What do you think of when you hear the word ‘birthdays’? Do you know how common is your birthday compare to others? I think of themes, of décor, of food, a table full of sweet treats and being super excited – me, that is. I’m sure Ameli will be more into it this year too. And of course, presents. As a Blogging Mama, we receive more than our fair share of goodies through the letter box, and my kids think it’s Christmas every other day. I’ve been struggling with this for the past six months or so, and have drastically reduced the toy-related reviews that I’ve been doing, because honestly, the fact that my child had zero appreciation for her toys really bugged me.
If you get something fun every couple of days, you’re not going to appreciate the big things, like birthdays and Christmas, are you? Blogging and a bit of savvy organising have meant that for Ameli’s birthday this year, I’ve bought and popped a dolls house in the cupboard. However, I’ve been able to get her a gorgeous play kitchen for her birthday now, so I’ll put the doll’s house away for Christmas, I think. She always makes a beeline for kitchens and the related toys at other people’s houses, and she’s going to be over the moon.
Presents are a sensitive issue with a lot of people though; something of a taboo. I was speaking to a friend recently who has the largest collection of wooden toys, yet her mother-in-law will arrive with some large, plastic monstrosity at every visit. These toys often ‘disappear’. Since you have to put up with the toys once the visitors leave, I totally understand her reasoning, and have done the same on an occasion or two.
Right now, I’m wondering about Ameli’s third birthday. Do I give people a list of toys that we’d like? Something that can complement what she has – like furniture for her dolls house or pots and pans for the new play kitchen? Or do we ask for Amazon vouchers? (I love Amazon vouchers, because then I can buy things we need as we need them. I receive a few pounds worth for Aviya’s babyshower and a few weeks ago used them to buy new nappy wraps, because she needed them. That’s a gift I was grateful for, and I think of our friends every time I put a new one on her!)
Rather than a bunch of stuff she’ll probably rarely play with, I’d ask people to contribute to dance classes for her, or pay towards playgroup fees, or put it in the girls’ bank accounts to save up for later.
It’s not as much fun as unwrapping a present, I know that, but buying toys for children should be done in conference with parents, shouldn’t it? Or is that just one of the things that we learn to put up with when we have children? I know prescribing gifts annoys some people, some find it even rude, but when you don’t have money to give your children the things you really want to, isn’t it better to ask than to half-heartedly receive?
Birthdays, Presents, And The Great Taboo
My compromise is this: I won’t tell anyone a particular item to get, but I do think it perfectly fine to make a note in the announcement/etc along the lines of:
‘baby is currently enjoying lots of time at her play kitchen, and she adores playing with her wooden doll house. her favorite colors are blue and pink. and her sizes are 2T for tops, 3T for bottoms’.
This doesn’t tell anyone what to get, but it gives them several ideas of what might be of use or what she would enjoy.
I know some would be offended by this, but I think it is a decent compromise. Less offensive to some than being told that she needs pot/pans, or furniture…. (which wouldn’t offend me in the least. I like knowing that what I’ve spent my money/time on will be appreciated and used)
I think there’s a happy medium between putting in a gentle request for something you know your baby will love from their grandparents, for example, to letting your wider circle of friends choose a special gift for your baby.
I say let the giver decide what to give, unless they ask for advice. They may have a special reason for giving something that the parent wouldn’t give, perhaps they are giving a duplicate of something they remember fondly from their own childhood, hoping to share a special experience with the the young person. Perhaps they see something in your child’s personality that tells them the child will very much enjoy a particular gift even if you wouldn’t choose it. As parents sometimes we are so busy trying the form the child, that we don’t always see unexpected talents and traits. You may have good grounds for not letting junior keep that working model guillotine, especially if it’s being used to depcapitate a younger sib’s beloved stuffed animals. But assuming the gift won’t have a corrosive effect on the child’s morals, I think there is a lot to be gained by just rolling with it.
When mine were little, we minimised the toy gifts by pointing out our very very limited space, and asking for books or clothes. Now that they are older, they have very specific ideas of their own. But we have a list, and we assign family members to list items. For years now I have bought presents from my dad, who flies into a panic and ends up bringing clothes four sizes too big (or too small)! He gives me money now, and I buy what they really want.
We tell friends that we don’t want or expect gifts, but if they really want to give something we would prefer it to be home made or second hand. Most of our friends just make a card, or bring flowers for the birthday decoration, or bring cupcakes or something. 🙂