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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Search of Backpack Bling

My Tongginator? Started trying to keep up with the Jones' at the tender age of five. It all began with a single key chain hanging from the backpack of one of the Tongginator's classmates. The other children girls spotted said key chain within 0.3 seconds of its school debut a couple of weeks after Christmas. The Tongginator came home that day chattering all about the importance of Backpack Bling.

My child? Might truly grow up to become a lawyer. Or a lobbyist. Or a professional con artist. Whatever. She began interrogating me before we even walked through our front door that long ago January afternoon. And oh, how her excitement grew as I continued to agree with her. Yes, that sounded very exciting. Yes, she could personalize her backpack in such a way if it was important to her. Yes, the school allowed such things as long as the objects were deemed safe. Yes, she could get started right away.

And then... screeeeech.

The Mac Truck that is the Tongginator slammed to an abrupt stop.

Because no, Momma wasn't going to actually PAY for any of that.

My poor, poor Tongginator. Stuck with a Mean Momma who refuses to help her start down the path of competitive materialism. But the Tongginator? She got a-plotting. And within 48 hours, she found three objects in the house - belonging to her - that could be re-purposed as Backpack Bling. Then a Tinkerbelle keychain showed up in her Easter basket. A few weeks later, she purchased - with her own money - a Terracotta Warrior key chain during our Terra FAIL outing. AND she somehow conned a slightly older friend into making a beaded key chain for her.

(Just call her Tom Sawyer, y'all.)

Of course all of this? Doesn't even compare to the bling the Tongginator's classmates collected these past few weeks. And most of them didn't have to think creatively or use their own money either. It's amazing to me how many parents will cave in to the latest fad. Obviously they didn't have Tonggu Grammy as a momma during THEIR childhoods. What can I say except "like mother, like daughter?"

*long, uncomfortable pause*

It took about eight weeks before I caved.


Yes, y'all, I am rather shame-faced to admit that - while I talk a good game - I, too, contributed to the Tongginator's obsession. I? Am a total hypocrite. My only excuse is that I've had my Winnie-the-Pooh key chain since college. And his poor little feet somehow got bent a couple of months ago. Which wouldn't be a problem except that his distorted appendages keep snagging my sweaters.

So, rather than trashing my beloved Pooh bear, I handed him off to the Tongginator.

And now I must find a way to live with myself. Because I? Totally contributed to the arms race that is the kindergarten Backpack Bling Bug. Next thing you know, the Tongginator is gonna be a twenty-something up to her ears in debt, but sporting all of the latest trends.

(Please tell me I'm overreacting. And that ALL children do this. PLEASE.)


Cristina said...

Not over-reacting at all TM- I too am a Mean Momma and make my kids pay for frivolous stuff they want (makeup, football cards, lollies). You didn't really cave - you merely gave her a well-loved second hand token. All kids love a good fad and that is exactly what this is. Give her a few weeks and it will have all blown over, and the kiddies will be salivating over a new fad of some kind. In our family we have been through the football card fad, the lipgloss fad, the scoubiedou fad, the knitting fad, the Ben 10 action figure fad, the backpack decorating fad (even here in Oz!!) etc etc etc... Kids will do this stuff and you are a good momma for supporting her in a non-consumeristic (ie: not going out and buying 100 keychains) way. Hugs xxx

Stefanie said...

You're doing great, TM! Some kids are really into what others *think* and others just don't care... I've got both represented at our house ;)
Sophie LOVES the backpack bling... except I didn't know other kids did it, too. She's always wanting me to put stuff onto her backpack that she finds around the house. The other day we went to WM and they were giving out Pillsb*ry Dough Boy key rings and she went NUTS! Who'd have thought? She couldn't wait for me to get it on her bag...

Kim K. said...

Backpack bling is BIG at our house too. You have a healthy attitude and you are a good Momma/role model. She'll be fine. Just wait until the next trend hits.

Tonggu Grammy said...

All I will say is that you and Miss T will be able to afford college for her BECAUSE you don't contribute to the consumerism of the world. She'll be glad once she graduates from college debt free. 'Til then, well, just grin and bear it. There are only about 4 or 5 fads a year and most last only a few months. Have to say that the backpack bling has been going for over a year, though. I saw it in my Pre-K last year too. So fix that grin upon your face and begin planning ways to ask her how she hopes to accomplish her plan to obtain.

bbmomof2boys said...

Oh no!! Now you've done it! Soon she'll be hitting you up for other things, like certain cards and little toys. Then she'll work her way up to the more expensive stuff like xbox's, ps3's, and games. And THEN it will be Jeeps!! Yep, you totally screwed yourself on this one...or is that my life?


heather said...

Oh my goodness! Did we grow up in the same house? LOL! Seriously though I wrestle with this very issue with my kids...I don't want them to be handed things, but on the flip side I remember how much it SUCKED to be the kid who didn't have!

I think the fact that she created her own bling from objects she already had speaks volumes. She wanted something badly enough to make it work and did it for herself. That speaks to her resourcefulness and also that she was willing to make it happen on her own.

And your aiding and abetting? She already had the bling, you just added a little to it! :-)

autumnesf said...

Passing on a loved object you aren't using anymore is NOT consumerism. That is what we need to be teaching...adapt, improvise, overcome. Looks like you've got it under control to me.

And thank goodness MM has not discovered backpack bling or I would be in so much trouble. She has no problem improvising and it would be SCARY.

Aus said...

Morning TM - it's not "all kids are the same" - it's all humans are the same! We all strive for 'even' - we don't like being too hot or too cold, we don't like being too hungry or too full, we can't survive (we would actually die) if we were constantly too happy or too sad - it is our nature to be 'even' (can you tell what my degree is in yet?) With kids (or adults that cave to consumerism) - that shows up in fads - they are all trying to 'be the same'...with adults we call it "keeping up with the Jones'es" - its all just human nature!

I think you are doing GREAT - she learned to 'repurpose' items - she even had to use her own money for one - right on - and handing down Poo Bear - I think that's cool (and even a little cute)!

I don't know if I mentioned - the new 'cover photo' of T - she looks like such a lady walking through the yard - and dressed and ready for the Derby too!

hugs - aus and co.

Buckeroomama said...

We haven't gone there yet. I think J doesn't care as much, but I have a feeling that Z will. Even now she notices "things that are pretty."

The Source said...

Poor baby. A Pooh bear with no feet?? I think I have your mailing address on the Christmas card you sent...tell Tongginator that her Aunt Source and Cousin Darling Daughter will Fed Ex her a million keychains ASAP! LOL

They aren't into those ridiculous rubber bracelets that come in shapes? Because my SIXTEEN year old buys them constantly. How odd is that?

So yes, I would have to say that all kids do this stuff. And you're doing the right thing by not buying into it. They obsess over the latest junk and it lasts a short time. Then what? I'll tell you...

Then you have a collection of Beanie Babies in the attic gathering dust. And fond memories of traisping in and out of every dang store on your vacation in Gatlinburg, TN back in 1995 searching for the most elusive and "rare" stinking stuffed toy that probably existed only in rumors! Because it would make your five year old son so HAPPY to have a "Quackers the Duck" with no wings and a hang tag in perfect condition! Only now...the little boy...he's 20 and he couldn't care less about the box of dusty animals in my attic. Grrr...I should sell them all on eBay & myself a new car!

Patricia/NYC said...

Nope...not overreacting!!
Kiara was very much into the BP bling at the start of the year...now not so much...but that could change on a dime...we've got much bigger issues going on at our house right now...sigh...(stop by if you have a chance ;))

And sometimes? Some of the moms are just as bad...earlier in the year Kiara had a He@llo K@itty keychain on her backpack, on the way to school one morning, one mom practically broke her legs trying to catch up to us...I thought we dropped something, when all out of breath she shrilly asked: "WHERE did you get that keychain?!!? My daughter MUST have one!!"

My mom actually gave it to Kiara & I had no idea where she got it, & I told her that...well, she looked at me like I was deliberately not telling her where she could find one...yeah, you know us NYC moms...soooo competitive! ;) & continued to barrage me with questions about it!!! Crazy stuff!!

Debby said...

So funny. My 1st grader granddaughter hasn't hit the back pack bling yet.....hmmmm we are a little behind in the Midwest.
You were showing T. how to recycle when you gave her your beloved Pooh.
The girls came in with the rubber band thingies today. Piper the puppy ruined one and Goose said, "Piper jacked it up." I think Grammy needs to talk to her father.
I like to buy the grandkids cool things. I held off on those Zui Zui pets. (Not sure that's how it's spelled) Well I caved at Easter and was so glad I did. It was great fun watching them zig zag everywhere. Poor Baby Babes couldn't figure them out.

pickel said...

I've had my beanie since college. My roommate gave it to me for graduation since I kept losing my keys.

Marla said...

Oh boy, it does start early huh? My girls love their backpacks (and shoes) decorated too. They wear uniforms to school, so adding a little bling to their stuff is really their only way to express a little individuality. I don't mind it too much, though I don't go out and buy it for them, they have to come up with it from their own stashes of junk. :)

Love your new look!! I am a bit behind in bloggyland and hadn't seen it!

LucisMomma said...

My niece has keychains all over her backpack, that are mostly purchased by her or were gifts, and now her backpack bling is heavier than her books. But she refuses to unload the bling.

Anonymous said...

Hey there TM -
No, I do not think you caved! I was the kid that NEVER had the "in" thing. To tell you the truth, it really hurt. I was totally left out of so many things because I just did not belong because of some of those things. I have sat down with my girls and made sure they are aware that they can tell me what the latest fad is and if they want to participate in it. They have both come to me with things they want and we have talked about why they think it is important. If they can give me a good reason to participate (ie JB wanted Pokemon cards because her group of friends were trading them and most of their conversations centered around those cards, so she was losing out on the social aspect which is something that she already struggles with), we will discuss how much the fad costs and how far we are willing to go with that fad. For example, she agreed that her birthday gift would be a pack of pokemon cards and I would not buy any more. She was fine with that and she has never asked me for any more. EB likes all things pink, purple or blingy and LOVES lip glosses and nail polish. Clothes have to meet certain modesty standards before I agree for her to have them, and they have to be able to hold up to the heavy play that she does. Any bling has to either come from gifts or from her own money or from a craft. Lip gloss and nail polish have to meet my standards for age appropriateness, is only bought when it is found on sale for $1 or less. I will give in on the lip glosses (lip moisturizer type) because both girls get horribly chapped lips. But it still has to meet color and price guidelines.

Both girls REALLY want a Wii and all their friends have one. So we sat down as a family and told the girls that we just don't have the money for it right now. The girls asked if they could do extra jobs around the house and for their grandparents to earn money. I told them I thought that would be a terrific idea as long as they did the whole job well and realized that they did need to give 10% to charity and 10% to savings. They agreed. So now I am getting my house really cleaned, the girls are understanding money more, and they have a purpose. They have been saving since Easter and now have $27. I told them if they raise $190 I would pitch in the last $9. They think that is a great deal.

As far as the little things like backpack bling, they have to spend their own money, or they have to make it. I will buy the supplies (as long as I have a coupon or it is on sale) for them to make things like bracelets, bling, etc. It is a great family activity for us to plan and do. One of the national craft stores usually has a 40% coupon out weekly that I can print off. I also encourage the girls to invite friends over to make things like that so that it becomes a bonding activity for the friends and not a competition.

jen@odbt said...

I'd never heard it called Backpack Bling before but that is also happening at our stop/school. I don't buy anything either but somehow they manage to create their own bling...pretty soon it's not going to be the weight of the books that hurt their backs, it's all the stuff on the sides ;)

Heather of the EO said...

You are such a crack up. I love the way you tell stories. You hypocrite.


You are fine! Such a good Mama, always.

And also? LOVE the new blog look!

shelley said...

You are overreacting....all children do this. You rock as a mom....maybe she could keep up with the Jones' once and a while.

Dawn said...

I don't think you're overreacting - but I also don't think you've caved either. She's used what she's already had, received as gifts and received as a hand-me-down. I was going to also suggest that you could make a few key chains together, too. Kills two birds with one craft stone - time for you two together doing something crafty and allows her to add to her collection. I'll bet you even already have the "stuff" to make some!

There is always some sort of fad going on and this is just one of them. (My daughter hit this same one in 2nd grade - it disappeared by the next school year.) Then it was headbands followed by bandanas. I remember when my son was in 6th and 7th grade and all the girls were wearing the colored, glittered, bejeweled jelly bracelets.

prechrswife said...

I think I'm glad MJ's preschool doesn't allow backpacks. She would be one who wants to keep up, and I'm afraid I would fall into the "mean mom" category, too. With my girl, she wants the same school snacks as some of her classmates. As long as it is healthy, I will generally agree, unless it is something that I know she has tried before and won't eat, or if there is some other reason why it won't work (She asked me for yogurt in her snack today, and I generally pack things that don't have to be refrigerated.). But, she needs the snacks anyway. That's a little bit different.

Kristi said...

I'd say you are training her right to "recycle" old treasures into new ones. Right now we are all about finding new uses or simply new life for old forgotten things instead of buying new things.

Myrnie said...

:) I think she'll be fine. You gave her a gift, not your credit card! :) There's also value in understanding the wants of our children, I think. You showed that you were listening, and want her to be happy. She'll figure out that there's a difference between Mom giving her a "don't need this any longer, do you want it?" keychain, and Mom NOT spending $100 on the "it" jeans of the moment.

Gwen said...

You know I've got stories about backpack bling since I see it every day!! :)
And, not one kid in my class had any bling on their shiny new backpacks when school started in August!
Now... a different story!
Fads come and go, and I think you've handled the situation just fine. :)

Lisa said...

I sure don't think this will lead down the road of corruption....LOL :) My niece's class did this years ago...her pack got so very heavy she could hardly hoist it up by the end! LOL

And don't worry....this too shall pass and hey, I would have caved too and probably faster than you! :)

Mahmee said...

Ha ha ha....nice one! I too will stand firm on a trend....and then cave weeks later. Welcome to the 'I Suck' club TM. It's all about the love and it's oh, so hard.

On another note, I (sort of) outed my 'outing' in my post today and linked back to you. You are my idol. :-)

Happy week!

Janet said...

All children do this. Unfortunately. Two of my daughters wear socks that don't match ALL THE TIME, because their friends do. Sigh.

PS- I probably would have bought them a key chain. I'm a TOTAL sucker. But I draw the line at i-Phones. :-)

Misty said...

do you remember the buttons we used to wear on our jean jackets???? oh, i had to have some. my mom? totally mean. i didn't even have a jean jacket!! LOL
at least you gave her your old chain and didn't buy a brand!new!one! :) my sorta crunchy self loves me some recycled capitalism.
LOVE the new look.

Chris said...

ugh!! Backpack Bling???? Oh no, is this what I get to look forward to next year when Shea is in Kindergarten!!!

I tell ya....going through all this again with my littles...you would think I am better prepared!! Yikes!!

'WE' went through all kinds of stages of 'bling' and 'all the other kids have it' stuff with my older children....

I guess it just the same old stuff re-invented!! (sigh!)

I do not think you are overreacting...

I believe it is all about balance...

You are a good momma!!!

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

I think you're normal. Don't sweat the small stuff. The fact that she repurposed so quickly shows she's learning not to be so materialistic, imo. If I got to choose my kids' careers, Kyler would totally be a lawyer. That child could argue his way out of murder. . .just saying. . .Kady, on the other hand, would be a doctor. She loves medicine and shots. The only thing that bothers her is vomit--it makes her reciprocate. We shall see what they become, but I'm thinking lawyer and doctor are much better than con man and druggie. . .

Saint Louis Family Robinson said...

I hear ya, sister!!!!

We had the VERY same thing happen this year - at age 4, at the public preschool (didn't happen the year before at the private preschool where they issued the SAME bag to each kid along with guidelines on how to personalize the bag).

Of course, we tried the same thing: You'll have to buy it with your own money. Then we promptly headed to Destin for vacation - a month after school started - and my husband gave her $10 to spend at the souvenir shack (thinking she'd buy a t-shirt and a shell). NO, she blew $8 on a pink jeweled backpack clip that had NOTHING to do with our destination. But of course someone (who will remain nameless) could not let her departure from her first real vacation without a t-shirt, went ahead and bought one for her (BUT that did mean the nameless individual was the one picking out the t-shirt - no input from anyone else!).

Patty O. said...

Actually, I think you were great! First off, you forced T to use her imagination to fulfill her wishes, which I think is fantastic. You didn't hand her a bunch of money or rush to the store with her. I love that she repurposed items she already owned. Because you know, I don't think there is anything wrong with jumping on a bandwagon, as long as she doesn't spend tons of money on it and get obsessed.

And then you let her have a key chain you already owned, which shows her how important it is to recycle. I think you have taught her that you won't give in to every whim and fork over cash.

Seriously, good job!

Alyson and Ford said...

Another lesson to look forward too.... I never thought of backpack bling!! And yes, I'll make sure AA knows she has to pay for it too!

Alyzabeth's Mommy

a little leprechaun said...

TM you are AWESOME!! I think it was sweet that you contributed, but didn't buy anything. I have a tendency to go overboard, but it's because I will find things on sale. You know, clearance sale. Too good to walk away sale. BUT, it is something I am working on.