Today, I took my daughter Natalie to get her photos taken for ballet. She’s 4 years old.  I told my husband we should place bets on how much it will cost us to order these photos.  We had to pay $125 for her costume.  We’ve already shelled out $33/head to attend her recital.  Considering her class’ performance will last 2 minutes at most, that works out to 55 cents/second.  At that ridiculous rate, we opted not to invite her grandparents.  And we also decided not to buy a ticket for Natalie – a child had to be 3 or under to be eligible for the discount admission.  It doesn’t help that the recital is taking place at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, who I’m sure get a nice cut of the price of admission.  There were also make-up requirements for the recital, including eyeliner and mascara.  I will say it again: she’s 4 years old and no, she is not with the National Ballet of Canada.

I hate to sound like a parent, but “Back in my day…”:

  • There were no photos taken by a professional photographer
  • My mom had to sew my costumes
  • Admission to the recital was maybe $10
  • The recital was held in a high school auditorium
  • I’m quite certain make-up was not even allowed when I was 6 or 7 years old.

There is so much pressure on parents today to coddle their kids.  There has been a shift over the past couple of decades toward excessively recognizing the simplest of accomplishments.  We have graduation ceremonies for pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school… News flash: if my kid can’t finish elementary school, I’ve got bigger problems.

My husband pointed out that much of this pressure to over-reward is now profit-driven.  As a result of this excess preening over our kids, businesses have pounced on this opportunity to challenge our self-esteem and our self-worth as parents; my ballet recital experience is proof positive. 

But what message are we sending our kids?  “Congratulations, Stevie, you mastered 2 plus 2; let’s rent a hall for a party!”  If we really think our kids can be anything they want to be, shouldn’t we set the bar high and make them work for it?  Look, I’m as guilty as any of today’s parents.  I feel assaulted and weakened by all the marketing messages that prey on my parenting self-worth and make me question many of my parenting choices.  But I certainly don’t espouse the values and parenting principles of “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua.  As with all things in life, there is a balance: the yin and the yang.  Finding it through the process of parenting is one of the greatest discovery experiences in life.