Welcome back to Parental Advisory, where I answer all of your social media and IRL parenting etiquette questions. This week, let's talk about spoiling kids on Easter.
I'm childfree, but I have nephews and nieces who I love spending time with anytime I can. They're great kids. But something about the way my sister and her husband celebrate Easter has been bugging me. I know it's not my place to judge, but every year they seem to be spoiling their two kids and treating Easter more like it's Christmas. I guess it's trendy now for people to give their kids bigger gifts on Easter and not just the standard "regular"-sized straw basket with a few eggs and some chocolate, but the older they get, the harder it is to spend that holiday with them (which is a tradition in our family) because it feels kind of gluttonous. Another sister doesn't give her kids the same amount of toys, books, candy, etc., and even though I'm glad she doesn't, it feels like my other sister and her husband are showing off and creating an imbalance when we all get together. Growing up, we each got one basket on Easter, and we didn't get any fancy toys or new bikes. I'm not sure why she's choosing to spoil her kids on this day, of all days? It's totally beside the point of the holiday.
Do you think I should talk to my sister about it, or just find a way to skip Easter for the rest of my life? ;) I don't want to tell her what to do, but after seeing all the crap she gets her kids for Christmas on Facebook, I don't want to spend another Easter watching them open a pile of presents. I think my other sister feels the same way, but she won't talk to her about it, and my mother says she won't get involved, so I'm the only one left to say something. Do you think I should? Thanks!
Happy early Easter, E.! You are not alone in your sentiments. As you mentioned, for several years now, parents have been purchasing more and more Easter gifts for their kids. Because this is a topic I feel I know well — having written about it a few times in the past — I'll just hop right into it. Parents are giving their kids more crap for Easter because social media has shown us that new standards dictate new norms. If the new standard is posting pictures of piles of presents and chocolate on Easter, then the new norm becomes parents filling inflatable pools with presents and chocolate on Easter. This is my No Parents Left Behind theory, and social media is the engine that fuels it. With that said, there has been some backlash to the showy overabundance on Easter, so it's possible that this is just a fad, and parents will one day return to their senses.
Whichever Pinterest mom came up with the inflatable pool Easter basket idea couldn't possibly have predicted the impact that her terrible — and oh so American — idea would have on a multitude of parents. I don't know what it is about the resurrection of Christ that has parents racing out to purchase new iPads, bikes and enough chocolate to feed every starving child in Somalia, but unless parents are giving away all of that garbage to kids whose parents can't even afford a box of Peeps, they have earned my wrath. Teaching kids that Easter is a day of luxuriating in consumerism and tasty treats is so gross, it'd be like if McDonald's "sponsored" Passover for Jews. There's a massive disconnect between the significance of the holiday and the way many parents are now choosing to celebrate it, and what it appears to come down to is the idea that "the kids deserve it" and "no one can tell anyone else how to parent their child."
Of course Sarah is going to post some pics. What would Easter — a day that traditionally involves giving kids a simple basket and hosting an egg hunt — be without posting pictures of brag-worthy mountains of "loot"? I've even gotten one STFU, Parents submission in which a mom gloats about filling her first-grader's plastic eggs with $20 bills. Don't parents know that's unnecessary? Don't they realize that this clamoring for gifts will only result in the further commercialization of Easter? Soon, we'll have a Black Friday-style sale-a-thon for Easter too, and grown men in bunny suits will be featured in ads for Nintendo and Samsung, making kids think that's what Easter is all about. It's egg-sessive (I'm sorry), and it's just not right.
I'm not suggesting that parents can't give their kids the occasional big item on a special day, but why link it to Easter? Why not give a kid a new bike for getting good grades or for volunteering in his community? The only reason I can come up with as to why parents are dumping a load of gifts on their kids on Easter is because they want to keep up with the Joneses and they don't want their kids to have any less than even the most spoiled brats in their newsfeeds. This is what concerns me about your sister, E. Not only does she time things so her kids open all of their presents in front of family members (as opposed to when they wake up, prior to meeting with family), but some of those relatives are other kids who could be jealous, hurt or confused by the consumerist showing of affection to their cousins by their aunt and uncle. It doesn't set a great precedent for future Easters to come.
It would be lovely if parents stuck to the traditional small-ish/medium-size Easter basket, but currently, we're stuck with inflatable pools, rafts, umbrellas, golf carts and whatever else parents decide to fill with disposable junk until overdoing it on Easter is no longer fashionable. I don't know if it's a stellar idea, or even an effective one, for you to confront your sister, E., but I'm not going to say you shouldn't address this issue in some way. Usually, I believe that with great risk comes great reward, but that motto doesn't apply to telling parents what they're doing wrong. It would be hard for you to convince your sister that spoiling her kids is detrimental to their development, so instead, if you do decide to discuss this with her, maybe focus on your other niece(s) and nephew(s) and ways she can avoid making a big show of opening Easter gifts.
Maybe you don't even need to crucify her; just ask her if, for this year, you can focus on food, family and the egg hunt and not set aside time to open presents. You can probably make this happen in part by truncating the time you spend with family this year — either by arriving late, or by leaving early — and explaining that you have a limited amount of time and want to make the most of it. You can also set a good example by only getting your nieces and nephews small, Easter-appropriate gifts/chocolate (and/or making gifts by hand) and making sure they're divided equally. You can even bring up the origins of Easter and discuss what the holiday is about, whether the kids open gifts from their parents in front of you or not. Just because they're wading in toys and clothes doesn't mean they can't pay attention to what the holiday signifies. And as an aunt who's involved in their lives, you still have an opportunity to transmit holiday-appropriate messaging, even if your sister and her husband are more fixated on spoiling their kids with goodies.
Good luck, and don't be afraid to bunny-hop someplace else when the time is right! There's nothing wrong with wanting to celebrate Easter without feeling like you're drowning in gluttony. Just don't forget to take some chocolate rabbits for the road.
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