Monday, December 03, 2007

What's Wrong With a little Spoiling?

“She’s so spoiled, there’s nothing for me, as a grandmother, to do,” my mother told me daily during my parents’ long-weekend visit. She means that I hold my daughter until she falls asleep, then I place her in her bed and, if she wakes up, pick her up after 15 minutes and try the whole thing again. Plus, any time she wakes up after midnight, I take her into bed with me.

Part of it is pragmatic—we live in a one-bedroom apartment and it’s just the two of us. So what good would it do me to lie in my bed listening to her cry for an hour and a half?

Part of it is—well, why not? I’m not sharing a bed with anyone else, so if that’s what my daughter prefers, I can deal. I’m not doing it for me, as I sleep much better alone.

But the visit made me wonder, what does it mean to “spoil” a child? I’m not talking about being a helicopter parent, doing everything for my daughter so she never learns to take care of herself. I’m talking about co-sleeping, dressing, feeding and being with my daughter attentively, instead of just treating her as a chore to be accomplished. Showing her she can count on others for comfort sometimes; she needn’t count only on herself.

As long as my baby is thoughtful, has a loving personality, and is a good person, as long as she is not self-centered, why not?

My mother says I am making things harder for myself, and I suppose I am. But she had four children, then three more, and a husband, so I understand how she’d need to be as efficient as possible.

And yet, during the day, my daughter doesn’t cry when she wants attention, she pulls up to me and stares at me until I look up. Then she smiles. She’s got great interpersonal skills already.

Yes, I’m independent. I paid my own tuition in college, lived and worked in four different countries. I can change a car’s alternator, the oil, build a table, sew a dress, and speak several languages. I don’t rely on others for much of anything. And here I am, a mother by myself.

I’m not a psychologist or anything, but it seems to me in retrospect, a little interdependence wouldn’t be so bad.

When I look at my girlfriends who profess to have been “spoiled,” I notice a huge difference between my life and theirs. One was raised by a single mother and her grandparents. She slept with her mother until she was about 6. Her husband now massages her every night and tucks her into bed. That’s what she’s used to.

I was telling this to another friend, who became indignant that her husband doesn’t give her a nightly massage, because her parents did. But her indignation was interrupted by a phone call from her husband—would she mind if they took a helicopter to the top of a glacier and then hiked around the glacier during the trip to New Zealand he was booking for her?

Both of these women were very generous, thoughtful, wonderful people. I’ve never heard them say anything negative about anyone. If they are the products of “spoiling,” then sign my daughter up.

Of course, having been spoiled doesn’t guarantee one a happy-ever-after life. But from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t hurt. I’d be thrilled if my treatment of my daughter taught her how to make others want to pamper her a little.


Anonymous said...

I went through this with my mother. I always said you can spoil them by loving them too much. I too would allow my daughter to fall asleep on me and would place her in bed with me if she awoke. The only downfall that I saw was her inability to get herself back to sleep when she woke up. I never felt allowing her to cry was beneficial to anyone. I feel we have a closer bond and better relationship because of all the love and attention I gave her from day one.
She is now 15 years old and comes to me with everything and anything.

I say, good for you. You and your daughter will benefit greatly.

Maya said...


mother in israel said...

Your hard work now will pay off later. This is the time to invest in your children.