I want it now!

24 Nov


It’s nearly Christmas and as usual I’m skint. I’m rubbish with money so I have only myself to blame. In my world, cash comes out of the wall when I’ve got some and stops when I’ve run out. I’m not very good at budgeting and this means my children have grown accustomed to spaghetti hoops or beans on toast for supper for most of the latter half of each month.

My presents to the children will be small this year. This is partly to do with being broke, but also because, like most of their friends, my children have too much stuff. Hand me downs, presents from relatives, things bought from car-boots with their pocket money – most of it isn’t from me, but it’s still theirs and it’s mostly clutter. They are spoilt, not in the ‘Buy me this Moncler £600 ski suit for Val D’Isere mummy’ sort of way, but in the not knowing what it’s like to be given only one present for Christmas sort of way.

I was a spoilt child, a privileged country girl who thought estates only related to the homes of Dukes and Duchesses. When given my first pony aged eleven, I told my parents that I wanted another. With two mares to choose from, I eventually got bored of both and asked for them to be passed on to someone else who had parents with more money than sense.

At 17, not satisfied with the standard red Golf 1.4 I had been given I asked my mother if we could swap cars for a while. Hers had a turbo engine and, preferring the ride I never gave it back.

I am not proud of the fact that I was spoilt. It is quite embarrassing to admit that I was a crude mix of Veruca Salt and a poorer, chubbier Tamara Ecclestone. Most of my friends were like me, and we didn’t really think about ourselves as being particularly lucky or privileged.

Thankfully I did not carry my bad princess ways into adulthood. The onset of depression and then an all consuming eating disorder in my late teens took over my mind and body so entirely that the stroppy, spoilt, selfish behaviour was scared off.. I had behaved badly because I was allowed to, but in the years of gloom that followed I started to feel very detached from the person I had once been.

When I finally got my act together with some therapy and a short relationship with a kind boy I rustled up a couple of low grade A levels and was offered a place at a university Up North. No doubt it reeked of failure to my friends. Up North was a place I’d visited only in my imagination when reading an interview with Noel Gallagher in the NME. I’d once been in a school play that was set in Liverpool, but that was about it. When I arrived in Manchester, Up North was all that I’d imagined. The people, the accents, the fit Mancunian boys who looked like they could probably steal you a ride home if you asked. That was when I realised that in life there were a hell of a lot of people who had done perfectly well, if not much better than me, doing without.

I’m a mother now, and spoilt doesn’t really come into it. I feel spoilt if I go to have my roots done at the hairdressers. A bikini and upper leg wax and eyebrow shape is equally joyous. How I would have laughed if at fifteen I’d been told that one day I’d think of these things as luxuries. But now they are, and I’m luckier than lots of people I know to be able to afford these things. (I once tried a home wax kit and my gay best friend was called in to do the honours. He wasn’t a lover of fannies before, and he certainly wasn’t after the experience.)

I look at the things I had as a child and wonder whether children, in much the same way as restless adults, don’t really know what will make them happy so follow the lead and look to acquire more things. Looking back I probably just wanted a little bit more time ‘doing’ things with people than actually having things thrown at me. There is no simple solution to this either, as most people don’t have precious time on their hands. They’re too busy working and then spending the money they’ve earned.

Back to my children then. Obviously I won’t get away with just dusting off the thousands of bits of Lego dotted around my son’s room, repackaging it and handing it back to him wrapped up like new, but I could spend some time helping him to build something over Christmas. He’s always asking me. And although my daughter won’t think of my sorting of her existing nail polishes into a cool box her idea of being spoilt at Christmas, I’m sure she’d be happy to tie me to a chair and try out some new colours and designs on my nails. It’d be great to discover that my kids don’t care about stuff as much as I think they do.

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