We attended another birthday celebration today. We followed the rules and brought a present for a child who doesn’t need another toy, let alone 10. I even bought a backup gift when I found out my Amazon Prime order might not come in time for the party. WHY?! My husband and I asked ourselves, why!?
Why do we make this childhood thing so expensive? Why do we feed into the madness of purchasing unneeded toys and gifts for babies who just want to play with keys and solo cups, kitchen spoons and electrical cords?
We’re new to this parenting thing, but when invites were sent out for our almost 1-year-olds birthday, I added, “absolutely no presents needed.” In fact, I included, “all gifts brought will be donated” because I work with kids who will gladly accept toys from family members who I know will not listen to my requests. But it again begs the question, why?! Why do we feel like our value, our children’s value, our family’s value is held in physical items? Why, even though I understand that MY child doesn’t need any more things, do I continue to fall to the cultural standard of bringing a birthday gift to a baby’s party?
Childhood and parenting are expensive as it is. Diapers, doctor bills, nursery furniture, car seats, toys, gadgets, new clothes, and shoes every other week because the old ones are already too small. It’s all pricy enough without worrying about having the latest clothes, the coolest gadgets, and more toys every year for birthdays.
I’m only a year into this parenting world, and already my Instagram feed is full of moms representing anything and everything available for me to buy. I’m already inundated with messages to buy this for my baby or this, or that. Every new post in my feed tells me that my life will be better, easier if we have…in our nursery. And it’s so easy to get sucked into this idea that I need the most stylishly dressed child, or that I need every nursery item for sale at Buy Buy Baby.
But I’m here to share a different approach. What if we spent less time buying items, gadgets, toys, and clothes for our children and just spent more TIME with them? What if you skipped the Paw Patrol themed birthday party this year and took a long weekend with your 4-year-old? What if you took the money you saved from choosing not to buy items and you took a family outing, or you put that money into their college fund?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, as much as I want to deny it, my 11 month old would rather play with my keys, go on a walk, eat grass, and dump water on himself in the bathtub than play with any of the 1,782,365 toys in our play room. WE want our children to have lots of toys, WE want them dressed a certain way, WE have this mentality that WE are better parents if they appear to be well taken care of. I get you, I feel that way some days too.
I might be new to this parenting thing, but I’ve been working with kids for 10+ years with 5 of those years in the field of social work, and I’m here to tell you one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years. YOU are your child’s favorite thing. It doesn’t matter if they wear hand me downs or the latest fall fashion from a children’s boutique. You are their parent, your value is not in the items that you provide for them. They love you, they want to spend time with you, you are enough.