When I was a kid, Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney movie. I saw it in the theater. I had brown hair (like Belle) and I loved to drink fake tea. Since my daughter was 4 months old, we have been having tea parties. Now, at two-and-a-half -years-old, she takes it to a new level of adorable. She puts fake lemon in her tea and even pours cups upon cups of fake sugar into her empty plastic cup and pretends to be that little jerk Johnny,(from the nursery rhyme) who ate sugar and lied to his dad about it. So for Christmas, I got her the Beauty and the Beast musical tea cart.
One of the first things we did on Christmas morning was open up the tea set, play with the singing candle stick, and have a tea party while she wore her yellow princess dress. I felt like a child again and it was blissful. For adults, this is how we want to experience toys with our children.
Does anyone else get annoyed when your kids get toys that you don’t want to play with? Since our kids want us to play with them (and clean up after them), this can be frustrating.
I admit it, I return their presents behind their backs and buy them way cooler stuff.
This year, I made our kids a Target Wish List for Christmas. I figured it served a few essential purposes: to avoid repeat gifts, to give people ideas, and to avoid getting crap I don’t want to play with (i.e. clean up). It actually worked out well and I had very minimal exchanges to make this year. I highly suggest the Target wishlist.
It has been a week since Christmas and there are piles of unopened and neglected toys downstairs. Thanks to Target, this pile is smaller than previous years, finally. Every year these piles make me wonder if we are doing it wrong. If we are giving too much and caring too little.
As for the actual act of gift giving…I have come to the conclusion that only people that hate you give gifts that come with a billion pieces, specifically for the younger child who will try to eat them and throw them. My guide on small piece gifts is this… If it is going to break the vacuum, I won’t even open the box. That shit goes right back to the store or gets donated if I can’t figure out where the heck it came from. I know it sounds harsh, but your ten-dollar gift is not going to cost me a new four-hundred-dollar vacuum.
It is not that I don’t appreciate people buying gifts for the kids, I really do. It is the quantity of stuff that is the problem. Bringing a smile to a kids face can often bring a mess to someones organized house. It is the filler gifts-the ones we have all been guilty of buying to add more stuff to a pile for a child based on the fear that they will count how many gifts they got, or that more is better. But what happens to filler gifts? They remain in the pile, untouched.
I am all about quality, not quantity. I do not care how many tantrums a child has over how many gifts they get or did not get because the truth is- too many gifts overwhelm them (and their parents).
I believe that previous generations started this trend of needing to give their children more than they had to make up for their poor childhood. Then, those of us who grew up having every last thing that our hearts ever desired, are sitting here wondering why our houses are cluttered with f-ing toys. I am going to just come out and say it – I had enough stuff growing up. I was spoiled rotten and it kind of made me a little brat. That tradition stops here. I want our kids to appreciate what they have, not expect things just because. Not to become so obsessed with the act of opening gifts and not actually ever intending on really opening them. I want them to know what it is to be grateful, generous, and giving. We are not raising little a-holes. With that said, they don’t need more than us. They don’t even need as much as we had. We need to stop focusing on this-how much?
This realization first hit me a few years ago when my stepson got so many toys for Christmas, that by summer, he still did not open nor even want to open many of them. I can’t even recall where they all came from. Children of divorce tend to get presents from more people, even people you barely know. It is like a pity party free for all gift spree from everyone your parents have ever known- I know, I was this child. By the time the next Christmas rolled around, we had enough unopened toys to open a small toy store. Maybe not that many-maybe enough to have a garage sale table featured of just his brand new and unopened toys. The same thing happened the following year. And the following year. And suddenly, there were more and more people buying him gifts which is great but this is what happens.
Then, because of the clutter and lack of storage space in our previously smaller house, I started returning gifts I knew he would never open. I started donating some of them to Toys for Tots-because some kids have no toys, meanwhile, he could care less about tons of his toys. I exchanged or donated the ones from the prior year that had never even been opened, touched, and would never be missed or noticed missing. I started getting gifts cards to Target and Walmart for his unopened toys and just saving them for the times when he would ask me throughout the year to buy him random things. That is when the gift cards came in handy.
I swore this would never happen with our daughter. That we would never buy filler gifts and be overwhelmed by piles of unopened presents. My husband insisted I would feel differently with her. But nope, I don’t. Yes, I have purchased them but I come to my senses and return them, sometimes. Especially if they weren’t fun to play with.
When she gets something I know she will never use, I exchange it right away. I am talking about unfamiliar characters, age inappropriate toys, and things she is uninterested in. I get her something else. I get her something I know we can enjoy together. Is it wrong? I don’t know. Does it make our lives easier to not have our house filled with more toys she does not even play with? Hell yes.
I am not going to have four ride on toys in my living room just because they were all gifts. Nope, not here. Three of those ride on toys became Princess Dresses, A play kitchen, and PJ’s. I would have rather started a college fund for her, but that is an entirely different story.
Now, I am not saying that everyone needs to go giving every child expensive toys, not at all. That is not what it is about. Especially giant toys. Nobody needs a 5 foot teddy bear or four different play kitchens. Buy a child something thoughtful and focus on their enjoyment, not hitting a quota for how big a pile should be.
What I am saying is- there is no reason to count how many presents each kid gets and keep some quota of how much. Get what matters. Picture them playing with these toys or enjoying the gift with others, how does that image look in your head? Before buying a gift, ask yourself, is this going to end up in the trash? Is this useful? Does anybody actually want to play with this? And most importabtly, Is it going to break the vaccum?