Thursday, February 02, 2006

Unpurchased Happiness

J has been attending a music, dance and exercise program in daycare from the time she started there. It used to free at first and then cost a little extra. I did not mind because the money spent was more than made up for by J's anticipation of this class on Thursday all week long. The excitement in her voice as she recounted what she was taught for days after, made it all so worthwhile.

Yesterday, I was informed that the rates had been hiked about three times. There were not as many kids enrolling, new management at daycare was no longer willing to chip in and so parents had to pick up a much higher tab. While I can still afford to pay for it, I felt strongly about not doing so.

For a week preceding the enterprising program director has been on an enrollment drive. The children are being told to tell their parents to get them enrolled and are being given brochure ware to take home. Other baits include stickers, tattos of the company logo and rubber stamps and a free tee shirt for paying for twelve weeks. J was in the "free promotional" class yesterday and she loved it.

I didn't like the idea of a business using my child as bait to guilt-trip me into paying up a ridiculous amount of money. I didn't want J to believe that Mommy can buy her happiness and pay a little extra if she had to because happiness is paramount and non-negotiable. Last evening, my resolve was firm when I told the director that J was not going to sign up. Once home, I explained my decision to J the best I could.

This morning when I dropped J off at daycare, the class was on. She peered through the window with abject longing and sadness in her eyes. My heart broke as I hugged her. All day at work, J's eyes haunted me. I wondered if she thought Mommy could not afford her class - she understands that "signing up" for anything involves me writing a check or swiping a credit card.

I longed to tell her it was not about money but about principle, to tell her that her happiness was the most important thing to me but I would not trade for it with money. In a little game involving a corporation and a paying adult customer, a child's feelings had been reduced to smithereens.

All the three of us lost today in different ways.


cheti said...

that was a very very identifiable frustrating read HC ! right from this direct baiting to multimillion dollar promotional campaigns .. its about baiting .. using kids ! Its emotional blackmail actually ! BTW i guess you mean "All the three of us lost today in different ways"

asuph said...


Excellent blog there. Every parent that I see today seems to be grappling with these questions. And to a large extent the other guilt -- of not having enough time to spend with the kids -- also add up many a times to buy out the "happiness".

As cheti points out, it's all too common. From "my daddy's big car" to the kid-friendly big Mac, more and more this subtle and not-so-subtle blackmail is being used.

And many a times parents don't realize that for short-term gains (getting rid of guilt-trap, or stopping the childs crying, ...) they're actually creating wrong precedences. Children are extremely intelligent, and they learn the wrong things with as much enthusiasm.

Thanks for sharing this piece. Extremely well writeen. I could feel your anguish, and J's too. I think you did the right thing. The tough thing would be to communicate it to her, but communicate you must.


Anonymous said...

“I wondered if she thought Mommy could not afford her class - she understands that “signing up” for anything involves me writing a check or swiping a credit card.”


An important blog- something to think about for all parents and future parents.

To me, it is a question of money and principles..I wonder why we can’t tell our children that- “both” are involved?

While there is no ‘one right way of parenting’…and there are no guarantees that- if we raise our children a certain way, they will turn out a certain way…I do think this ‘super-parenting’ thing (enrolling children in everything and giving them everything, “we can”)- can cause more harm than good in the long run..

How do children learn that there are limits and boundaries in life- for parents too? They can’t and don’t ‘have to do everything!’- all the other parents do or will…

And the interesting part is..’children long for structure, discipline and boundaries’…in the short-term they will cry, pout and be upset..that is to be expected..we can’t go by every facial expression of a child (I know, it is tough to look at those little eyes- which are welling up with tears and the sad expressions!) but, they will ‘get over it’…and move on faster than we think!
It is the parents- who carry unnecessary burdens of guilt.

As long as a child has the basics- good health, is safe, given food and shelter…and knows she/he is loved (and knows the parent(s) will be there for them) can be “selective” in whatever else they want to/don’t want to give their child!


MotoRama said...

I think this is the biggest game played by corporations. McD gives a free tatoo or free doll to every purchase,only to make the kids watch the movie/buy toys of the characters in movies. Once u bait the kid,the parents will have to follow.No wonder one of the biggest movie grossers are Finding Nemo,Shrek2 and even lousy ones like Madagaskar,Shark Tale makes a profit.Thanks for sharing and kids get over such things pretty quickly and move on! So dont worry about your decision. In the end,it is important to raise the kids with all limitations so they have a realistic idea of the world we live in.

Ardra said...

am trying to post a comment again- was under the illusion that my comment had got posted a few days ago- but cudnt see it when i looked again:

I think you made the right decision- uh- oh- i forget the rest that i had typed...

Heartcrossings said...

Cheti, Asuph, Maria, Motorama, Ardra: Thanks! There is comfort in numbers. I feel a whole lot better about my decision now. I guess this is what is called tough love :)