Wii gotta have it this Christmas

Are We There Yet?Charla BelinskiGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Charla Belinski

“Mom, it’s just so not fair,” my daughter pouted as she hopped in the van after school. I just love when a conversation starts this way.

“What’s so not fair?””I’m like the only girl in school without anything electric.””You mean electronic?” I ventured, wisely not pointing out, say, the alarm clock in her room or the hair dryer. “I mean like I’m like the only person who doesn’t have a cell phone, or an iPod, or a laptop.”Seriously? In the entire fourth grade my daughter is the only girl in this unfortunate minority? I wonder if it’s because we, her parents, are so technologically un-savvy ourselves that we have a 10-year-old stereo which plays only one CD at a time, neither of us owns our own MP3, and we certainly don’t know how to work a TV remote if it has more than three options: channel, volume and power.

I consider this possibility for a moment but I can’t escape the nagging notion that it is something far more serious and sinister: social status.And nobody knows social status these days better than Santa’s helpers: the Sunday circulars. This time of year, as our mailboxes are filled to bursting with glossy catalogs and our newspapers bulge with big-box advertisements, it’s easy to see where we in the United States get our consumer mentality. Shopping is our birthright. I think we’d all agree that the long-term happiness we derive from our purchases is pitifully short and leaves us clamoring for the next rung on the ladder of social status. Yet clamor we do, certain that happiness itself must be a gadget.But part of the problem of gift-giving is the parenting itself. There’s a kind of zeal evident in today’s parenting that I certainly don’t recall in my childhood. We register at the finest preschools before Junior is even born; we give trophies to every kid on the playing field and awards to every kid in the class; we fill out college applications for our high schoolers and hire tutors to help them ace the ACT. So it’s small wonder that we approach gift-giving with the same kind of determination. We are unwavering in our attempts to buy that special something that will describe exactly how much we love our kids and how hip we are to have bought it. Yes, nothing says “I love you” like Wii do. I’m not particularly worried about the state of my kids’ well-being based on their lack of “electronics.” Nor am I concerned about my best friend who lavishes new gadgets on her kids with great frequency (though even she draws the line at some point). What bothers me is the “want it because everyone else has it” state of mind.

My daughter’s perception of what “everyone” has is directly related to what “she” thinks is cool. Hence the social status. A random survey of fourth-grade parents would reveal that precisely three kids in her class have cell phones, three truly have their own laptop as opposed to using Mom or Dad’s, and a small handful have some version of an iPod, be it handed down or gifted from Grandma. Clearly, I’m not the only mom who doesn’t believe her child’s happiness lies in the latest technology. Or the biggest gift.Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure our presents would elicit the screams of delight and dances of joy we all love on Christmas morning. It’s just that the minute the neighbors gather on the sledding hill for some post-Christmas fun, the comparisons begin anew and this year’s gift is already “so last year.”But be patient. The Sunday circulars arrive in a few days. Charla Belinski is still perusing the glossy ads in search of that certain something to put under the tree. If you find it, contact her at Charla’s columns appear in the Post Independent every other Sunday.

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