A Thoughtful Gift or Overindulgence?

March 23, 2006

It was inevitable. A magazine now exists for the many Latino parents who drop 10-grand or more on a “sweet 15” birthday party for their daughters. The quinceanera, a coming-of-age party for a 15-year-old girl, usually is marked by billowy, wedding-like dresses, tuxedo rentals, a DJ, a rented hall, a videographer and photographer — and that’s at the low-end of the pay scale! As Quince Girl’s new publisher told Newsweek, “I’ve had many people tell me they’ll spend more and go all-out more at their quinceneara than at their wedding.”

Yeah, as if these girls at 15 know when they will marry.

What struck me about this article wasn’t its topic — there will always be parents who indulge their children with cars, $1,000 prom dresses, etc.– but, its close proximity to a “My Turn” essay by a woman who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. She recalled poverty so extreme that kids would sniff glue to quell their hunger. Despite out of control waits at the embassy, most applicants for a visa to America were hauled off by security.

Now I don’t mean to pick on Latinos. Jewish parents also splurge on their children’s Bat Mitzvahs and southern Americans probably spend way too much on their daughters’ debutante ball. Don’t get me started on prom in the Hamptons

While I have no problem showering my kid with the occasional treat; Yes, I am guilty of giving in to the occasional temper tantrum at the toy store. But when it comes to cars, $1,000 dresses, and $10,000 birthday parties, I am grateful my parents taught me these are luxury items that one should earn through work. Like them, the only DJ I will pay for is at my son’s wedding — once he has earned his keep. Ditto if I ever have a girl.