It's that time of year when we are frantically planning, purchasing and panicking - it's the most wonderful time of the year. Honest. So, to help you out, here is my list of most hated presents so you can use it to wreak petty revenge on your frenemies.
Hama beads - I will be eternally grateful to my kids' after school club for allowing them ample time to hama bead their lives away. Never allow these environmentally irresponsible beads over the threshold. In a fit of whimsy two Christmases ago, I though it would be lovely to replicate this calming creative activity at home. I was wrong, so so wrong. Cue half an hour of painstaking bead placement followed by one unexpected arm spasm and suddenly there are beads everywhere and an avalanche of crying. Never again. They have sat at the bottom of the arts and crafts drawer for almost two years, never to see the light of day.
Loom bands - remember loom bands? these are the zombies of the kids craft world. Every time I think they’ve loomed their way out of our lives, they suddenly reappear, littering the floors in every room with their multi-coloured, hoover-resistant tangles. The ratio of effort to reward is very off - so much effort with so little to show for it. Do you remember at the height of the craze someone made a freaking wedding dress from these little rubbery bastards? I do. I spent five hours weaving away and all I got was a long brightly coloured elastic band.
Aqua beads - I brought this one on myself. I actually asked someone to buy this shitty shitty product for our daughter. This present was a salutary lesson in the evils of advertising for our smallest one. We’d seen the advert; the girls with the pretty hair effortlessly dropping the beads into their allocated holes and creating art and hair bands and bracelets. Bracelets? Really? Aqua beads have the tensile resilience of balsa wood. If you even look at them funny they collapse back into their component parts. Plus, they are a total grind to use. Small kid gets out the high tech bead dispensing wand and clicks the button to release a single bead. Nothing happens. We shake it vigorously to persuade the beads that they want to leave their comrades in the wand and create some art. One brave bead makes the journey and immediately pings off the table and rolls under the fridge never to be seen again. It’s followed by a bunch of companions who then flee to separate parts of the kitchen leaving me crawling round on all fours collecting them like a disgruntled vampire.* Any activity that creates ten times as much work for the parent than the child is on my most hated list.
Magical musical wand - This is the kind of gift that is bought by an adult who is more concerned with what a child would like than what a grown up can tolerate. I understand, when you press that button in the shop and hear that refrain from the kid’s favourite disney film and you see the characters glistening in a magical snow globe it looks adorable. You know they’ll love it. The problem is that they will love it. They will love it so much they play it for ten days straight. The song never ends. It gets worse when they’ve got more than one. Hearing 3 separate wands playing 3 separate refrains at the same time is like wandering into a fever dream.
Pie face - ah Pie Face, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. You got cream in your face - ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. This is cute and hilarious on Christmas Day. Who doesn’t love the sight of Grandad with a face full of whipped cream? However, on a miserable wet Friday at the end of January, at 6 o’clock, when my eyes are already sliding toward that bottle of wine waiting on the worktop, the last thing I want is to drag the (most likely mouldy) whippy cream from the back of the fridge and set up a machine to help me nasally ingest it.
Hypersexualised dolls - My daughter is still very much at the baby and barbie stage of play. God bless her rigid conformity to stereotypes. I used to hate barbie (I was a Sindy girl through and through), I hated her shape and her vapid american breeziness, but my word, I will take that with both hands over a Bratz doll or a Monster High monstrosity. Why, exactly, are 80% of girls’ dolls wearing shoes that wouldn’t normally be seen outside a strip club? I’ve seen some excellent arguments online discussing some benefits of Bratz and their ilk for teaching diversity and non-conformity to little girls and I’m definitely down with that, but I don’t understand why it has to be in outfits that would be considered a bit full on in Spearmint Rhino. If we want to share a joy in personal style and non-conformity there are plenty of positive role models we can use for inspiration: Bjork springs immediately to mind. I would pay good money for a dress up Bjork doll. (Also, I am old.) It is worth bearing in mind that if you step on one of those tiny, pointy shoes in bare feet you will be able to teach your kids a whole new set of vocabulary they've never heard before.
Laser guns - if any toy that makes a ‘pew pew pew’ type noise enters my house without a mute switch it will be defenestrated in under 24 hours. That is all.
To all of you who have been kind enough to give these items to my kids, I really do appreciate your generosity and the fact that you have placed my children's happiness before mine, and I’m sure it doesn’t mean you secretly hate me… does it?
*Honestly, one of the recommended methods from stopping a vampire is to scatter rice, salt or lentils on the floor because it’ll be compelled to pick up all the grains. I’m a bit sad they never used this strategy in Buffy.