10 Things Every Mom Resents Buying For Her Kids

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I love my children to the moon and back, but that doesn’t mean I have to love how much their stuff costs. And while some child-related spending is necessary, there are a lot of things that fall in between “absolutely required” and “totally optional.” These are the things that I’m most likely to resent buying, because on the one hand I know they’re totally not a need, and on the other hand I don’t want to win Heartless Mother of the Year.

We’ve all got things that we have to buy that just rub us the wrong way, so I’m sure the comments will provide about a million other suggestions. But in my mind, these are the ten things that I purchase for my kids that elicit a fixed cheerful smile at the cash register (“Isn’t this EXCITING?!”), followed by a half-hour rant after the kids go to bed.

1. Dress shoes



$27 for fancy shoes that they will wear twice before they outgrow them? In my area, even used dress shoes can cost $10 plus, which is obscene when you realize that these things barely touch the ground before they get stuffed in the back of the closet, only to be rediscovered on a future clothing purge. I thought it was bad with my son, but at least boys’ dress shoes are pretty standard, so it’s easy to find used pairs. For Alicia, the shoes not only have to fit, but have to look semi-sensible with whatever outfit she’s wearing. Thanks, fashion standards. Why can’t kids just go barefoot everywhere?

On that note…

2. Sandals


Considering it’s now December and there is half a foot of snow on the ground, and Alicia is STILL trying to argue that she should be allowed to go around barefoot, I don’t know why I buy sandals either. I think my kids must have been firewalkers in a previous life, because neither of them seem to care what’s underfoot, while I’m busy mincing around like I’m walking on broken glass. I could move from the closed-toe sandals I always get to flip flops from the dollar store, but even that seems excessive considering the first thing they do outside is try to sneak their sandals off without me seeing. Next summer, I’m contemplating spray painting their feet and seeing if I get away with it.

3. Cheap toys for party loot bags


As a kid, weren’t loot bags the best part of the party? Well, how times have changed, because now I can’t stand them. Looking around just my computer room, I’d estimate I can see about 500,000 little plastic toys – dollar store junk, fast food meal toys, the works. I’d wager that your house looks the same, so why do I send kids home from a party with even more of this stuff? Next year, I should just send the kids home with a bag full of quarters – something they could exchange for something useful. Or more dollar store junk, but hey, at least then it wouldn’t be my fault.

4. Sugary junk food they’re not going to eat



Thanks to the power of marketing to children, my son thinks he wants all the sugary cereal. But the reality is that he hates them, and would much rather have Cheerios or Rice Krispies. Every time he learns about a new “fun” cereal, he turns my own logic back on me and says, “But I haven’t TRIED this one, Mommy; I should try it to see if I like it!” Since our rule is that he gets to pick one treat at the grocery store each week, I can’t really say no. Then he excitedly runs home, takes his first bite, and gamely tries to hide his expression of disgust as he tells me, “Um…I think I like this cereal.” And then it ends up in the back of my not-overly-ample pantry, a reminder of both the susceptibility of kids to marketing techniques and the lack of storage space in my kitchen.

5. Healthy food they’re not going to eat


“Now wait a second,” you say. “How can healthy fruits and veggies and sugary junk food be on the same list of things you hate to buy?!” No, I’m not a horrible mom who doesn’t care if her kids eat healthy food. But I sure am sick of playing fruit and veggie roulette every grocery run. Two weeks ago, Ben was eating four apples a day, so I bought a three pound bag of Golden Delicious; in a move that surprises no one, he hasn’t eaten one since. Cucumber slices are the best thing in the world – until, of course, I buy a six-pack of cucumbers, at which point cucumber is boring and yucky. I’ve resolved that, from now on, I’m sticking to berries: sure, they may be comparatively more expensive, but at least I can eat a pint of strawberries by myself when the inevitable occurs.

6. Gift items from fundraising catalogues



You’d think fundraising catalogues would contain things that people might actually want to buy. One of the items in the fundraiser for our gymnastics club is, I kid you not, a book called “When I’m Gone: Practical Notes For Those You Leave Behind” – for recording where your will is, what your PIN numbers for your bank accounts are, and so on, after your inevitable demise. What a great gift idea! I contemplated it as a joke for my mother, who gave me my sick sense of humor and therefore would appreciate it, but $20 is too much for a gag gift. And yet, if I don’t buy anything, I feel like I’m failing to support the kids’ activities. Plus, without the fundraising, the parent waiting area will never get the climate control system that it so desperately needs. Maybe Dad would like that book…

7. Books based on licensed characters


I am all about reading, so whatever gets the kids excited about a book is okay with me. But why do books based on licensed characters have to be so BAD? As an aspiring children’s author, I know that the number one rule is not to pitch any story featuring licensed characters, because TV studios, toy manufacturers, and other license holders keep their products’ reputations under very tight control. So surely they can find people who can write a story that doesn’t numb my brain within a page and a half. They must know how often we poor parents will end up reading these books over and over and over and over and over….Sorry, I had a flashback to a Bubble Guppies book. I’m told that the effect will fade in time, no doubt to be replaced by Pokemon or Power Rangers.

8. Kids’ combos at the movies



I love popcorn and candy at the movie theatre – what’s a movie without a treat? But we made a critical mistake on Ben’s very first movie visit: Sean got him a kid’s combo. Now there is no convincing him that any other snack option is acceptable. Never mind if he just ate lunch and only really wants some Skittles, or if all four of us are going and we could really just get one large popcorn to share. We already know that Ben will insist that he’s still REALLY hungry and that Alicia will want to hold the popcorn bag, which is a disaster waiting to happen with a large. The end result is two kid’s combos and a ton of leftover junk food, which I definitely don’t end up eating all by myself in the car on the way home.

9. Anything in a blind bag


There is a special place in hell reserved for people who put toys for kids under12 in blind, randomized bags. They may think they’re evil marketing geniuses and joyfully contemplate their sales increases, but all it makes me want to do is never buy anything from them again. EVER. Ben doesn’t understand that randomized packs of collectibles are a great way to sell more product; he just knows that he really wants the mummy or the wizard or whatever. That’s why he has a very light piggybank and five of the race car driver Imaginext figure. Even my beloved LEGO and Playmobil have fallen to the dark side. It’s spreading. Warn the people!

10. Holiday decorations


My version of decorating for the holidays basically means that, at Christmastime, I’d like to put up a tree and maybe some lights outside. Ben, on the other hand, is a budding lighting designer who wants a show for every holiday – Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day…you name it. Every holiday I think, “We’ll get a couple of window clings and that will satisfy his yearning for decorations”…and then he ends discovers all the OTHER things we could be decorating with. Banners! Flags! Three foot wide bows! Six foot tall candy canes! Since I would prefer not to be challenged on the amount I’ve spent due to my wrapping paper addiction, I let him get a few things. Of course, when the time to put up the decorations rolls around, it’s funny how he always has something else he has to do…

Actually, scratch that last one. I think my holiday decoration expenditures may be training him for management.