I don’t actually think about her very often, but every once in awhile, I wonder how Paris Hilton got to be the way that she is. Having never met her, I don’t have any actual knowledge of the person that she is. She could be an intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working woman who also happens to be a celebrity. Maybe she is so smart that she is purposely projecting the image of being a vapid, self-obsessed spoiled brat because that is what our cult of celebrity appears to value and she is just using that to her advantage. But she probably isn’t.
I bring this up because I frequently wonder why the heck did her parents let her get this way? The Hilton family has a lot of money, but surely they could have spent some time raising her right and making sure she didn’t become spoiled by all of the family affluence? When I think about having millions upon millions of dollars, I know that I would put both Hannah and Amelia on an allowance, make them do chores around the house, get summer jobs and so forth to make sure that they learned the value of hard work and making their own way in the world.
But lately, I have been thinking that it is not that simple. More and more I worry that I am spoiling my children (and not just because my good friend, Transformer Generation Dad, posted a similar thought recently).
Earlier this week, I spent the day at home with Hannah when she had a day off. Part of our day was spent cleaning her room. It was recently her birthday and she once again was very blessed to have received an inordinately large amount of presents. In fact, while we were cleaning her room she commented about how much stuff she had. She actually became distraught that she had too much stuff to fit in her room. I became distraught when I took a trip down memory lane, putting away various presents from the past and not being sure if any of them got the use that they deserved because they quickly got pushed to the back of the line by the newest present, only to pushed aside by something else then something else and yet something else.
From there, I started thinking about other things in Hannah’s life. There are probably some things we should be pushing Hannah to do, but I often think that she is “too young” or “not ready” to do. She can’t ride a bike yet, she can’t tie her shoes yet, she probably should be reading better and she should probably do a better job of paying attention in church. But every time we work on these tasks, there is some push back and I feel like in the end, I give in saying that “she isn’t read” and “maybe I am asking too much of her” because “I don’t want her to be discouraged by failing”.
For example, there are many times when we go to read something. She knows some words, but often she comes a cross a word she doesn’t know. For at least 6 months, I feel like we have been working on sounding out words. But when she comes across that word she doesn’t know, she mostly gives up. Sometimes she does it, but most times she half-heartedly gives an effort and usually shuts down completely. When this happens, I push her for a little bit, she pushes back and then I sort of feed her the answers and sound it out for her. Was this the right thing to do or not? Sometimes I feel like it is because it was a difficult word, but sometimes I think it’s a cop out on my part. One of the things I love about my dad was his ability to teach me things by letting me figure it out on my own. I try to do that, but it just doesn’t work out.
Same thing with riding the bike. Not that we have done it all that often this summer, but the few times we tried it, it was an abject failure. The lessons usually end in a lot of tears and bruising (and that is just me!) and so for most of the summer, I avoided doing this. I chalked it up to the fact that even though there are other girls her age zipping around the neighborhood on two-wheel bikes, Hannah just isn’t ready. Being right there on the front line, I can clearly see it. She is too nervous to go fast enough to keep on balance and she doesn’t pay attention to the task at hand to avoid trouble. I have thought that by pushing it off to next summer that I was doing her a favor. She would be more physically mature/coordinated enough to be successful plus the traumas of this summer would be far enough behind her that she would be more than willing to get on the bike and try again. Or maybe I am just spoiling her by letting her whine and cry her way out of what she doesn’t want to do.
Even Amelia is not immune to my ineptitudes. Up until she was 13 months, she woke up at least once a night (sometimes twice) to feed. Even though I as a pediatrican was pretty sure that she didn’t actually need to do this and that her sleep cycle had become programmed to do this anyway, it took a visit to her official pediatrician to actually confirm this. It happened because in the middle of the night, I was tired and the easiest and fastest way to get her back to sleep was to feed her.
The thing that strikes me about all of these cases (and countless unnamed others) is that they started out so innocently. I didn’t start out thinking I am going to take the easy way out for myself or one of my children. It was just one day at a time doing what you think is good enough. Then all of a sudden you look back, and your child has you wrapped around their finger a few months later. Not one of those days did I wake up thinking “I am going to be a bad parent and spoil my child today.” And yet, it happens. I guess the key is that I figured it out eventually and made some corrections. And we are probably all the better for it. Well maybe not everybody. I’m still not sure how humanity feels about Paris Hilton being unleashed upon the world.