Monday, September 6, 2010


Sometime yesterday, I walked by the big green trashcan outside and had a moment of "what died in there?" You put something in the trash, it gets baked outside all bagged up in the heat for about three days and's gagworthy. We have pinpointed it to part of the chicken wings that were discarded when Big Dave grilled them Friday night. All I know is that it smells spoiled and icky and awful.

We use the word "spoiled" pretty liberally in the South to describe someone who has been indulged (mostly by parents) and is oblivious that the world does not revolve around them. This means that sometimes we find them quite unbearable as a result. The children...AND the parents.

Oh, we all love being spoiled in a good way...pedicures, a day at the spa...or flowers for no reason. But the reason that we think that this is good is because we are accustomed to having this be the exception and not the rule. But when we are dealing with someone who has everything that they want when they want is about as pleasant as the aroma that my trash can is rocking right now.

Foul would be an understatement.

A friend of mine was relaying her experience in dealing with spoiled children in elementary school. She is frustrated because they listen to their teachers about as well as they listen to their parents...which is pretty much...not at all. My thoughts? If they are that unresponsive when they are little guys...what in the world is going to happen when those hormones kick in?


I know that all of us are guilty of spoiling our children...myself included. I used to think that I did a pretty fair job of teaching them to be self-reliant and down to earth...but in comparison with the level of independence I was expected to attain growing up? Hardly. I have great faith that they will be okay, though, because both of them have worked...and both have shocked me with their generosity of spirit and their ability to think things through very well.

Spoiled children can't really do that, you know. They want you to be generous to them (on their terms) and want you to solve all of their problems for them. Including dealing with mean, awful authority figures that just want them to sit down, shut up and be teachable. Too bad that this interferes with their self-esteem in the short run...because teachers are far more concerned about the long haul. They are trying to build endurance for those super-heinous - but necessary - educational wonders like Beowulf and photosynthesis that are coming somewhere down the line.

When Jill was in first grade, we were called in to have a conference with the elementary principal because Jill had exerted her independence. She was told to leave something unfinished, and she was unhappy about it. So, when the children lined up to go to their next activity, she doubled back to the library to finish her project. They found her there. Needless to say, this was considered unacceptable behavior. And no, we didn't sue the school over any damage to her self esteem that giving her a conduct check might have caused.

I am guilty of wanting to protect my children from people's negativity, from bullies, and from people who thought it was more important to knock them down than build them up...but I think that's rational. Wanting to provide them no means of building up any emotional and spiritual muscle that often comes only from dealing with adversity is like trying to help a butterfly out of the cocoon because it is struggling. We end up only doing more harm than good. Because the ultimate goal is for them to fly away and be productive and beautiful someday. Not to lie floundering around because they can't handle the weight of their wings...because they built up no muscle in the struggle to earn them.

I know that we have all dealt with spoiled people in our lives. Those people who hold grudges because their child didn't get special treatment from us. Folks that thought the rules didn't apply to them. People who acted as if other people's time was less valuable than their own. You know...the line breakers, gossip-mongers, pouters, drama-causers, and manipulators.

The people we'd like to not have to deal with in our daily lives...but we do. The people that we'd like to tell off...but it would do no good.

So, why is it that we are so anxious to create little mini-versions of these people inadvertently? Why do we not flinch at purchasing something for our daughters (beauty treatments, clothing, etc.) that we would have no more asked our mothers for than the man in the moon? We went to work instead...and bought it...or did without. Why are our sons not pursuing young women as men of honor? They are waiting for the girls to call them instead. And where does this actually originate? Oh, I think we know.

Sometimes we have to realize that our jobs are to prepare them for what the world is going to deal them in spades once they leave the nest. And as tempting as it is to let them stay with us...we aren't doing them any favors. They were created to go out there and do something wonderful in this world. I suppose that's it is hard to muster up a whole lot of enthusiasm changing the world when the parents are providing spending money, a place to live, homecooked meals, and clean laundry.

Just like the chicken outside (that is thankfully headed to a landfill not soon enough to suit me)...spoiled is spoiled. We may think that we are being good parents, investing in their individuality, or just making it easier on ourselves. Truth be told...we are denying them the opportunity to learn discipline when what is at stake is a "worm" on their "apple" in preschool. The alternative, I suppose is letting them learn it sitting in rehab or prison someday. Heaven forbid.

So, quit getting your affirmation from what everyone else is doing, and follow your own instincts. Keep the goal in mind - independence - and don't take the easy way out. But be kind as well...remember...they are picking out our nursing homes someday.


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