stuff and my daughters first birthday

October 10th, 2007

“Stuff” and My Daughter’s First Birthday

In a few weeks, my daughter will turn one. She is the only granddaughter for both my parents and my inlaws (as my son is the only grandson) and consequently very blessed with love but also with… stuff. There will be no lack of gifts and clothes and things showered upon her for her birthday from both sets of very doting grandparents who by virtue of living a considerable distance away from us, only see her once or twice a year.

The grandparents have been demanding lists of presents we would like for her. Well – she does not lack for toys through the fact that she has all of my son’s outgrown toys as her own (we are a communal toy household) and she has plenty of clothing through the generosity of my dear friends with older daughters of their own (thanks especially B, E, S, and K!). I have been hard pressed to come up with much to ask for from them for her (and no, college fund deposits are not an option in this case, they want *stuff* to hold in their hands and watch her open).

So that leads me to my own dilemma. There is nothing I can think of to get for her for her birthday on my own. I do have money in the budget for her (small) party and some presents… but I am thinking of simply having a little cake and making an extra deposit in her college fund. She’ll have lots to open from the grandparents, after all, and I don’t want to buy her presents just to buy her presents, if you understand what I mean. I am trying to reduce “stuff” not accumulate even more of it for no reason except to say I bought something for her birthday.

But it makes me feel… cheap. Not frugal… cheap. Maybe I just have too much consumer ingrained in me.

What to do… what to do. She’s at an age that she truly will not know the difference. In fact, I was considering doing something similar for both kids for Christmas. Since we will be visiting the grandparents and they both will receive more presents than we can comfortably shove in my car…. just a small extra college fund deposit and call it a day.

Why does that make me feel so cheap? Bah.

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30 Responses to ““Stuff” and My Daughter’s First Birthday”

  1. We have the same dilemma at our house. We have way too many toys! If anyone asks me what my little ones need, I tell them they could use more books. That way they have something to open that is compact and expands their knowledge. Often times they get money for their savings or other needs along with the book.

  2. Ugh, I feel for you! I understand the desire to give presents as it is expected but as you say, she is too young to know and will be getting stuff from others anyway. Will your parents and in-laws comment if you do not give a gift at the birthday party? Perhaps you have some nice hand-me-downs she hasn’t grown into yet that you can wrap up and present? I just yesterday tried to convince my mother that at 26 I don’t need new pjs for Christmas anymore! In fact I don’t want any “stuff” I gave her the option of putting money in my pension or getting me tickets for a ballet (I usually treat myself every Christmas) but she’s still insisting on sending me “something to open” Sorry for getting off topic, I just want to say I commiserate but you should try not to feel cheap as you are working to create a secure future for your daughter and that’s worth more than any number of cuddly toys!

  3. Don’t feel cheap! You’re doing a good thing by not getting sucked into needless consumerism. At that age, it seems one-year-olds love to play with gift wrap more than the present inside, anyway.

    Adding to her college fund is a very wonderful gift.

  4. I agree with Kacie. Don’t feel cheap. This is in NO WAY an issue of you being cheap.

    I think your idea of contributing to the college fund is a great idea! Even a small amount now will amount to a large amount later, and it will be there to help your daughter when she needs it.

    One of my parents’ greatest gifts to me was a passbook savings account. When I was old enough to take charge of it myself, I was very touched as I looked back and found deposits made to my account on a regular basis since the week of my birth, and especially on my birthdays, even in a year when my father was laid off his job and my family was struggling a bit. I still have that passbook, and I pick it up and look at the first several pages of it and smile, knowing that my parents made those deposits for me when I was too young to save for myself.

    Also, you have to respect your values, and right now your values are telling you not to have too much “stuff.” So you must listen to your inner voice, as you already know that the doting grandparents will give her packages to open.

    Actually, the grandparents’ values are important, too. What they want is to have something tangible that they can give to your daughter, that is why they are asking for suggestions. How about a couple of suggestions from me?

    My first suggestion would be a scrapbook from each of the grandparents. The first several pages could be photos and momentos from them, such as their wedding photos and stories about important events in their lives. They can give this to your daughter, and then you can keep filling it with things as you go. Take photos of the grandparents with your daugher and put them in the album, along with birthday cards and postcards they send to your daughter. Believe me, your daughter will treasure this and the grandparents will assure that they are never forgotten. They could include disposable cameras and encourage your daughter to take photos of them when she is old enough to hold a camera.

    How about suggesting a beautiful piggy bank with some coins in it? When my best friend has children, I will buy them fun piggy banks and give them dollar or half-dollar coins to put in it every time I see them.

    How about suggesting something that relates to the grandparents’ hobbies or interests, something nice as a keepsake? A grandparent with an interest in art pottery could purchase or gift a special piece to be displayed in a safe place. A boy could receive an antique toy truck that is like the one his grandpa used to play with. Then it isn’t just another toy, it has a link to that grandparent. Talk to the grandparents and ask them to be creative, and if they cannot do that this year, then perhaps they could start next year.

    That is my suggestion, that the grandparents give meaningful gifts that will help your daughter connect with them.

  5. She’s one. She doesn’t even know what “cheap” means, don’t worry. :-)

    One-year-olds like cake. They also like to play with things. Maybe take some toy she hasn’t used in a while, wrap it, and give it to her. It’s not a sure thing, but it’s a thought.

    Playing with her is probably the best birthday present you can give her, even if you do it every day. And singing to her about her birthday.

  6. If your daughter is anything like mine she will play with the wrapping rather than the present and the present she will love will be the old sunglasses given to her.

    I don’t think you need to worry about giving her a present, the best present she can have is you being there. Let the grandparents spoil her and her college fund get’s a boost.

    As my daughter is the only child we have (at the moment!), we packed away a whole lot of her toys before her first birthday party (only a couple of weeks ago) so that there was a place for her new toys.

  7. Hi we had the same thing in our house. My third just turned two. The biggest “thing” that I remember from my grandparents when I was growing up was one of my grandmothers would read a book on tape & send it to me along with the book to read along to with the bell to turn the pages. that and art supplies, Finger paints, tub toys stuff that can be used up & then thrown out.
    Just a few thoughts.
    One final thing is we had an uncle who would give us a mint set every year on our birthday. he started with the year we were born & worked up from there but it’s pretty cool to have those when you are ohh say 38? like me. grin.

  8. You feel cheap because you live in a culture where we “have” to buy stuff.

    But don’t worry about it. You’re not cheap, and you’re daughter is obviously not going to remember this birthday! :-D

    And when she does learn about it… she’ll be using the money for college or something else – and be that much happier. I wish I had stories of my parents setting away money for me to go to college instead of “I got a rattle for my first birthday.” Not quite as exciting of a story! haha

  9. I’m also going to suggest keepsakes. Keepsakes with photos, to be specific. My three year old loves looking at photo albums. My mom makes special books for my son. She uses pictures of him along with simple text and then laminates them. This would add to your “stuff”, but it would be inexpensive and something fun to keep around, and if the grandparents gave pictures, a good way for your kids to get to know them. I have a similar problem in that I like buying gifts for others, I would feel sad if I didn’t purchase a gift and instead contributed to a college fund, even though in the long run, the later is a better choice for very young kids.

  10. I don’t think one year old is old enough to buy presents for. My son got a few gifts from his grand parents which he seemed to enjoy and that was that.


  11. Wow, thanks for all the replies! It makes me feel better and less cheap :)

    These are all great suggestions, both for gifts from us and gifts from her grandparents. I have some great ideas now of what to suggest.

    And the story about the passbook savings account is so sweet. Maybe I should print her out a copy of her ING statements… lol

    Thanks so much everyone! Y’all are the best!!

  12. At one year old, I think there are about 3 gifts that make sense: a savings bond/a sharebuilder donation/etc., a book and things that bounce. Other than that, it’s going to be discarded in an hour.

    My grandmama gave me a silver dollar every year when I was little. It seemed so exotic and big, and I was always fascinated by it. I have remembered and kept those a lot longer than any of the toys I received – and if nothing else they are worth at least $1 apiece…

  13. That isn’t cheap, it’s something she’ll appreciate when she’s older (going to college). You could have them do a savings bond in her name as well; my father used to do that for my birthday. The comment above about photographs is also a nice idea, as she will like to look at those photos when she is older (especially if she is in them :D )

  14. yay things that bounce!

    I’m in with the “one small thing to open, cake, and a deposit to her college fund” team.

    And the book reading idea – how seriously cool is THAT?!

  15. I like your post! Some gifts ideas to give the grandparents and which are ‘consumable’: play-doh, crayons and paper, markers that don’t stain, glue sticks and all sorts of craft supplies. Have fun!

  16. It’s not at all about feeling cheap. It’s more about not wanting to accumulate stuff. My daughter’s birthday is a month away from x-mas. As a result we get a lot of toys and “stuff” every year. Now it’s great that she has family who cares but you know what? Most of the stuff gets played with a few times and is then forgotten about. We just donated BAGS of stuff to a local charity garage sale and in the process cleaned our daughter’s room of clutter. We would much rather a bond be bought in our little ones name than receive yet another doll. It’s tough though because the people who are giving really mean well and you don’t want to seem unappreciative. We’re going to try to put some kind of limit on gifts this year and see what happens.

  17. Silver dollar – that sounds nifty!

    Must stock up on things that bounce.

  18. Thanks for all the ideas for things to suggest to my parents as well. And I am feeling less cheap by the minute :)

  19. I would recommend having the grandparents get professional pictures taken with the one year old. If, heaven forbid, anything happens to the aging grandparents, the child would have this lovely momento of then all together.

  20. @DivaJean – that is a great idea too! They live too far away to do that right now but maybe at Christmastime.

    Instead… a huge plastic slide is making its way here for the kids playroom. Um… well.. okay then. lol

  21. I hate to say it, but now that your son is in preschool, he is going to start comparing the amount of presents he gets with the amount his friends get :(

  22. He will eventually. He’s actually in preschool (at 3) for a communication disorder/delay, so i have a little time before he’ll be having conversations with his little friends. Bright side to everything lol!

  23. I really like shela’s idea about the scrapbook. My family’s history before my mom’s generation is very sketchy, so I would have loved it if my grandma had done that for me when I was a baby!

  24. One thing I learned is don’t feel guilty and don’t let anyone make you feel that way. For example I could get bent out of shape the my mother in law wants to throw my daughter another birthday party, but I am not. I am going to use it to my advantage because I don’t have to spend $400 or more to throw a party that all I will be doing is cleaning, cooking, serving, and chasing children. My husbands side of the family will be at her party, so that leaves about 10 people or so from my side. My mother made a request of us doing our party at her house, because otherwise she will not be able to make it do to healing from an upcoming surgery. As for presents we don’t want to waste a lot of money on toys she will outgrow, so we decided that my husband will take a vacation day on her birthday and we are going to give her the best day ever. This includes swimming at local YMCA, breakfast, lunch, and dinner out, arcade for toddlers, ear piercing, movies, and anything else we can think of. We may spend more money than we would on gifts but to us we think this might be the greatest gift we could give her. She will have had a great day where as toys she can grow out of.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is don’t beat yourself up, don’t let anyone make you feel bad, and you don’t just have to do parties and toys. You can be creative the sky is the limit. Well maybe your budget is the limit but you know.


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