We all know that parenting can be tricky, but I just learned that parenting in a recession is a whole other ball game. In the past few years the whole area of parenting has been turned into a ridiculous science with lists upon lists of dos and don’ts and rules. Child psychologists give endless advice on how to do it and shows like Nanny 911 are nothing short of television contraceptives! Would anyone want a child like those depicted on that particular show? According to these programmes in order to be a successful parent you’ve got to have checklists, reward charts, chill out areas and a naughty step if you want to have half a chance of raising a decent human being. To be honest I don’t know how my generation is as well adjusted as it is. I don’t remember any of that stuff.

The final straw came last week when I caught a parenting item on an Irish magazine show entitled, “What to tell the kids when money is tight”. It was deemed worthy of airtime with the following introduction; “Ireland is currently in the grip of a recession, and many families are finding money tight. Many parents will have to explain to children why they can’t afford a holiday this year, or other luxuries like new toys, computer games or clothes. With job losses being announced every day, more and more families are going to find themselves in this situation. For children who have been used to the endless presents, new trainers and unlimited pocket money it may come as a shock to find out that their parents can no longer afford these luxuries. Today we have an expert in studio to tell us what to tell the kids and what not to tell them when money is tight”.

I was disturbed by the introduction, particularly the bit about children being ‘used to’ endless presents, new trainers and unlimited pocket money. If this was the approach of parents during the good times then shame on them. Regardless of how wealthy you are or how much you can actually afford, doesn’t everyone know that lavishing ‘stuff’ on little children is folly? I wondered if this was just Dublin 4 nonsense. The item went on to discuss how to broach the subject of a pared down Holy Communion or Confirmation celebration. There was a comment that suggested a “communion dress from one of the well known Irish chain stores is cheaper than a designer one, but just in case you were embarrassed by that you could change the sequins or the buttons and nobody would know where it came from”!!

Are we really so shallow? 

I was particularly appalled by this little exchange. Have we really become that shallow as a nation that it matters where a new Holy Communion dress comes from? If children are demanding designer clothes and dresses for special occasions then we only have ourselves to blame.

I suppose it was easier when I made my Holy Communion. I really didn’t have much say in the whole affair as it was my mother’s choice! (Ask the child? Are you mad!!?) I was taken to Shaws, dresses were tried on, one was chosen and that was that. I’m sure there were several children in my class who had a second hand dress as they had older sisters (I didn’t) and know one really cared.

I was a teenager during the last recession in the 80s and I don’t remember feeling at all deprived or lacking anything. To be honest if anyone asks I always say what a very privileged childhood I had and yet looking back there wasn’t a designer logo or a foreign holiday in sight. Indeed on reflection we weren’t wealthy at all! But isn’t it interesting that we were obviously given a sense that ‘plenty’ meant more than just material stuff.

It would appear to me that with all their manuals and expertise on parenting nobody has bothered to emphasise that what we all really need to learn, particularly children, is that we are not the clothes on our back; we are not the label on the Holy Communion dress or the hotel where the party is held! You are not the amount of money in your bank account or the place where you shop. All of these things do not make you better or worse than anyone else, they are just things. They are what they are but they should not give you your value and worth.

I am who I am and so is everybody else  

Several years ago I had a friend and her partner over for dinner. I can’t remember what they admired but I mentioned that I had bought it in a store that would be considered in some circles as ‘low end’. That’s something that has never bothered me, but I remember this chap actually remarking that he was surprised that I would even go in there. He went on to say that he wouldn’t be seen walking down the street with a bag from this particular shop. I laughed at the idea that the name on a bag in your hand could possibly affect your worth and I said so immediately. You see I’m Nichola Beresford whether I shop in Discount Central or Harrods! I’m still Nichola Beresford whether I am wearing a designer suit from Brown Thomas or a dress from Penney’s! I remain Nichola Beresford whether my bank account is in the red or the black. Now I am not being big headed; just take these last few sentences and substitute your own name in there and it is the same thing. Stuff does not make us who we are or, for that matter, change who we are no matter how good or bad the stuff is.

This sense of value, worth and self respect is what my parents unwittingly gave me during the last recession, not a lesson in how to make inexpensive stuff look like expensive stuff by changing a button here and there! And thank God for that.