Are you Spoiling? Or Simply Being the Cool Aunt?
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By JoAnn Savoia, theauntpsych.wordpress.com
JoAnn Savoia is a financial manager with an MBA in Finance from the University of Connecticut. She has a degree in television production and worked in Los Angeles as a writer and associate producer before making the transition to corporate finance. Widowed at the age of 32, she spends her time travelling the world, finding new experiences, and enjoying her many nieces and nephews.
Listening to the radio on my way to work, I heard an interview with a singer who was enjoying his first big hit. The DJ asked what big purchases he had made since becoming rich and famous. I was expecting him to say a house or a car, but he proudly announced that he could finally afford to buy the LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon. He had wanted it his whole life and that was the first thing he did with his new found wealth. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “I just bought that gift for my nephew.” And for a brief moment, I felt a twinge of guilt for being that family member who showers the kids with material possessions and then leaves the parents to deal with the consequences. How ridiculous that a rock star was excited about earning his prize and I just dropped it into the lap of a ‘spoiled’ 8-year-old. And then I got over it, took my nephew to Disneyland, and bought him whatever he wanted.
Gift Giving Boundaries
Giving presents to my nieces and nephews makes me happy. I will do just about anything for those moments of dancing around in excitement, hugs, and loud proclamations that I’m the ‘best aunt ever!’ Everybody who loves a child wants those moments. However, they also need to be able to find the boundaries. As an aunt, do I understand how my gift giving enthusiasm is impacting the children? I thought about it and the answer is “no.” No, I do not. I have no experience in keeping children grounded and grateful while everyone around is giving them everything they ask for. I’m also willing to admit that I’m not likely to learn. I’m not going to stop buying LEGO or going through the American Girl Doll catalog with my niece to figure out what she wants next. I also do not want to cause problems and turn those sweet little “you’re the best aunt” faces into spoiled “this is not what I wanted” scowls. I truly believe that giving children too much at once is detrimental, but I want someone else to worry about it and let me be the popular aunt.
Asking for Guidance
Since I can’t trust my own discernment when it comes to overdoing it on the presents, I have made a conscious effort to rely on my brother and his wife to guide me. I have started asking them if it is OK if I buy the creepy mummy Indiana Jones set or the DVD with the scary bear. I am trying to ask if I can take them bowling or out to dinner when the kids are not within earshot so that they have a chance to say “no” without being the bad guy. I say that I’m trying because I will admit that I asked my brother about the holy grail of LEGO sets as it was sitting on my bed waiting to be wrapped. Self-control is not my strong suit, but at least I am trying. Parents don’t want to say “no” or be forced to be the gatekeeper all the time, but they know better than anyone when their kids need the family to dial down the spoiling.
The holidays are around the corner, and children all over the world are making lists, dropping hints, and getting excited about all the stuff they are going to get. Aunts, before you contribute to the greed and commercialism that unfortunately comes with the holidays (and you know you are going to), ask your brothers and sisters for their advice. Even if you ignore it and clean out Toys-R-Us, keeping the communication open about what you are giving to their children will benefit the whole family.
Published: December 11, 2012