Types of Gifts
These are the types of gifts your children will receive, and who tends to give them.
Sucky Gifts That are Actually Good
This is a gift you think is really weird or odd, but it turns out that your kid totally digs it. A friend’s kid just got a Curious George Jack-in-the-Box for Christmas that fell into this category. As parents we can get stuck in a box of what is or is not appropriate or fun for our kids, and it’s nice when people come along and shatter that perspective once in a while.
Dads like to give totally cool, completely impractical gifts. I hate gifts like this because they inevitably turn you into the bad guy. Mom has concerns like “Is it a choking hazard?” and “Where the hell are we going to put that?” whereas Dad only thinks about how cool the gift is. Last year it was this:
A giant teddy bear from Costco. Have you seen these? They’re like 4′ tall behemoths. When I first saw them, I texted my husband a picture in a “omg look at this thing!” manner. Big mistake. His first response was that we should get it. I told him no. It was massive. Yes she’d love it, but we didn’t have the space. I’d always wanted giant stuffed animals as a kid, but now realize why my mother never got me any. That was that. Or so I thought. Instead, my husband went out and bought one immediately. He even kept it at the office to hide it from me. Then it was gifted from “Grandpa.” V, of course, loves it. But it takes up a huge part of the living room. It also has to be spot cleaned when dirty since there’s no way to fit it into the washing machine. Guess what got peed on during potty training?
This year it was a bag of Dum Dums. A whole BAG. This was supposed to go in her stocking too. Does she love Dum Dums? Yes! What kid doesn’t? She had several in her Halloween haul this year, but she was only allowed two once I realized how messy they were. Toddlers don’t have the best control. They don’t lick or suck with their mouth closed. No, they just shove the pop in their mouth and allow the sticky saliva that rapidly accumulates to drip out of their mouth. It gets their hands sticky. And their face. And their clothes.
Yet my husband wanted to shove a bag of 150 Dum Dums in her stocking. It wouldn’t fit. We compromised on like six individual suckers, though zero would have been my preference. V was excited when she pulled them out and tried to unwrap them. My husband kept telling her, “No, Sweetie, not right now.” How cruel is that? So she gets to multiple suckers and be told every time that she can’t have one. I asked my husband when can she have one? “Not now! She’ll get all sticky and get the stocking/clothes/hands sticky!” Right. So when is she ever going to have them? “Later.” Uh huh. Do you really expect me to do anything other than hide or throw them all away?
Living Doll Gifts
Maybe this category only applies to people like me who don’t care about clothes or fashion. I like my daughter wearing cute clothes, but they have to be practical. I’ve gone over this before. When she was much younger and spending time with my in-laws, she always seemed to return to me in some hideous or impractical outfit. I don’t like when money is wasted on outfits that she will never wear again.
What really bothers me though, and this seems particularly true with infants, is when people see your child as some sort of living doll they can dress up. Our first Christmas for V we got a really fancy dress from my step grandmother. It was impractical but pretty and looked like something my mother-in-law would like, so on Christmas day we put V in this nice dress and took her to my mother-in-law’s house. Within minutes of arriving, my MIL started giving V new Christmas clothes and insisted that we change her right then. There were several outfits and a number of hats. Eventually V got sick of the outfit changes and started crying. Last year I didn’t even bother to dress her up, despite receiving another really nice dress, because I figured my MIL would demand we change it again. Thankfully she hasn’t done this any Christmas since, but the memory of that first Christmas is forever locked in my brain.
Speaking of Christmas clothes…
Holiday clothes have a very limited shelf-life. Stop giving Christmas outfits on Christmas day! It’s too late! Mail/gift it early December so they can wear it all month. It’ll get more mileage and you’ll get more pictures.
Gifts Really Meant for the Parent
This covers a wide variety of things. It could be stuff your kid doesn’t care about (like clothes, unless she’s a fashionista or it’s a costume), things they will care about later, or simply gifts that let you live vicariously through your child. V and my husband both got marble building sets. They’re really for my husband to have fun building, though V will have fun playing with the finished product.
Gifts that Won’t Shut the F*** Up
I actually don’t mind toys that make noise. V has a bucket full (I’m talking the huge outdoor drink bucket you use at parties) of singing stuffed animals. These toys don’t bother me. Singing cards don’t bother me. They all bother my husband, but he doesn’t have to live with it 24/7 and I really don’t mind. V loves them and they keep her entertained. These are not the toys I’m talking about. I’m talking about this:
You probably already have it. Here’s a blog post entirely about this toy. It’s the toy that never shuts up. The toy that’s so sensitive it goes off in the middle of the night in another room and creeps you out. Thankfully, this toy has an off switch (open the back flap). After I found the off switch I hid it in the closet. I’ll only turn it on if V manages to find it and asks to use it.
Here is another one:
I couldn’t find it online and I don’t remember what it’s called. It makes loud noise frequently even if no one is playing with it, and there is no volume control. V was playing with it a lot over Christmas. If I tried to turn it off V would complain. I would carefully look around to see if she was nearby. When the coast was clear I’d turn it off and place it up on the countertop. Then she’d magically appear and demand to have it back. Thankfully this one is at my mom’s house so I don’t have to deal with it on a regular basis.
But this one takes the cake:
This bag contains four toy balls. Three of them are rather harmless. One has a squeaker inside, another that crinkly shit that makes noise when you compress it, and one has beans or something. The soccer ball is what’s bad. It makes a loud BOIIIIIIIIING! noise whenever it moves. Now, it comes with a plastic thingie inserted so that no noise is made during shipping. However, I did not know this and removed the plastic stick. It’s not the type of thing that can be reinserted either. So our whole time in Socal we were driving around with this thing in the back of the car going BOING BOOOOOOOING. At first my husband thought there was something wrong with our car. I told him it was probably this toy and we were able to confirm that it was. But still…BOIIIIIIING BOIIIIING BOIIIIIING.
Yeah, loud toys with no off switch suck.
Creepy Gifts from Seniors
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well what one generation finds cute the subsequent generations can find terrifying. Take this:
This is one of many dolls at my MIL’s house. It’s the typical thing you’d find in a home from someone of her generation. It might even have even been a gift from one of her students. V, upon seeing this doll, said “It’s scary!” and kept repeating that phrase whenever she saw it (a phrase she no doubt learned from her cousin, who was showing her “scary” Halloween e-cards). I can’t really blame her. The whole stitched smile and button eyes has a very Coraline-feel. It’s the kind of doll that would have freaked me out as a kid too. Now, this wasn’t a gift to V, but she has been given some creepy dolls in her two short years, including one with a sadistic giggle. She was also given a Raggedy Ann and Andy set, something the giver really appreciates but I doubt my daughter ever will.
The incident of the doll reminded me of a gift from my step grandmother back when I was a kid. She gave me and my sisters each a clown doll. I’m sure they were horribly expensive (my step grandma doesn’t skimp!), but they scared the crap out of us. We actually locked them in one of my spare birdcages because we kept envisioning they’d come alive at night and attack us.
Anyway, just expect this kind of thing from certain seniors. They mean well, and should be thanked accordingly, but you might need to help your kid lock up their new gift if they think it’s going to turn into Chucky.
These can be awesome, especially if you’re buying something expensive so the parents don’t have to. But for the love of god, please check with the parents first. Make sure they have room or are willing to make room for any large items. See my entry on Dad Gifts above. Don’t assume they want some new huge item taking up half the living room!
Most people are smart enough to err on the side of caution. This means your two year old who has long since stopped randomly putting shit in her mouth is still going to wind up with toys for babies, because so many toddler toys are 3+ (no one wants to be liable). You can’t fault people for thinking “better safe than sorry.”
The gifts that bother me are the ones that are obviously meant for older children. MUCH older children. People get excited about kids. They can’t wait for them to grow up and be able to do X, Y, and Z. However, some relatives jump the gun and buy items years in advance, which means you have to store all that crap. These gifts are usually good. Very good and oftentimes expensive, which means you WILL end up storing them. My father in law got V a ton of stuff when she was first born that had to be stuffed in the closet for a year and a half. For a while there I was a bargain shopper as well, buying things on clearance that V could use “later.” Thankfully, both of us have since toned it down, and he now generally asks if he’s unsure if an item is age appropriate.
The age-inappropriate thing she got this year was from her aunt:
It’s called a YBIKE and it’s basically a training bike. It does NOT have training wheels, just two fatter wheels in the back. The goal is to teach the kid balance before moving onto a real bike. V really wants a tricycle, so of course she wanted to ride this right away. And of course she fell down and started bawling. Her aunt kept talking about how it was a top rated toy and such.
Now in all fairness, the website says this thing is for ages 2-4. However, age two seems way too young in my opinion. V is also petite, so her legs are likely too short and the bike too heavy for her to properly control. It weighs “only 7.7. lbs,” which doesn’t seem like much to an adult but V is like 25 lbs. That’s heavy for her. She did try a second time a few days later with duplicate results. We left the bike at my mom’s house to be brought up at a later date. Honestly, I can’t see using this thing before age three.
Even the best gift kinda sucks if it’s age-inappropriate, and I’m guessing it’s even more bitter for older kids. Think of it this way, would you get a car for a teen who legally can’t drive yet, just so they can see it taken away and put into storage until a few years later?
Family tradition is awesome and super important. Just make sure you stick with what is age-appropriate. When I was four or five my dad gave me some glass figurine. It was a Chinese-style dog, and apparently in some way connected to my great grandmother. I put stickers all over it. I was five, and putting stickers all over everything. My dad got pissed at me, but really, why the hell would he give something like this to a five year old and then be surprised at the results?
What gifts did your child get this year? Anything horribly annoying or inappropriate?