Friday, February 15, 2013

Special Guest Writer: S**t You Shouldn't Have Bought For My Children

I'd like you all to meet my friend Jamie. Jamie is a mom to three darling daughters, wife to one hilarious guy I went to high school (and college) with, and also runs a successful (and tasty!) business out of her house. For years, I have been asking her to write a guest blog post about her life. Okay, asking may not be the right word. Perhaps it's somewhere between begging and demanding. But I finally wore her down enough for her post to appear in my in-box.

A long time ago in a lifetime far, far away, Jamie and I were at college together. With the same major. And extra-curricular activities. And general career aspirations. In fact, I remember being in the college newspaper office with her one long evening, saying to her, "Why do I feel like we'll just keep bumping into each other the rest of our lives?" And to her credit, she didn't run away screaming. Well, look at us now, two educated, well-read (though I will gladly point out she's a lot more well-read than I am) women, now at home raising a family and trying to decide when exactly is the appropriate time during the day to move from coffee to wine. We live four hours away from each other, but most of our get-together ideas involve a Barnes and Noble, spa treatments, copious amount of red wine, and our husbands somewhere else with the children.

(That was a lengthy introduction, I know. I just adore Jamie so much, I can't edit my words down! You need to know EVERYTHING!)

She wrote this after Christmas, but I think it has a yearly appeal. I can't wait to hear what her kids got for Valentine's Day.

Contrary to what others might think (like my husband, who constantly bemoans the fact that he can’t stay at home doing nothing all day), being a stay at home mom does not leave me a lot of free time.  In fact, a typical school day requires me to be in the car every two hours, which means that I can’t get much done during the day. What free time I do have comes in 10 minute increments, which is perfect for reading other people’s blogs, or making sure those Christmas cookies don’t go to waste. As the holidays approached, I noticed a lot of articles and blog entries by parents regarding their families’ gift choices, as in, “Please don’t buy this for my kid for Christmas.”
Apparently some people in my family didn’t read those.
While my girls got many very thoughtful and age-appropriate gifts (and of course everyone was properly thanked with a hand-written note, because I’m obsessive like that), a few gifts will be promptly donated to Goodwill (or, knowing my tendency to forget about things that aren’t immediately blocking my way to the bathroom or the kitchen, they might make it to the Toys for Tots drop box next Christmas). Here are a few:
Three presents from Uncle Single-and-Childless. The next stuffed thing that comes into this house will be HIM.

Angry Birds game

Based on the perfectly good phone app whose best feature (allowing kids to destroy things without the messy cleanup) is completely obliterated by all the tiny pieces included in the games, which are intended for kids ages 5 and up. My kids are 5, 3, and 1. So not only are these games only appropriate for my oldest, she can only use them when the youngest is napping, because you just know that kid’s gonna put every little piece in her mouth.

But the best thing is written right on the box: “Do not aim at eyes or face.” What five-year-old’s aim is good enough to avoid those and other delicate parts of their anatomy, I wonder? Guess who got these games for my kids? My two brothers-in-law, both single and childless. Maybe instead of donating these I should save them to give to my future nieces and nephews.
   “Mess-free” finger paints

Newsflash: no paint is ever mess-free. Especially when my kids are involved.

Window markers

These would be really great if they ONLY worked on windows. I handed these to my three-year-old, and five minutes later I notice my white window trim is now a beautiful shade of aqua blue, as are my kid’s lips. There’s a reason blue lipstick is only for the runway.

Moon Dough

Another supposedly “mess-free” product, but any parent who has given this shit to their kid knows how impossible it is to pick up all the tiny flecks this stuff creates. And if your floor is dirty and full of crumbs to begin with, like mine? Don’t bother picking it up, just run that vacuum and call it a day.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but honestly, I’d rather my family saved their money and spent it on themselves. My kids will not be traumatized for life because they only got a few, well-chosen presents for Christmas. It has taken my mother-in-law five Christmases to come to this same conclusion. One year she got a few of those giant bags to wrap huge, unwieldy gifts, and filled them with entire racks of clothes from Babies R Us, plus a ton of toys. This year she kept it simple: a Holiday Barbie and a few books for each kid. Both things my kids love, and they didn’t take up much space in the van on the way home. I can’t say the same about the giant stuffed panda (again, a brother-in-law gift). He looked pretty good tied to the roof of the van, though…the panda, not the brother-in-law, although don’t think I wasn’t tempted.

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