A reader writes that her friends "recently spent around $300 on their daughter's birthday party - her first. They bought lots of stuff to entertain their young guests and extended family. The child, a baby, obviously had no clue what was going on. I should mention that the parents are struggling to make ends meet." She asks for my take on this.
As my readers know - or should know - I am a psychologist. That qualifies me to determine and assign psychological diagnoses. As such, it seems obvious to me that these parents suffer from a now-commonplace parenting malady known as just plain nuts. Throwing a lavish party for an infant is one sign of this psychological impairment. Other tell-tale symptoms include taking an infant or toddler to Disney World, incurring major debt to make sure kids have a "happy" (as in, over-the-top) Christmas, buying a brand-new, high-dollar car for a 16-year-old, going to starregistry.com and having a star named after a child, and taking kids along on a second honeymoon.
Another reader tells me that she knows of a couple who sent their 18-year-old daughter to France for two weeks as a high school graduation present. That's rather extravagant, but it does not qualify as just plain nuts. What does, however, is that they also paid for the daughter's 20-year-old boyfriend to go with her. It seems they had arranged for the two of them to have separate hotel rooms and had made them promise they would not sleep together. As Ace Ventura, Pet Detective would surely say, "All righty then!"
Then there are the parents who celebrated their son's graduation from kindergarten (yes, and believe it or not, there was a full ceremony with caps and gowns, much shedding of tears and a huge party afterwards) by taking him to LEGOLAND in Windsor, England, which happens to be the biggest of the six worldwide LEGOLAND parks. Now, I happen to think LEGO makes the best play materials in the known universe, but taking a 5-year-old to England to celebrate his graduation from kindergarten definitely qualifies as just plain nuts. Can you imagine what these parents are going to have to do when he graduates from elementary school? I hate to even imagine his high school graduation present. A ride on a space shuttle, perhaps?
Hiring a popular boy band to sing at a child's birthday party, buying a child an airplane as a high school graduation gift, giving a girl a $30,000 diamond bracelet for her 13th birthday - the list goes on. Even parents who can hardly afford stuff like this are doing stuff like this. To put this in perspective, my high school graduation gift from my parents was $50. A friend's parents bought him a brand-new Pontiac GTO. Guess whose parents were just plain nuts?
If you're having difficulty figuring that out, consider that a month later, my friend blew the GTO's engine while drag-racing, and I still had at least $25.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions at his website, www.parentguru.com.