who eats a movie-sized box of M&Ms for snack at the playground. But the kid leashes and the baby drinking soda out of a baby bottle, while silly to me, don’t really affect how I parent my kids. It’s all just fodder, a lame pastime we parents do to somehow make ourselves feel better about ourselves.
But now that my kids are older, the parenting choices of others are starting to affect my own kids.
But now that my kids are older, the parenting choices of others are starting to affect my own kids. And while it’s an awesome teaching moment with important lessons to be learned, like, “No way in hell you’re going to get an American Girl doll for a lost tooth. OVER MY DEAD BODY,” it’s also just plain outrageous. And it makes me question what the heck some parents are thinking.
Do they tell their kids that most people don’t get American Girl dolls and this is an extremely special occasion?
Do they explain to their children that if they play their video game for the entire party and don’t interact with any other humans that they won’t be able to play it when they get home?
And yes, while I do think about how this will translate when the child is adult, I’m more concerned with how all of this affects my own kids, because when they start to see these sorts of things on a regular basis, they start to believe that it’s the norm. And as their parent, I want them to not only be clear that this is not the norm, but also that, perhaps, this isn't exactly the best choice.
It’s not just American Girl dolls from the tooth fairy, it’s also personal iPads and smart phones at an age when they’re not even responsible enough to put their own laundry in a basket, let alone maintain and care for a $400 gadget. It’s fancy clothes and shoes and all sorts of extravagant gifts that seem to be creating an environment of entitlement rather than gratefulness.
And as much as I want to turn the other cheek, part of me wants to give these parents a window into the future, when their kids are trying to finish college, get jobs and make it on their own, and rather than working and earning what they have, somehow feel as though they should be given things just because of who they are.
In the end, I am the parent to my own children, so the best that I can do is turn this into a lesson for me and for my kids, and as my clever friend joked, say a prayer for that mom when her daughter starts yanking out her teeth by the root.