A month ago we started our pre-winter shopping for the kids. We do bulk clothes shopping twice a year and then grab bits and pieces here and there as we go. My three and five year old were quite excited about their loot. I allowed them to each pick three items and then I would choose the rest. I gave them direction on what they need, and my five-year-old daughter tried to follow my logic, but it was another story with my three-year-old, on top of the fact that he doesn’t seem to have good taste!
After a long day at the mall we made our way home, exhausted. Dad and I got out to unload the shopping and our baby while the two toddlers who had been sleeping in the car sprung back to life! Their neighbourhood friends were also waiting for them, encircling the car like a pack of vultures (they also seem to know my kids’ weekend schedule really well). My daughter was the first to sing: “Nye-nye-nye-nye-nye, we got some clothes.” The father shut it down before they could get to describing their haul, telling them that it was unkind, and that we would stop getting them nice things if they bragged to their friends. I tried to explain that they are only kids and that the other kids do it to them too, so they were ‘even’, but my husband wasn’t having any of it.
In my mind when it comes to this stuff – school achievements, new clothes, new houses, gadgets etc. – the kids should be allowed to flaunt it, but only because other kids do it too. In my mind it’s my kids’ way of fighting back, of getting back to the top of the pack. They don’t always have the ammunition so on the day that they do they had better use it! My husband’s logic is different. If it’s not something we believe in, we don’t do it – whether or not other kids do it. I believe in the principle but follow-through is just so hard. To expect a three-year-old and five-year-old not to boast (with the intention of making others feel small); what kind of torture is that? Won’t they become insecure because they never got to glory in their achievements?
I know the answer to this is no. Self-esteem isn’t built by feeling greater than others. It’s never in relation to anyone else. I know it’s a trap, a trap that most of us don’t escape. I guess my pain is in having to lead my kids on this painful and lonely path at such a young age; making disciples out of a three and a five year old.