What's wrong with splashing out on your child?
In defence of spoiling your kids rotten once a year
Is it just me?
'Spoilt little brats', we all crow, dismissively - flicking through the Argos catalogue for bargains and buying goodie bag toys in bulk from Poundland.
But aren't we being just a teeny bit hypocritical? We love to criticise, but are we ordinary people – people with real jobs who don't drink Cristal from diamond slippers on a Tuesday in January – any less guilty of 'spoiling' our children?
In my local Co-op last Christmas, the sales assistant told me she had spent £500 on her child's Christmas presents (money that she surely couldn't have earned from a part time job on the till) and was complaining that by Boxing Day, all he wanted to do was watch the TV.
I felt sorry that she felt the need to create such an unsustainable level of indulgence. Every year from now on, she'll be a desperate bankrupt wreck spending money on stuff he doesn't care about or even want. Nobody wins.
Surely spoiling kids is the very definition of futility.
But then...you know, she's doing it because she loves him. And they ARE our children. I mean, they're the light of our lives, we made them, they're our reason to be. Is it so wrong to be a bit extravagant? When it comes to birthday parties, Christmas, new experiences and days out, aren't we all a little bit tempted to go overboard to make our kids happy?
As a rule, I don't indulge my child, but I'll splash out happily to make him smile – with the Super Mario Wii that's hiding in the cupboard waiting for Christmas morning. Anyway, the alternative could be even more damaging. Surely offering them a cardboard box to play in isn't the answer, unless you want them to yearn for the crappiest toys in the toyshop, and develop a materialistic streak in adulthood, trying to claw back what they felt was lacking in their youth.
Su Forrester-Brown, a former child protection social worker turned MD of party organisation company Birthday Dreams, organises bespoke parties for everyone from Joe Bloggs to children of Russian families who work in banking. Having seen the dark side of bad parenting, she thinks that it's vital to create a sense of occasion and treat your kids.
"I saw so much misery in my old job. If we don't take care of our children and give them a bit of fun, who will? Birthdays are a celebration of life, and even in this time of austerity, people want something lovely going on for their children... And when you add it up, a memorable party costs the same as a buying a packet of cigarettes every day."
The problem is, though, that saving your fag money to provide a generous gesture for your children doesn't always hit the mark. Most kid's bedrooms contain an expensive purchase that went awry.
"I spend so much money on Lego," says Emmelina. "£60 and 5 Mum hours later and you have a Star Wars Tie fighter that lasts approximately 2 days before a football hits it."
"I bought my daughter a Kenzo Junior stripy bodysuit when she was about six months," says Anna. "I was staying at my mum's, got up, fed her, got her dressed and then went up to have a shower. By the time I came back down she had thrown up over it and was in a new outfit.
"For her third birthday I bought her a turquoise velvet chong-sam with matching maribou-trimmed shrug from Jigsaw Junior. (Don't judge.) She wore it to her party, ground chocolate into it and then I had to get it dry cleaned. Her younger brother, of course, wears H&M."
Not only can an extravagant purchase get a lukewarm reaction from your child, but you might also have to consider the reaction of other parents, who can make you wish you hadn't bothered splashing out at all. An extravagant purchase can be easily misinterpreted as serial spoiling, and get you the reputation that your kid is some kind of special little flower, who only drinks Evian and has a pony.
"My daughter got a Pandora bracelet for her 7th birthday, which some people sneered at, and I bought my kids an iPad 2 for Christmas," says Gemma. "I got lots of grief from other parents about it."
But whether it's a £700 trip to Lapland to see Santa or a weekend in Egypt to support a primary school project, when most parents 'spoil' their children what they're really trying to show them is that they're making an effort. That we love them.
Apart from the bank balance, there's no real difference between Wayne Rooney getting One Direction to play at little Kai's birthday party and the decision to go on holiday to Disneyland Paris – 'for the kids.'
And the more effort you make, the more likely that experience will be appreciated forever.
Novelist Joanne Harris, author of the best selling Chocolat, once pulled some strings to get a manuscript of the third Harry Potter story for her six-year-old daughter, three months before it came out. "I recorded it onto audiotape as a Christmas present," she says, "Every day in the back bedroom when she was at school. It took AGES. She opened it at Christmas and vanished with it for a week."
Extravagant, yes. But also wonderful. And if we can go the extra mile to create some happy memories for our children, why shouldn't we?
What do you think? Tell us your 'worst' extravagances - the ones that really weren't worth it - and the best?