Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Spoiling Kids

Orthomom posted about a sort of new trend for today's campers - Flying in private jets.

The article called "Jet Set Kids" talks about a new trend - many wealthy parents send their kids to camp by plane, often on private jets which serve special kid-friendly food, show kid-friendly movies, and sometimes even have in-air manicure service.

In general, I'm slightly put off by conspicuous consumption. However, when I really think about it, I try to be realistic. If I had oodles and oodles of cash pouring out of my ears, I would probably have my own indoor swimming pool, a maid, and lots of other nice things. I don't begrudge anyone who has more than me what they have. Really. (Which is not to say that I'd mind if they decided to share the wealth.)

But some things irk me. Especially when it comes to over-indulging children.

Children are fairly adaptable, and they develop expectations very early. These expectations carry through to adulthood.

I'm not big into camping. I never enjoyed it as a kid. This is probably because my dad used camping as an alternative to a motel when we were moving. I associate camping with long days, uncomfortable dirty bathrooms, going to bed early, waking up at the crack of dawn, packing the car, and moving on. Probably doesn't help much that we generally ate canned sardines while camping and my mom wasn't much of a camping fan.

Last year, when we went to the Israeli juggling festival, there was another family there who had brought five of their six kids. The kids love camping. They camp at these great festivals, they spend a lot of time with their parents and friends on camping trips. For them, camping is a no-stress time.

Hanging out with them was a big help for me. Especially because they'd thought to bring cooking supplies and food. Forgive me my obsession with all things edible, but there is only so long that one can live on gefilte fish and matza, especially when there isn't even any horseradish. Anyway, after a batch of matza brei and grilled veggies (they're vegetarians), my whole view of camping was radically improved. Add in the early morning swim in a natural stream with my husband, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

When we camped in Ireland, I was a lot more positive about the experience as a whole. We still didn't quite manage to get the food right, but we did a lot better, the shower experience was less than perfect, but Yaakov and I had a lot of one-on-one time, there were fun things to do every day, and we had a really nice time. (also helped that we brought an air mattress. When I sleep well, everything's much better).

So... back to the point... When you're a kid, what you're exposed to is what you learn to expect. If your parents think you're too good to ride the camp bus, then how will you manage if you need to ride a bus? Not to mention the loss of the experience.

I personally only went to sleepaway camp once, and it was in Israel (so yes, I did take a plane to camp.) The flight was a terrible experience. I was accidentally placed in a totally different section of the plane than the rest of the group, and the guy sitting next to me decided to tell me his whole life story, including showing me the scars from a suicide attempt... but that's another story... the point is that if the camp arranges a bus full of campers going up to camp, it's a great experience.

When I was at camp, we did loads of touring, and we spent some great times on the bus. Our tour guide was so much fun that we waited expectantly for the days he was on our bus (there were three busses and we only had a guide some of the days). We played games on the bus, talked, got to know each other, and just generally had a nice time. The camp made sure that we had a stop every 2 hours or so, even if it was just a bathroom break. Some of my best times that summer were on the bus.

Why would a parent want to spend lots of money to take away a great experience? Do these parents expect to be able to ALWAYS pay for their children to take the plane instead of the bus?
I confess that I did kinda put my foot down about going round-trip Philadelphia-Toronto by bus, but I was 3 months pregnant at the time...and we certainly didn't take a private jet. I also insisted on taking the train rather than the bus for the JFK to Philadelphia trip.

I guess what I want to know is what will these kids do when they encounter the real world, which does include three-hour bus rides, and doesn't always include great in-flight entertainment. Will these kids realize that you can pack a book and a walkman (sorry, an Ipod) and manage even on a squishy, unpleasant bus ride?

I once had a girl tell me that it was "humiliating" to ride on a bus. Not uncomfortable, not unpleasant, but humiliating. I was in absolute shock, especially as someone who has easily taken hundreds of hours of bus rides, if not thousands... I understand people who think that busses are unpleasant, especially if you have to switch buses or sit next to people with less than ideal hygeine... I certainly thought it was unpleasant when I had to take a 7am bus to get to a 10am class b/c there wasn't a later bus...

Anyway, there was a point to all this... oh yes, my point is that it isn't the conspicuous consumption that bugs me about this new trend. It's the message it sends and the precedent it sets for these children.



RR said...

I was also shocked when I read that post- what a ridiculous waste of money! My kids and I might go to the US this summer, and tickets for the 4 of us won't cost as much as one of those chartered flights to camp!

SephardiLady said...

I'm in agreement. It just isn't a good idea to accustom children to a life that they will not be able to maintain as adults. A large beautiful home that is nicely appointed is far different that other extravagances.