by Ingrid Clark
My beautiful eldest daughter has just turned 15. Being a November baby, I was in a postpartum haze until just before Christmas, when it suddenly dawned on me that I had nothing to put under the tree for her first Christmas!
In a state of panic, and feeling like a very neglectful parent (what sort of mother forgets to buy their child a Christmas present?!), I rushed to the nearest department store in a late night shopping frenzy. Being my first child, I wanted to buy something gender-neutral in case my next one was a boy. That way, it would be suitable for years to come. Having just received lots of items at my baby shower, she wasn’t really in need of any clothes or bedding. I’m not much of a keepsake person, so I wanted the gift to be practical. After roaming the aisles searching for ‘the perfect gift’, I lost any perspective I might have had, and unfortunately made a very poor choice.
That Christmas back in 2003, my daughter ‘opened’ her first present: an awful electronic play gym. Not only was there a selection of dreadful electronic tunes that blared out at one of two volume settings: ‘loud’ or ‘louder’, but when my daughter kicked her cute little feet they would activate a virtual discotheque of flashing lights, guaranteed to overstimulate any baby!
I think it lasted 1 day. She hated it…and so did I! I’m not sure what made me more sad; the fact that my sweet, content baby girl was totally traumatised by my choice of gift, or the fact that I wasted $80 on it. Either way, it was a stark lesson. My baby didn’t need an $80 toy. My baby didn’t even need a ‘gift’ in the material sense. All she needed was to be surrounded by love, to be fed, cuddled and settled to sleep without being overstimulated by flashing lights & gaudy music. To quote my wonderful business partner Jen, “the very best toy is YOU”. Your baby will be more emotionally full after seeing your smiling face, hearing your sing-song voice and looking into your eyes. No toy on this planet can come close to matching that!
So with Christmas just around the corner, I want to encourage you that the best thing you can do for your little ones is to keep the stress low, and stay emotionally connected with them. They couldn’t care less if there’s a present under the tree with their name on it or not. Don’t let yourself be guided by all the pre-Christmas advertising. I wish I had paused for a moment to think clearly before racing to the shops 15 years ago. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if I had my time over I would have bought just something small for her and put the rest of that money into her first bank account.
May you all have a blessed Christmas, surrounded by family, love & laughter (with no electronic play gyms in sight!).
Jen is a midwife with almost 20 years experience in a Sydney birthing unit. She now lives & works on the Central Coast, supporting new mothers as they transition into motherhood.
Ingrid is a birth & postpartum doula, living and working on the beautiful NSW Central Coast.