“What do you get when your kid is a brat
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat
Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame
You know exactly who’s to blame
The mother and the father …”
– “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”
I’m turning 30 in less than two weeks and I’m having a bit of, should I say, an existential crisis. Exhibit A – the conversation I witnessed on my morning commute, which reads like a bad “Overhead in New York.”
Suburban Mom #1: Last year, she had to have the iPod touch; this year she wants a BlackBerry for her birthday. All the kids are instant messaging. First it was texting, now it’s instant messaging.
Suburban Mom #2: Well, you know how high school kids are …
Suburban Mom #1: High school? She’s turning eight!
I almost threw up on my seat. An eight year old needs a BlackBerry? At this moment, I tried to remember what kind of gifts I probably got for my eighth birthday and the list looked something like this: Cabbage Patch Kids, GI Joe “stuff”, board games, Legos. When I was nine or ten, I got Debbie Gibson’s “Electric Youth” perfume, the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” cassette tape and this totally hot pair of denim shorts with colored pockets.
While I cannot acknowledge that everyone should be happy when they are eight years old, one thing should be a given for kids – life should be simple. I say this from a perspective of a suburban upper-middle class kid – you have your whole life to deal with things being complicated, why not enjoy simplicity when you’re eight years old. Enjoy toys, make believe and optimism that is not remotely grounded in fact. Enjoy believing that one day you may be a rock star, a pro baseball player or a fashion designer — even if you completely lack those skills.
I am grateful that when I went to college, we could wear boxers shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops to class. Class wasn’t a fashion show. Abercrombie was a big deal and pretty much no one knew that “designer” jeans existed. I am grateful that when I went to high school, I had a car that I didn’t worry about bumping a curb with. A week or so ago, I overheard another conversation similar to the one detailed above, except this mother was explaining that she bought a Land Rover because “wouldn’t it be a RIOT for her daughter to roll up in that to school on her 16th birthday?!”
Okay, one. This is New York. We can’t even drive to school legally on our 16th birthday. And why, why, why would you give your 16 year old a Land Rover to drive?! I hit a gas pump with my car when I was 17. I got a speeding ticket on Sunrise Highway for doing 88 in a 55 when I was 17. I’m extremely glad I wasn’t responsible for a Land Rover or an BMW.
I attended high school in a upper-middle class community. To the best of my recollection, the nicest cars either (a) belonged to kids’ parents or (b) were a roughly five-ten year old Jeep or Cabriolet. About ten years after graduating high school, I went back to sub teach at my alma mater. It was like walking on to an episode of “The OC.” The parking lot was filled with SUVs, BMWs and Mercedes convertibles. The students were dripping in designer clothes and high-priced accessories.
I look back at my yearbook and smile at our clothes – t-shirts, flannels, Doc Martens. We didn’t look like we were trying to get into a club when we were 15 years old.
In two more weeks, I’ll be waxing poetic about the cost of a loaf of bread when I was young.