Seven months pregnant, I looked at all the strollers displayed before me. There were ones for two hundred bucks and there were ones for two thousand dollars. I only had eyes for the Maclaren Mini cooper that cost SGD 1400. Why? I don’t know, because it was mini cooper and obviously my baby, my precious baby NEEDED a mini cooper stroller. Fortunately, my husband didn’t agree and I walked out of the store with dramatic dialogues ranging from ‘You don’t love our baby’ to ‘You NEVER buy me anything I want’.
The truth behind my tantrum was simple. In my attempts to shower my baby with love, I was branding her. She couldn’t just be Kiara. She was too special for that. She had to be ‘limited edition mini cooper using’ Kiara. Right now I could argue that there is nothing wrong with splurging a little on my baby. Truth is, if I walk this path, I will cause her and my bank account some serious damage. It is even worse, if I keep referring to her things with their brands tagged on (Example: Maclaren stroller, Ralph Lauren dress, Armani baby shoes). She will probably grow up thinking that a thing isn’t something unless it belongs to an expensive brand. This has the danger of further devolving into a situation where she starts to define herself by the brands she owns rather than her personality. That worries me.
There is nothing wrong in buying our children whatever we feel is best, but it is important to teach them to look beyond superficial branding. This is what I hope to do,
Teach her to see the product not just the brand
The habit of focusing on the brand rather than the product itself is a common phenomenon. With increasing quality of a product, there is usually an increasing price tag. However, there is an optimum point after which one is simply paying for the brand name and nothing else. By teaching her this, I hope she learns to appreciate and value quality rather than obsess over a particular brand for no reason.
Help her see true beauty
I hope to teach her through example that she need not be dressed in a certain label, carry a particular brand of bag or trot around in designer heels to be beautiful. Instead, a kind heart, intelligence and grace will be a much longer lasting beauty, one that time or financial situation cannot change.
Tell her it’s ok for a girl to like blue
Associating the entire female population with one colour is yet another type of branding. Just because she is a girl, she need not be confined to Barbie dolls, linen and curtain in violent shades of pink and purple. She is free to like whatever colour and play with fire trucks.
Encourage her to be practical
Many of us are guilty of spending half our pay checks or perhaps even more on a bag. Not because we were impressed with the functionality and features rather because it made us feel an increased sense of self- worth. This trend is neither healthy nor financially sustainable (at least for the general population). Buy something affordable. My father once asked me ‘What is the point of buying a 500 dollar wallet if all you have is two dollars to put in it?’. I didn’t like hearing it but it was very true.
Being seven months old, she does not know what ‘branded’ means. She is certainly not angry that I did not get her a mini cooper stroller. At some point in her life, she will be exposed to that world that will ask her to define herself through her possessions. When she enters that world, I hope to have taught her enough to realise that her personality and actions define her, not the car she drives. I hope she remembers that being Kiara is the greatest branding of all.