A book is out by Linda and Richard Eyre called The Entitlement Trap. I have not yet read this book, although it's definitely on my read list, but based on the articles published about it, I've had some thoughts.
It is very obvious to me that we live in an age of entitlement, that much is certain. My husband and I have tried in our parenting to steer clear of this "entitlement trap" by saying no, by expecting our children to earn things they want, by requiring chores as a contribution to how the family runs, etc. But I'll admit, it's not always easy. It's fun to buy stuff for the kids and see how excited they get.
I don't think that I do it so much because I want them to be happy or to have what I might not have had as a child. I think I had a pretty darn good childhood and don't feel deprived really over not owning anything. Although, I must admit, I have purchased some toys for my daughter because they were toys I always wanted but never got. (I need to explain about that. I never got those particular toys probably because I never asked for them for birthday or Christmas and nobody ever knew I wanted them. When I wanted them, I was supposed to be too old for such toys, so I was even too embarrassed to go out and buy them with my own money that I earned from baby-sitting.)
I think that the reason I want my kids to be involved in activities and have fun playing with toys and all that is because I want them to enjoy being kids. I remember when I was a kid, all I wanted was to grow up as fast as possible. Being a grown-up seemed like so much fun.
Now that I'm a grown-up, I realize that being a kid was carefree and, in a lot of ways, more fun than being an adult.
Did you ever see that episode of Friends where Phoebe and Rachel are going to go running together, but then when Phoebe runs, she just lets it all go and runs like she did when she was a kid? And then Rachel is embarrassed by how Phoebe runs, so she sneaks around to go running to avoid running with Phoebe. I think the writers really hit the nail on the head on that one--how it was to run when we were kids. It's the same for any type of play. We might have the occasional moment where we get into the playing like we did when we were kids, but that is rare. More often than not, when involved in imaginary play, we are sort of the directors, giving ideas and watching from the sidelines, not really involving ourselves in the actual play.
So I think that often when I'm buying my kids toys I know they don't need and it's not a birthday or Christmas, I think I'm just wanting them to enjoy being a child because it doesn't last long and it's the only shot at childhood they get.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not disagreeing with the notion of an "entitlement trap". I'm just realizing that not everything we do as adults or parents is to try and make our kids' lives easier. Sometimes there's another reason.