Courtney Adamo believes in little TV, no electronics and giving few new toys to her four children.
But will her children really grow up happier people?
I believe we should enjoy spoiling our kids sometimes – and not be made to feel guilty about it.
Courtney Adamo is a trendy mum of four I have written about before. Then, she had been featured in the national press after a photo she uploaded to Instagram received a complaint that it was indecent. Bizarrely it was simply a picture of Courtney Adamo’s youngest child wearing a pair of wellies, a nappy and lifting up her top to look at her tummy button. So a perfectly innocent photo – hence why it was a story that Instagram removed her whole account because of it.
However, the publicity did her good. Courtney Adamo’s account, courtneybabyccino, was reinstated – she appeared over three pages of the Daily Mail talking about it – and many more thousands began following her on Instagram. I am sure it was good for business too – Courtney Adamo runs an online website promoting children’s boutiques.
And so she has continued to showcase her delightful children – two sons and two daughters – and their lives in and around their period five-bed house situated in a pricey part of trendy North London ever since.
Yet recently Courtney Adamo wrote a bizarre blog – ‘My thoughts on TV and other Electronics’. Alongside photos of her children in cosy sweaters with colouring books in front of a must-have wood burner (Morso – one of the most expensive brands), she brags: ‘I rarely buy the kids anything pink or plastic, branded or battery operated, and I hate the idea of kids being sold to everywhere they look or feeling like they must have the latest branded toy.
‘We hardly ever give them a new toy unless it’s a special occasion, like a birthday or Christmas, and even then we only give them a few things, placing emphasis on quality over quantity.’
Strangely – and this is why I say it was a ‘bizarre’ blog, given that her own life seems to revolve around being online (both personally and in business and her husband Michael Adamo has an online video business) she adds: ‘We believe electronics are addictive. No matter if it’s a Nintendo game or an educational one on an iPad, once picked up they are hard to put down.’
Courtney Adamo doesn’t reveal whether her children own iPads and iPods (certainly they are never pictured with them – only colouring, playing building bricks, and on outings to educational places such as the zoo). There’s no sign either of the mountains of Barbie dolls or endless soft toys in her daughter’s room as my own daughter had lining her room. No hint of the pretend cooker my own daughter adored, or dolly cots lined up around the walls, dolly pushchairs with baby dolls in them.
Neither are there guns, metal toy cars, spiderman outfits in the boys’ rooms, Scalextric that my sons both had. And her back garden is devoid of the general detritus my garden had with three children (two sons and a daughter) – the wendy house, the slides, the sandpits, the ride on toys. There is nothing like that to see.
Instead there’s just trendy little coloured baskets in tidy rooms filled with wholesome wooden bricks.
Courtney Adamo, who says in her blog they hardly ever watch TV and limit films to the odd Disney movie, admits: ‘I’ve had lots of questions recently about my parenting ideas, especially when it comes to electronics…I know it won’t work for every family… and it may not work forever for us.’
But she is far from the only mother caught up in the latest trend which seems to be believing that it is wrong to ‘spoil’ your children with the latest must-have toy, that children shouldn’t ever be inside watching TV or on a computer and they shouldn’t be indulged with a garish T shirt.
Judging by other Instagram accounts, many middle-class parents seem to believe bringing your children up, keeping them from consumerism (Courtney Adamo says she never takes the kids to malls or shopping) seems to have become a right-on trend.
Instead Courtney Adamo guiltily confesses, ‘I once bought Ivy some Hello Kitty underpants and this year I bought some miniature ‘Frozen’ figurines for the Advent Calendar.’ Wow!
Indeed there seems to be some sort of competition between parents these days over who can give their child the least, keep them away from the ‘evils’ of TV and the computer – with those poor parents that give in to their kids, who want to spoil them with the must-have plastic Frozen toy, undoubtedly left feeling they must be failures (or certainly very unfashionable and not trendy.)
Certainly I should think any parent looking at the Adamo kids with their colouring books (there is no way my kids found colouring books held their interest past the age of around three…) will be filled with a sense of awe that her children actually aren’t already rebelling big-time.
Luckily my children are now in their twenties and can see the fruits of mine and my husband’s child rearing.
A few weeks ago we had all the old family videos transferred onto DVD and it’s been fascinating to watch. Yes a lot of the time our kids were spending hours playing with Lego – and there is a lot of footage of them running wild in the garden (but running wild and raggedy rather than looking picture perfect!), digging in the sand on beaches and on all the trips we did to museums, zoos and on picnics.
But there is also a house filled with toys – yes a lot of them were plastic. My daughter had a pink bedroom with untrendy pink branded Barbie duvet cover an abundance of dolls in it, my sons were shown on Christmas day shooting at one another with laser guns, their bedrooms filled with blue, duvet covers sporting their adored Man United football club, Nintendo, Tamagotchi, Action Men, cars, and the latest fads. Every Christmas I went to hell and back searching out, obtaining and affording the latest toys for them.
Don’t get me wrong. We couldn’t afford to buy our kids stuff all the time so my son says he remembers waiting for months for a Playstation. But then we didn’t deny them that desperately wanted Playstation because we didn’t ‘agree with electronics.’ I don’t think we did like the idea of a Playstation much but we knew our sons particularly desperately wanted one and they wanted to be like their friends who had one. Hence, those old videos show how much my husband and I spoilt our kids at birthdays – and enjoyed doing so. Each one of them at Christmas is shown ripping paper off presents that we had both lovingly sourced. No they were not fashionable wooden bricks and the pink plastic stuff didn’t look attractive in our house. But – know what? – our daughter was delighted. And that made it all worthwhile to us.
There were also rainy afternoons when I was busy and they all just watched TV, my sons went through a phase of doing horrible Playstation games for hours on end – and they were the first amongst their friends to have a mobile phone each. In fact being someone who loves technology herself, we got broadband as soon as it was launched and we’ve always had numerous computers in the house. My children went on them whenever they wanted – I never denied them exploring the world online. And perhaps because going on the computer was so ordinary and not a novelty, they never spent much time on them.
Most of all my husband and I were not control freaks and did not impose our will on them. I did not give instructions to other mums on play dates telling her that my child must not be allowed to play a video game (thereby implying she is a dreadful mother as she does allow it) – and as a journalist I didn’t write articles stating how my way of bringing up kids was the right way (for many years I wrote for all the mother, baby and children magazines and wrote hundreds of features but I felt it would be arrogant of me to lecture others when my kids were so young and my parenting skills untested.) I didn’t make my daughter feel it was wrong of her to want a plastic toy or make my sons feel the odd ones out because they were the only ones who weren’t allowed to go on a computer when their friends came round.
So what is the result? Well, unlike Courtney Adamo’s children who are still very young (and still have much growing to do and the most difficult stages to come…) all my children are grown up. And all my children have degrees and fulfilling jobs, none have any debt at all (they all worked to fund themselves through uni) so we can assume they understand the value of money. By the age of 25 (my daughter is now 23) both my sons had bought their own homes, with their saved-for deposits and their own mortgages.
As adults we are so close as a family that we still choose to all go on holiday together (with boyfriend/girlfriends joining us) – so being on the computers, having mobile phones so early on in their lives, me letting the sons wear ghastly football shirts and indulging my daughter with her love of cuddly toys did not somehow damage them.
Far from it, as they have not only all grown into balanced individuals but they are the people in my life whom I can laugh with the most, the people my husband and I most enjoy spending time with.
Meanwhile some friends’ children who were ‘denied’ the delight of being spoilt now and again by their parents have as adults, become much more obsessed with material things. They are far more likely to spent their money on designer clothes and cars and strangely, also less likely to want to spend their time with the rest of their families. In fact many of them – as soon as they were old enough – left home.
Maybe behind the photo facade of her Instagram account Courtney Adamo has secret cupboards everywhere stashed with plastic toys and iPads. Truly, I hope she does because we are in 2014 and not 1914. Of course giving into every demand your child makes isn’t desirable and I am certainly not saying any child should be entertained with an iPad all day. I also do think there must be a balance and Courtney Adamo has some great ideas about getting grandparents to buy trips to the zoo or other outings rather than more toys. But denying children so much stuff doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will.
Incidentally, in our attic many of those awful plastic pink dolls are all stashed in their plastic pink boxes – as my daughter says, they hold such happy memories she can’t bear to throw them away.
Do you believe children should be given an old-fashioned childhood? Or do you indulge your children more than friends? If you have strong beliefs either way then do contact me for possible inclusion in an article.