Monday, November 15, 2010

The Greedy Generation

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the young generation is not Gen X or Gen Y. They're Gen G - The Greedy Generation....

When we were kids, we got new clothes and gifts twice a year - Birthdays and Diwali (Christmas or Onam for some perhaps)... It was great because we'd revel in the toy, look after it and actually play with it for more than a few hours. We also wore those 'special' clothes on special occasions - a party or temple festival or wedding.

Our parents on the other hand didn't get gifts at all. Not for occasions at least. "Weddings?" I once asked my mother and she said, "NO". Once a year her father would go to the market and buy a couple of hundred meters of white cloth that would be used to make salwar kameez and slips for the older girls, petticoats for the women, sheets for the beds, pyjamas for the boys and even kurtas for the elderly gentlemen of the family.

Similarly, a couple of hundred meters of striped cloth was used to make underpants for the boys and men. Shirts were stitched for all the boys from the same cloth and so too for the girls. Weddings were rarely occasions for spending money on clothes.

Gifts were a rarity. A sugar candy here and there, or samosas from the neighbourhood halwai when guests dropped by - thats it. She recalls playing gilli danda with her friends, climbing trees, plucking guavas or mangoes from the neighbour's tree or ganging up with cousins to catch frogs, walk along the fields etc. Toys didn't exist.

Of course! We're happy that we don't live in that age anymore (although it does sound like a LOT of fun!)

But the G Gen today needs no "occasion" for clothes or gifts it seems; they just need an excuse.

Everyday is a celebration! goes a famous ad. And the Gen G is taking the concept very very seriously.

Kids want gifts for Birthdays, and Diwali (along with the new clothes), Mother's Day, Father's Day, Sister's Day, Raksha Bandhan, Christmas, New Years and Children's Day! (I apologise if I've left out other occasions - but the ones mentioned here are most popular with my children.) The piece of cake was when my daughter wanted a gift for Holi!

The toys we buy them become 'old' in a matter of hours and the recently purchased by-all-standards-expensive clothes are worn even for the regular 'going-down-to-play' sessions.

Recently I put my foot down and declined my children a Diwali gift or a gift on Children's Day. I am the 'worst' mom around for now.

I know we've done our fair bit of spoiling them - giving into unreasonable demands just to pamper them and sometimes giving into demands to cover up the guilt of working too hard, being an absentee parent, or neglecting 'quality' time on most week days.

But sometimes we've also given into their demands because the peer pressure is too much - peer pressure from parents I mean....those parents who use SMS as a tool to remind us of how precious our daughter is (on the eve of Daughter's Day) and how we should show our love by buying her something she will appreciate!

Phew! Its tough to compete with a parent who has gifted their child something and yours comes home sulking because you didn't think Son's Day was so important!

I don't fear being at the receiving end of our kids' wrath or feelings when we deny them something. On the contrary, I believe that our children will love us because we are by and large reasonable parents who don't abuse them physically or emotionally and we do love them unconditionally...

I am certain they will love us too (especially after they've had one or two of their own when they will recognise our value - just as we did after we became parents... Yes! History does often repeat itself in this matter...)

What I really fear for are those moments of weakness and indulgence when we do give into their frivolous and unreasonable demands and often willingly even grant them the moon. I fear that we are making materialistic monsters out of them.

Long ago I read of how Sudha Murthy of Infosys fame taught her children that they could get something new if they gave something away....I wasn't inspired to try it until recently when I realised that my children have more toys than they can handle, more clothes than they wear and more demands than we can fulfill.

I made a beginning when we were moving homes and although the 11 year old could part with some stuff, the 7 year old clung on to his possessions.

And I could sense a 'generation' gap between 11 and 7!
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