‘My children are spoiled to death’

Linda (51) did not celebrate with her children last Christmas. They preferred skiing – as a Christmas present that Linda and her ex were allowed to pay for. “I wanted to give my daughter and son a happy childhood, but I raised them to be spoiled young adults.”

Linda: “My eyes first opened when my daughter Lara was thirteen, over nine years ago. For months she had been nagging for a robotic pet, by the time December hit among the children’s toys. I had just gotten divorced, financially things were less rosy than Lara and her brother Ramon had been used to. I also thought she was a little old for the toys, she just finished high school. I found something similar at the wholesaler. From a different brand, and much cheaper. At first, Lara was over the moon when she unwrapped it on Christmas Eve. Until her younger nephew showed up with the real robot dog during the family’s Christmas dinner the next day. Envious, Lara tossed his into the corner, whereupon her father—who was still celebrating Christmas with us—was acutely embarrassed ordered the version I wanted. Shocked, I saw how it was the most normal thing in the world to him and Lara. She played with it three times in the following weeks, then it disappeared to the bottom of a trash can. And I knew: No matter where sweet and empathetic as they are, we have raised them to be spoiled, relaxed children.”

Luxury lifestyle

“It was initially a conscious choice that my ex Sytze and I brought up our children spoiled. We grew up quite poor ourselves. In happy families, but without room for extras such as holidays or a larger Christmas or birthday present. When Sytze and I got married, we were doing well financially. We both worked full time, earned well above average and lived accordingly. We traveled far, went out to dinner every week, bought what we liked. Our parents sometimes frowned, but in the meantime they enjoyed our luxuries just as much. We once gave my father a wireless sound system for his birthday, and Sytze’s mother got a new TV. We booked a weekend away for our parents to celebrate their wedding anniversary and if one of their phones broke we arranged a new one. It was possible, why should we let it be?
The fact that we had children changed a little in that respect. Our trips became very different, child-friendly instead of adventurous. Four-course dinners in restaurants turned into ice cream at the zoo with McDonald’s and with Sinterklaas the children could have a game console in their shoe – with the comment that Sinterklaas then had no money left to leave something by the fireplace four times a week to take away. Lara and Ramon didn’t know any better, this lifestyle was normal for them. And we gladly gave them that, we must have missed enough ourselves as children. “It’s okay to be spoiled, but once you start acting spoiled, it stops,” Sytze and I regularly told the kids. We mentioned that most of the other children had much less luxury at home and that having a lot of money was not obvious; you had to learn and work hard for it, and even then it was a matter of luck. Lara and Ramon nodded obediently to our sermons, knowing that their impenetrable Lego castle or electric racetrack was just waiting for them afterwards. They always let other children play with it; thank God they were generous in handing out what needed to be shared.”

Pamper

“Honestly, those sermons were primarily to ease our own consciences. Because Sytze and I could also have chosen to raise our children less spoiled. Being able to pay a lot doesn’t mean you really have to buy a lot; our lives could have been many times more sober. Our children probably wouldn’t have even noticed the difference, because then it would have been normal to them—our love was neither more nor less. Sytze and I found it above all pleasurable. Giving our children what their hearts desired , meant less hassle, and we didn’t want to compromise our luxurious lifestyle ourselves.
Now I’m on the blisters. Because when things had to be downsized after my divorce ten years ago, Lara and Ramon felt like I was taking something away from them. Life was more luxurious with their father, and because they only stayed every other weekend, they could do more. He contributed to their maintenance through child support, but for me it largely went towards things like rent, new children’s clothes and school fees, rather than evenings at the cinema and whole afternoons at a trampoline park for tens of thousands of euros – the life they are used to . goods. I compensated with pampering. As long as I gave them enough love, it didn’t matter, I thought. So I rarely sold them no, respected them in domestic duties and regularly went beyond my own limits. If I wanted to drive them to school in bad weather? Okay. An authorized absence notice when my daughter didn’t feel like training? Nice, honey. Almost every day was the sweet raid at our house, everyone was always allowed to eat and stay. Even when I was dead tired on Friday night after a week of work, worries and events, and I preferred to hang out on the couch instead of between a gang of chained teenagers taking over the house.”

Nothing to beat

“Fortunately, Lara took on more responsibility as she got older. At 14, she had all sorts of childcare addresses and her school grades were brilliant. Not that she intended to pay more with her self-earned money. Gifts for girlfriends or her father on her birthday, a new belt for those pants she so desperately needed; I could count on a puppy-eyed look and willingly pulled out my wallet. I deliberately closed my eyes to her endless debit card payments at fast food chains and the unremarkable makeup store.
Ramon had several problems with the new situation. He found it inconvenient that I was away from home more often because I had to work more and was disappointed when the very expensive designer pants he had settled on were too expensive for me. Not that they were going to give up like that. In practice, their father used to feed them when there was little extra in it for me. Our bond was, and still is, excellent. But in the meantime, my ex and I watch with sadness as our sprouts learned a little less from our upbringing than we imagined. Of course, they are empathetic, original young adults with their hearts in the right place. But they are spoiled to death. Ramon changed courses three times, partly at our expense, before he decided he just wanted to go to work. Four days a week because he also needed ‘time to himself’. No fighting for fifty hours to start the career, but ‘live your heart’ and ‘don’t get hired by a rotten system’ is what he wants. Something I quite agree with if you can afford it. But now my ex and I pay for his costs, because at the end of his money he always has a month left – and it must be snacked on without prejudice. Our children do not have driving licenses because after they both failed their theory test three times at our expense, Sytze and I decided that this should be a life lesson that they could pay for themselves.”

Also caring

“They’re 20 and 22 now. My daughter has recently moved in with her partner, most of their belongings come from Sytze’s and mine’s wallet. It’s your duty as parents, we think, and we’re happy to do it. But in the meantime Lara and her lover travel around the world.
My son recently moved in with his dad full time. He couldn’t bear to cook and contribute to household chores one night a week in addition to his four-day job, which I demanded he do. No different than if he lived by himself, but Mr. thought it was a hassle. At his father’s house, his new stepmother does the laundry and freezes food when he comes home from a night out with friends with a ‘hunger hit’. Meanwhile, Sytze and I haven’t gotten a present from our kids for our birthdays in years. The coupons that they hastily stuck together for me on the day itself, good for a night at the cinema or a day in the sauna, are piled up in a drawer, still not redeemed.”

Love is letting go

“Oddly enough, I call our band intimate. Because no matter how spoiled my children are with material things, they are also caring. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, Lara and Ramon were the ones who stood by my side day and night. Ramon refreshed my house by painting it from top to bottom, Lara cooked and texted my friends daily to update everyone on my recovery. Outsiders run away with them.
And yes, it is our own fault that our children are spoiled. Still, it hurt just as much when my kids announced that they would rather redeem their gifts for a ski trip without us here for Christmas. Sytze and I had actually offered it to them ourselves. During Friendsgiving, our version of the American Thanksgiving that we still celebrate together as a family – even though we’re divorced – thanks to my California grandmother’s roots, my ex gave it to our kids himself. The idea was actually for the four of us to go. A warm end to the ugly period of illness that is behind me. But Lara and Ramon took it as a license to ski for free without us – and who were we to argue?
So Christmas without my kids. Fortunately, I was invited by friends. And love lets go. And because of my illness, I know they are there for us even when we don’t ask for it. Still, I would love to put some pepper between the buttocks retroactively. So they learn to appreciate the value of money a little better and realize that holding on and not leaning on someone else is sometimes the only way to get something done. I’m sure it will be fine, at the end of the day most adults know how to keep their own pants up. With any luck, they’ll take us on a trip sometime when they realize how happy they were with us.”

Text: Jorinde Benner.
For reasons of privacy, all names have been changed, the real names are known to the editors.​​​​​​
Photo: Getty Images.

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