The other day, armed with several boxes and a garbage bag, I went into my children's room. Now, you may think that because my family just moved, a lot of the useless items would already have been purged, but no. It seems that the unnecessary crap persists, and no amount of KonMari-esque disposing of it will fix that. Let's just take, for example, all the things well-meaning people buy 1-year-olds that are a waste. The amount of unnecessary stuff is almost comical, but when you multiple that by six and three (the ages of my two kids), and add it together, suddenly things don't seem all that funny. Guys, that's the level of insanity we're talking about in my house.
To be clear, I'm not necessarily complaining. I adore that there are so many loving, kind, and thoughtful people in my life and my children's lives. I appreciate that people want to do nice things for them and that some people express their love through gift-giving. I want to be gracious and I will, without hesitation, say thank you over and over and over again. But, you guys: sometimes we all need to take a step back and think, "Is a 1-year-old mini-human going to care about this? Am I going overboard? Who is this really for?"
So I say it's worth it to consider the following before you hit that damn check out button and send box after Amazon box to your friend's soon-to-be 1-year-old child. A second or two in which you thoughtfully question your purchasing decisions won't hurt, my friends. I promise.
A Mini Car
I speak from personal experience here. Now that my children are 6 and 3, this thing is awesome, and I'd be lying if I said that the small child inside of me (the one who always wanted one of these things but never got one) wasn't insanely jealous. But it was purchased before my son's feet could touch the pedal, before he had any concept of how he could operate this thing even if his feet could touch the pedals, and before we had a house of our own with space to store such an item.
So, while it wasn't ultimately a waste, it was wasted on a clueless 1-year-old.
Again, this is an item that your average 1-year-old human will not have the coordination or balance to take advantage of, though it seems to be a very popular first birthday gift (according to my highly scientific and statistically relevant observations of friends and family). Maybe my kids are behind the curve, but neither of them seemed to get the concept of pedaling until they were well past 2 years old. I mean, most kids are only just starting to get the hang of walking at 1 (if they're walking at all), so a tricycle is jumping the gun a bit.
The above baby is an anomaly! Have you ever seen a 12-month-old? They're uncoordinated AF. So, yeah, that baseball glove is a really nice symbolic gift, but the idea that they can catch a ball ignores the reality that they can't hold onto it for any amount of time after it's gently handed to them. They probably can't even say ball. Don't be fooled by the viral videos of babies skiing or playing ping pong: babies suck at sports. Give them time to figure out how not to stick a hockey stick in their mouth before you start training them to be the next Miracle on Ice.
Name Brand Sneakers
Personally, I didn't worry about putting shoes on my children until they were walking (and even then only if we were going to be outdoors on terrain that might hurt their feet). They DGAF about what was covering their toes and neither did I. So when I see people dropping serious money on fancy-ass sneakers for their little ones (who, let's face it, are going to grow out of them in about four seconds), my mind boggles. I'm not saying you have to shod your child in the cheapest, crappiest kicks you can find, but your kid doesn't care about sporting knock-offs yet. Take advantage because, come middle school, you're probably going to be screwed.
Fancy, Personalized Items
I'm a 34-year-old woman and to this day I have personalized items I received as an child that I don't know what to do with. It's not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not especially sentimental so it's like, um, OK?
I certainly didn't appreciate them when I was a 1-year-old. As I grew up. they were just sort of scenery in my room (what child cares about interior decorating aside from, say, a New Kids on the Block poster here and there?) and now that I'm an adult, I just have a box of this stuff that I don't know what to do with. I can't give them away, because they all say "Jamie Ann" on them, and I don't want to throw them out because they're sweet, but I don't want to display them because I just don't need that much stuff with my name on it. I know it's meant to be a thoughtful gift but it's just a legacy of guilt and clutter! (YES! I have some feels on this issue you guys!)
Items That Take Up A Ton Of Space
Because dear God, people! Some of us live in small apartments. And babies? Everything is big to a baby. Going super-ultra-extra in the size of your gifts isn't going to be any more impressive to them than a normal-sized gift would be.
Seasonally Inappropriate Items
This can sometimes be OK. But keep in mind that very small children are "instant gratification" kinda folks. So if you give them, like, a sled in the middle of July, either don't expect them to get super excited for something they can eventually do in the winter (at which point they probably will have forgotten about ever having gotten a sled). Or expect them to cry immediately that it's not snowing right now. Or expect that the will take a seat on the sled, think it's an indoor toy... then you can expect to face the parents' annoyance over the fact that they have a sled in the middle of their living room because taking it from their kid results in a sob-fest and it's just not worth it.
What about this face — typical after any meal — suggests that anything you buy her is going to stay white or even wearable?
Because I know they're all adorable. Believe me, I know. But there's only so many any child can love, people.
Just as 1-year-olds are not yet athletes, neither are they yet artistes. They also have no concept of what makes for an appropriate canvas and so unattended oil pastels will be used to paint an non-commissioned mural (#BabyGorillaArt). They might be interested in art supplies, so some items might be cool (finger paints, for example, and ideally edible finger paints because those fingers will absolutely find their way to a child's mouth, paint be damned) but hold off on the fancy art sets and easels. Babies just don't appreciate fine art. Barbarians.
Extremely Loud Toys
So will loud items strictly speaking be wasted on a baby? No. They'll probably love the thing... but it will be wasted on them when, one day, mommy just can't take it anymore and tosses it in the nearest thrift store drop box. "What's that, sweetie? Where did your drum go? Gee, I don't know. Mommy will look for it later."
An Enormous Party
Don't get it twisted! I'm not against having a full-on affair for your child's first birthday if that's what you want. But let's be honest: it's what you want. Your child would be happy with a big empty box to play with and a cupcake. A meticulously decorated cake? Artfully crafted decorations? Guest list full of your friends? A specially ordered birthday outfit? Do we have to pretend that your baby cares about any of it?
This is for you, and you know what I say to that? Do. It. UP. Hey, you've been caring for a demanding infant for a year now and you both made it through! That is worthy of any sort of celebration you want to have... but if it's for the exclusive benefit of your child, and if you are deriving no pleasure from this process, then it's a waste and you shouldn't bother.
My 1-year-old child is the only small animal I want to be responsible for at the moment, thank you. Getting a pet of any kind is something you just can't get for someone else. No. No, no, no, no, no, no, NO.
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