Friday, December 16, 2011

Some kids need more holiday cheer than others

From today's Briefing:

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel challenged parents this fall to (1) lie to their children about eating all of their Halloween candy and (2) record the conversation.
The resulting four-minute clip, complete with crying and yelling, has been viewed on YouTube almost 24 million times.
Kimmel recycled the idea for Christmas. This time, he asked parents to (1) wrap a terrible gift, (2) give it to their children as an early Christmas offering and (3) record the conversation.
No doubt the newest clip, complete with youthful disgust and superfluous use of the word “stupid,” will be one of the runaway viral video hits of the season.
Both videos are slightly funny and seriously painful — and not just because we’re watching parents deceive children.
What’s most disturbing is the raw reminder of how spoiled we’ve become, of how we’ve enabled our children to expect much more than they need. (Of course, we expect much more than we need.)
In the Halloween video, children fall to the ground, whine, throw empty wrappers, punch a wall, declare angrily, “Daddy, you’re ugly!”
Their parents can’t disguise laughter behind the camera. And maybe you laugh, too, but uncomfortably so, worried that your own children would fall apart under similar deceit. Or maybe you laugh without regret, fed up with spoiled kids and a society that seems to unnecessarily cater to young people.
The fake Christmas gifts are, admittedly, stinky. Half-eaten sandwich. Old banana. Single hot dog. Beat-up hammer. Gender-specific gifts purposefully given to the opposite sex.
And yet the dramatic reactions are still a little shocking.
“Take this back! I want a refund!” screams one boy. He eventually devolves into the classic “I hate you!” Another wails, “I asked for a toy!” and chunks his gift across the room.
These are some seriously dejected kids.
Of course they are. We have trained our kids that Christmas is the most magical, wonderful, joyful, sugar-eating, gift-giving extravaganza of the year. Give a boy a Hello Kitty shirt or a girl an onion, and you’re guaranteed some disrespectful drama.
We’ve taught them that if you make a list and you’re really good (and honestly, even if you’re not), you’ll get all or most of what you ask for.
I’ve convinced my kids that you can ask Santa for only one or two or at most three gifts. In my role as a Santa helper, that seems reasonable to me.
When we visited our Santa last week, Cooper and Katie were given a postcard to write a wish list. There were 10 lines.
There are certainly children in our community and all over the country and the world who actually need at least 10 gifts from Santa, but they’re not the ones standing in line in a suburban bookstore, wearing coordinating outfits and playing on smartphones to pass the time.
While Kimmel’s videos portray one kind of American kid — the one with too much already, the one who appears more greedy than grateful, the one who’s quick to complain — there’s a different kind of American kid that isn’t funny even in a painful way.
A 2011 report on quality of life by Children’s Medical Center reveals that 30 percent of Dallas County children live in poverty. The North Texas Food Bank estimates that more than 25 percent of Dallas-area kids are food insecure.
We’re not catering to those kids. We barely notice that they exist.
If you’re looking for a way to fulfill some true needs for a child — not another of a long list of wants — you’ve got plenty of local options. The food bank, Salvation Army, Metrocrest Service Center, Voice of Hope, Big Brothers Big Sisters.
A little money goes a long way with these nonprofits. And the recipients aren’t likely to stomp their feet or crumple to the floor. They’ll be grateful.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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