Last month, my oldest daughter turned 11. I can honestly say I did not freak out as much as I thought I would. Not about her age, at least (and at least not at the time. Talk to me in January when the zip! bam! boom! of birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year is over, and perhaps I’ll be in a downward tequila spiral lamenting the loss of mah firstest baby!). What had me a bit on the curiously crazy side, though, was her gift requests: all technology related.
You see, we are not a gadgety, techy household. We still have cassette players. A VCR. A record player. The original PlayStation, an ancient laptop with missing keys that probably spell EVIL or live, depending on the day, and an iPod classic. Granted the bag of cassettes we recently stumbled upon and the VHS tapes with their faded handwritten labels aren’t actually used, the point is we cannot seem to part with them. And we’ll probably use them again one day. Because one of the cassette tapes is the Force MD’s. And surely you know that love is a house. The girls don’t have iPods or cell phones. None of us has a Kindle. The girls don’t even have a television in their bedroom. We do, however, have a Wii and the girls have DSIs. See, we’re progressive!
But imagine my say what now response to the then-10 year-old requesting the following for her birthday: an iPad, a laptop, or an iPod Touch. Now, don’t get me wrong. We are not anti-technology. We simply upgrade when we have reason, not before (like when something is completely broken. Unfixable. Wires hanging out. Smoking. Sorry, but parts for your ’91 Stanza are no longer available). And I just like the pop of a vinyl record. I like the feel of an actual book in my hands. I can’t curl up on the sofa with a mug of cocoa, a blanket, and a piece of cold, electronic non-book.
The iPad is of course out because, well, I’m an adult and I don’t have one. She asked for a laptop so that “everyone isn’t looking over her shoulder when she’s online.” Um, lil’ girl? Please just be 11. In fact, please just still be 10 (for that’s what she was at the time I read her list). And the desktop is in a general area for just that reason. There is no cause for you to be sequestered with the internet. Nothing good can come from it but porn and until I tell you otherwise (or you find our stash), porn is bad.
Then there’s the iPod Touch which also garnered an initial stop lunching response. The more we thought about it, though, the more it made sense (she’d have music and text capability. To text US for whatever random reason while in after care. It has a camera and shoots video. And it’s not a phone. She doesn’t need a phone since she’s dropped off and picked up from school daily and on weekends is never without an adult with a phone). Just one thing: refurbished ones go for $180 (new ones start at $200). And $180 on a gadget that she could potentially misplace, have stolen, or break entirely too easily because she is a child and doesn’t understand that we can’t just buy another? Can’t really justify that. Not when I haven’t paid Pepco yet.
This got me to thinking, though. Who’s to say we have to get children something off of their “lists?” We are the parents. We are the buyers; they’ll get what we (or Santa since it is a week from Christmas) give ‘em. Filled with righteous thoughts of “be satisfied if you know what’s good for you,” I wasn’t exactly nice when she said she’d be “sad and angry” if she didn’t receive at least one of the requested items. Part of me wanted to not get one just to show her I don’t respond well to emotional threats. Besides, I could buy three pairs of boots on sale at DSW for the price of the one gadget. And diapers. Lots and lots of diapers). The other part of me paid no attention to her because it was all moot; we couldn’t afford a used iPod Touch, let alone a new one, and although there were a few listings that made me pause at their potential, everyone knows Craigslist = you gon’ die.
I know I shouldn’t feel bad. We have a home, a car, food, lights, heat BITE ME WASHINGTON GAS. She has toys and water and books and shoes. And I spend a lot of money on gas for both the house and the car that I use to drive her to shop at Claire’s in way too often because seriously just die, Claire’s.
But this all makes me think. Is it my doing? Or my not doing enough? We talked not long after her birthday about expectations and I explained that Christmas will be light on gifts this year. It’s not totally related to finances; part of it is because we’ve lost sight of the true meaning of the holiday and also I don’t want my children to be greedy giftmongers asking “is that it?” when all the gifts have been opened. I feel like I’m failing because I’d like her to be a bit more thankful for what she already has. I’d like her to realize that being “sad and angry” never got me the new big wheel or moon shoes I wanted. I am still bitter.
The more we talk, though, the more her elevenness is showing. She gets it. She still wants, but she doesn’t expect. She thinks visiting a shelter or donating toys is a great idea (except for Hungry Hungry Hippo because the orange hippo is missing and it only contains perhaps six balls).
Still, she gave me a list for Christmas. And again I can see a direct failure on my part. Just like her ignorance towards call-waiting, have I never taught this child the need for specificity when making a list? One cannot just say DSi games and expect one’s mother to walk into Target and choose. Because the mother will undoubtedly choose Scrabble and said child will never see the DSi again because QUIXOTRY. The iPod Touch is still in the running to become the next gadget promoting decreased attention to the outside world. Who knows? She just might win this time around.
Also, Tetris on the original PlayStation kicks ass still.