My first baby shower was perfect. There were so many gifts that I couldn’t fit them all in my car, so I had to make two trips back to my hostess’ home to retrieve everything. The baby in my womb already had enough toys, games, books and clothes to last until she was five years old, and I was thrilled. But soon after M was born, it became apparent that despite having every baby gadget under the sun, all she wanted was to be in my arms, which perplexed me. I moved her from stroller to bouncer to walker and then to play mat because I wanted to make sure that we “used” all of the items that I so desperately had to have to enrich my child’s life from the very beginning. Next I discovered that Christmas for a newborn to about age three means absolutely nothing to them; it is really all for the adults in their lives. Baby M could not have cared less about Santa’s gifts, those I spent hours researching to know if they stimulated brain cells or deciding what color toy she would like best. I should have learned my lesson with the first child, but when — surprise — my second, also a girl, was on the way — my common sense just flew out the window. Since baby number two was the same sex as baby number one, she could play with the same toys and wear the same clothes of her older sister, which were, afterall, like new. Nope — illogical Laura said, “I want her to feel as special as our first baby, so she must have NEW things, too.” Like an infant knows the difference.
So fast forward six months to picture me at home “24/7” with two children under age two, and you will see me constantly picking up tons of toys, played with for all of five seconds, and whispering profanities under my breath. Honestly, one minute I was praying for my girls and the next cursing ever letting my husband even look my way! I dreaded shopping because Madeline had a meltdown if I didn’t buy her a new toy every time we went into a store, even though there was a room at home filled with fingerpaint, playdough, stickers, glitter, puzzles, books, games, toys of all descript — you name it. (But the only paint she wanted to play with was my red lipstick!) Needless to say, this made me resentful and angry because after working hard to provide them toys and activities that I would have wanted as a child, my girls had little to no interest in them.
On the contrary, while with the girls outside playing “I Spy” and “Tag” one afternoon, (at NO cost, I might add), M said to me, “I just love spending time with you, Momma.” EUREKA! I suddenly realized that all the other “stuff” was for my satisfaction, not theirs. Buying for them made me happy, not to mention that it also relieved my guilty conscious when giving them a toy was more convenient than giving them my attention. Here’s the deal — yes, there is plenty out there that is cool, educational, and just fun. Even so, kids most prefer simply playing with a parent, especially in their land of make believe where tree branches become magic wands and dandelions turn into fairy dust. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for apps and programs designed for children (AMEN for PBS Kids!), but they are no substitute for parenting, the MOST IMPORTANT JOB a mother has. Investing in experiences, not more stuff, is truly “time well spent.” Even so, engaging with children is not always very exciting, let’s face it; In fact, at times, it may be downright boring, not to mention exhausting. But to our kids, it’s the BEST.
I wish I could tell you that I have this completely under control, but I don’t. My girls still have way more than they need and probably always will. Honestly, if they were given toys or games only on birthdays and Christmas, they would still be blessed beyond measure. Yet, I let Satan convince me to regularly buy them more just to make sure that “Mom” and “Dad” look good. Besides, I couldn’t bare to think that my girls might prefer something that someone else gave them. Now that’s a heart issue which must be examined — is my buying for them entirely out of love or really to “one up” someone else? Many of us will never know what it’s like not to be able to give our children most everything they ask for, but just as our Heavenly Father withholds from us, for our good, perhaps parents should do the same. Right now, all my girls really want is for me to play “Princess” or “Batman and Catgirl” for the nth time with them, but that’s not always easy, and sometimes, I’d I rather just pay than play. Yikes, did I just write that? Well, it’s the truth. It takes real effort for me to give my presence instead of presents, but I’m working on it. In the meantime, I am getting rid of anything that creates big messes, loud noises, or has multiple pieces to help me keep my sanity!
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:2-6
- When asked about birthday and Christmas gifts for your children, just reply that you prefer gift cards or certificates to attractions that your child enjoys, i.e., going to movies, funlands, theme parks, zoos, museums.
- Do an honest, monthly purge of toys you know your child no longer plays with and only keep truly sentimental items. If your “ keep pile” is larger than the “give away pile,” readjust.
- Stay away from $1 items (you know what I mean and where they are in every store), which often tear up before they reach your home.
- Try to find gifts that children can play with together for more than five minutes, like a doll house, kitchen set or a board game.
- Think “ quality over quantity” and buy or ask for gifts that last longer and can be passed down — a bike, a wagon, or table and chair set.
Your child does not need every superhero item out there, so select one or two, which is usually all kids play with and throw away the rest so you won’t keep stepping on them in the middle of the night!