Born with a silver spoon

We all want our kids to have everything they need, and a little extra, too. But are we doing them any favours by splurging on designer clothes, toys and furniture?

By Sandra E. Martin
Born with a silver spoon

According to a report in the London Daily Mail, new parents Jay-Z and Beyoncé have spent the equivalent of $1.5-million Canadian on their daughter, Ivy Blue, lavishing her with a a gold rocking horse (not that she's even sitting up yet, let along able to enjoy it), a princess coach bed and a high-chair (not that she's ready for solids) decorated with Swarovski crystals.

Comments have been pouring in from around the world, ranging from the snarky tto the disgusted. "annenurse" from the United States said, "Should be fun cleaning apple sauce out of those crystals."

"JB" from Canada quipped, "Suri is going to be sooooooo jealous!" — a dig at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes's notoriously fashionista child.

Others were more concerned and critical. "How stupid and ignorant can you be, all a baby wants is to be phyiscally close and cared for by its [sic] mother, all this bling just makes them feel good," noted a reader from Nottingham.

At least one commenter, from the UK, came to the couple's defence, saying, "although I don't exactly agree a Swarovski covered high chair is the best thing to spend money on, I don't agree with the comments I read like 'the money should be spent on third world countries.' Beyoncé and Jay-Z give enormous amounts to charity, surely you can't expect them to give every penny they've earned? Having a baby is an exciting thing, let them splash out on their baby a little bit, I know if I had the [sic] type of money I would probably spend it on daft stuff now and again!"

I get where the motivation comes from. Having been raised by hard-working parents, my siblings and I always had plenty (maybe too much!) to eat, new running shoes from back-to-school every September and warm winter coats. We were well cared for and happy. But there was never enough money to indulge the toys and trends we saw on some of our friends. Grade six was the year of Polo Ralph Lauren plaid shirts paired with Roots sweat pants, rolled at the bottom to show off spanking-new desert boots. None for me, and I understood it was because my parents couldn't afford designer duds. But I still felt a pang when I saw how stylishly preppy my friends looked next to my discount department store self. 

My parents' lessons rubbed off, and now I'm a frugal adult. When Bronwyn was born — the first grandchild on my side of the family — we shopped around for a good deal on a good quality, but not lavish crib. We painted the room ourselves, I sewed the curtains for the window myself, and we repurposed a dresser we already had for our daughter's use.

Today, my kids don't want for anything, but I'm conscious of keeping their expectations realistic. Yet, the comparisons are already blatantly visible. When I drop Bronwyn off at ballet, there's a sea of top-of-the-line Spyder and North Face winter jackets, "real" Uggs (as Bronwyn calls them; most kids at her school have synthetic knockoffs) and Lululemon wear.

As a parent, I want my kid to fit in. But I don't want her to grow up taking money for granted. So, yes, I did buy her a Bench jacket as a special splurge, to celebrate a stellar report card. No, I did not buy her Uggs, but I did buy her a pair of $60 Emu sheepskin boots, because she can wear her ballet slippers under them (the students aren't allowed to walk around outside of a dance studio in just their canvas slippers, for safety reasons, which is why the Uggs are so popular), and because the grocery-store knockoffs she had a couple years ago literally disintegrated and were not at all warm.

I don't claim to have the "right" answer, but it feels like a decent balance for my family and my budget. And even if I had wads of cash to spend and not miss on my kids, I'd like to think I wouldn't go over the top. I'd like to think I'd do exactly what I do now.

What's your approach? Is a new baby an occasion to splash out in celebration — or is that just a waste of money?

Photo by Pink Poppy Photography via Flickr

This article was originally published on Jan 16, 2012

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