Second hand toys for second hand children?

Today we welcome a guest post from an adoptive mum. Have you experienced the same?

A few months ago we adopted our 2 year old son.

People have been lovely generally, but I’ve noticed a phenomenon emerging. There are a variety of ways that people have responded, so there seems to be no social norm. When a baby is born the convention is to give a card and a gift – yes? However, there seems to be no such convention when a child is newly welcomed into their adoptive family.

Is there an awkwardness around this new addition to our family…. do people feel confused as to what is appropriate? A lot of the time I’d rather just have a card….or nothing at all.

We decided not to keep the adoption a secret (I know some adopters who have the fantasy of keeping the fact that their child is adopted a secret from the world). How could we keep this quiet anyway? There would have been the very awkward questions from neighbours…eh, you seem to have a 2 year old suddenly living in your house! So therefore we set about the fairly lengthy task of gradually introducing our son to friends, neighbours and family. This when I started noticing the strangeness.

My partner’s parents spent a grand total of £7.76 on cheap clothes from a supermarket and soapy bubbles. These are people who drive a BMW and spend thousands supporting their daughter’s lifestyle and on their own holidays. They are determined that he will not be spoiled and are shocked at what he came with (toys and clothes) from the foster carers. They are even more shocked at what their close friends are buying him. They just don’t seem to understand. Their friends say to me, “oh I bet his granny is spoiling him!” And I just nod and say, “Oh yes”. Awkwardly.

Is it even possible to spoil a newly adopted child?

On the other hand, some people we barely know have spent a lot of money on beautiful toys and clothes. Maybe too much. I’ve also been aware that some of our more elderly neighbours who although being very cooing and enthusiastic about our son, have given us neither a present nor a card. There has been such a range of responses.

Then there is the issue of the second hand gifts. I know that there is a tradition of sharing usedIMG_20150805_170749 clothes and toys for new-borns, but…I feel hurt when the only gift is second hand- and especially when it is from a close relative. Have they not thought or do they really mean that this is what he deserves – a second hand gift for a second hand child? But I don’t ask. I smile and thank them. Grrrrr.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting anything – I’m just noticing a varied range of responses, and more than anything I’d actually rather be given nothing than a second hand present – I feel that my son deserves a bit better, not necessarily anything really expensive, but certainly not second hand. Am I being pompous? Is this just a protective response from a parent?

And as for those who think it is an opportunity to clear out their attics…. well that is another story. Sigh (!)

So what’s it been like for you? Did you know what to give before you adopted? What did you receive (if anything) from friends and family? Examples of best and worst presents? We’d love to hear your experiences…

11 thoughts on “Second hand toys for second hand children?

  1. Meggy

    When we adopted each of our boys we decided to be totally open about it, and we sent out to our friends family and neighbours ‘new baby’ announcement cards, home made, with a picture of the boy, date of birth, ‘came to live with us’ date, and even weight on arrival. Most people responded to them by sending cards, of the ‘congratulations it’s a boy’ type. Some apologised they hadn’t sent a card because they couldn’t find ‘adoption’ cards. We thought that was a bit awkward. Most did respond, I think the announcement card took away the slight embarrassment of not knowing how to deal with it.
    We got few presents, but at the time we didn’t think that strange, we weren’t expecting them. I don’t think most of our friends would have done differently for a newborn. In laws were keen to buy us something decent, the ‘problem’ there was that social services had supplied us money for pushchairs, high chairs etc, so they didn’t know what to get us. They have been generous enough since. My sister didn’t give us anything new, but we had her old cot, lots of her kids clothes, books and toys. We valued those more than we would have done new stuff, because it was ‘family’ stuff. We also got given a lot of old toys and books by friends with kids. We really appreciated these. It meant that when our son moved in the house was already full of toys and looked really child friendly.

  2. Gem

    We have always been open about adopting both our children. People gave a mix of new and second hand toys when we adopted our 2 year old Katie and I had a baby shower second time around and people bought baby gifts (Pip was 7 months). My friends and I pass toys and clothes to each other so I thought nothing of receiving anything second hand. One friend gave me a cotbed which was appreciated and another a travel cot. I love the history of the items and the sense of connectedness it has given the children when we’ve talked about who they belong to. I have little family so expectations there were limited. I do feel that some people feel awkward and unsure how to respond but I did feel my children were welcomed. I don’t think I would expect second hand gifts from family tbh and I wonder if you could find out more about your parents viewpoints about adopted children as this might prove to be an ongoing issue for you. Mostly I’d say I felt less special with my second adoption. Pip benefits from tons of clothes and toys from friends though which I don’t mind as it saves me loads of money. I’m not sure I’d feel happy about that as a welcome home gift though especially if people would buy new for a newborn.

    More importantly congratulations on your arrival. I hope you will all live a happy life xxx

  3. Adopted2

    We received a lot of second hand and hand me down items and still do. Sometimes it feels like people are just having a clear out and I subtly send off items to charity shops etc but most if the time it is great. Our daughter especially loves to receive clothes and items that belonged to aunt or cousin and it makes her feel more part of the family, connected some way ” I’ve got on the t-shirt like c had on when you took her to the park.”

    The card issue and new gift is people’s own ‘stuff’ and we have learnt if you take everyone’s feelings, opinions and thoughts into account well it’s probably going to be quite hard! If we received something great if not no bother. When it came down to it friends and family have been defined by the ones who are there at them end of the phone or have stuck around despite us not being around as much!

  4. Lindip

    Our LO came home 6 months ago at 20 months. We never got anything from SS so we’re very grateful for the offer of second hand from friends. We got a cot bed, buggy, car seat, high chairs, toys, books etc. These friends also bought gifts as well. We were astounded at how many gifts she got from all sorts of people. Having said that we have close friends (or so we thought) who were referees and we had nothing from them, not even a card. They have also not been to visit so have never met LO, too busy they said .
    You soon find out who will remain in your lives as important people.

  5. DL

    I’m sorry to hear of your family’s experience. We did not experience this and like Meggy we had announcement cards. Our little one was rather spoiled and continues to be. She has always been treated very much like every other member of our family, which is welcomed. She is the only grandchild on one one side and although not the only one on the other side, her cousins live overseas so she has the lion’s share of everyone’s attention. We were not given many second hand clothes, but when we were we welcomed this as it meant she had lots to choose from! It’s a shame that children cannot be welcomed into all families no matter how they arrive.

  6. Louise

    I was very lucky as my friends from work and my friends from church threw me baby showers (I had 2) and both went really over the top which was amazing, I cried both times as I hadn’t expected anything.
    My aunt had been saving what was essentially a baby and toddler start kit for us for several years and hired a van to bring it all down which was amazing as this kitten out our house and the effort they went to to keep everything and drive it 4 hours made it special.
    On the other hand we had some very strange responses from close friends and some family who despite frequent discussion don’t understand that we are happy from them buy the boys things (we get a lot of – I thought it may be too much so didn’t get anything!?!).
    My favourite present was some money and they had done some pretend money to give our eldest so he could look after it and feel like he was spending it but we had the real money (£20 would be dangerous to a 3 yr old).
    Really interesting blog, thanks.

  7. Lucy

    I honestly think a lot of people just want to do the right thing and receive conflicting guidance. When my friends’ adopted last year they were advised that it might not be ideal for lots of presents to arrive when the children first move home as it gives an impression of bribery or a kind of “look how fun our house is – you get presents everyday” which would be hard to handle once the gifts tail off (and could trigger negative emotions at birthdays/christmas) – so on the child’s arrival we sent very small gifts (for adopted and birth children), and now send equal birthday and xmas gifts for all children in the family. So when other friends’ adopted more recently, I remembered this advice and sent a gift for the parents (wine and choc!) as well as very small gifts for the children (but included a note asking that they share with the children whenever/however suits them best). Have I offended? I hope not – I am just trying my best. I am not an adopter, but happy to receive advice/suggestions – the problem is that every situation is unique. I also saved my children’s old baby/toddler bits to pass onto others – most people I know are grateful to receive these and enjoy the knowledge that ‘this used to be x’s cot’ or ‘I remember when x wore that top on his 1st Christmas/birthday’ (and likewise I love seeing other children wear my sons’ old toddler snowsuit etc). It never occurred to me that someone might be offended by me giving them all the stuff I could have sold on ebay/gumtree/facebook!

  8. The Girl Behind The Camera

    When J first came home we sent an announcement postcard to friends and family. Most sent a card, close friends gave presents (new clothes or toys), my sister gave me second hand as well as new. I actually think it’s nice to get second hand too. It meant he was wearing his cousins clothes which was quite sweet. I didn’t think so much about whether things were new or not, more had they put thought and love into it. Once we’d settled down we had an adoption party/baby shower where we added on the invite presents weren’t expected but if they would like to get something, we were building up his book collection. Wow we were inundated with awesome books that he loves now. I did have some cousins who didn’t bother to get anything but I expected that as they had been pretty ignorant about the whole thing!

  9. Katie Wilkins

    I read this post with much interest. As an adopted adult i have experienced a wide range of responses to adoption from comments such as “oh I always thought they were your real mum and dad” to “I wish I was special and chosen like you!”
    When we adopted our own children we also saw distinctly different responses to those of friends/colleagues having birth children. I worked in adoption so had an amazing response from my colleagues, and also it must be said, from my fantastic friends and family who “get” adoption. But my husband’s experience was markedly different – he has worked for the same employer for over 34 years and has had close working relationships with many colleagues for many years. He spent years organising collections for cards/flowers to send to colleagues upon the arrival of their babies….so he was profoundly disappointed when our “good news” was met by his work colleagues’ wall of silence! It was as though they did not know how to react to our amazing news! One colleague even asked another whether he “should mention it” as clearly he considered it to be a delicate and sensitive topic!

    Yes the lead up to adoption etc had been a long and painful journey and we didn’t freely offer this up to everyone but once we had been through the matching process/panel/introductions and we’re bringing our daughter (and later son) home for the first time then we were experiencing all the joy and elation that any new parent feels…and we wanted to celebrate this with all those who knew us!

    It may be different in that those not closest to you may not know you are going through the adoption process which perhaps differs from seeing an expectant mum go through her ante natal stages and therefore when the news that an adopted child is on the way (very soon or has already arrived!) then the surprise can be misconceived as disinterest or unintended prejudice.
    Whatever the reasons, it did leave my husband feeing very disappointed that the same level of thought or consideration had been extended to him on the arrival of our little ones – but to be honest it was soon forgotten about as those that really matter in ours and our children’s lives have always been incredibly supportive and treated us, dare I say it, with even greater care and thought!
    Yes adopting a child is a different journey to parenthood and there will always be differences as we move through life – adoption is a lifelong evolving process and having lived with it for 47 years it can still present new challenges for me and I am mindful of that as I watch my little ones grow. But 99% of the time, I am just like any other parent bringing up two children …facing all the same issues and dilemmas that all parents do! The biggest challenge I faced today was getting toothpaste off the school jumper and a tomato stain out of a white collar…so for anyone supporting or related to an adoptive family….please see the family and the child first…they are not defined by adoption, just formed by it!

  10. Busy Bee

    Congratulations on becoming a parent. I recently announced to my friends that I had been approved by panel, and since I am yet to be matched we don’t know what age or sex to expect, but I have had so many offers of second hand items that I am overwhelmed with people’s kindness. Something that has been loved or worn by my friends’ children is far more precious to me than something they have picked up in a shop. It is natural for a newborn nursery to be all new, but to me it would seem very sterile for a toddler’s room to be filled with all new stuff (I think I read in one of the books about adopting that it can be daunting for a child to arrive to an all new bedroom and they can be overwhelmed by gifts), so I delight in the books being a bit dog-eared, and the toys pre-played with! It’s seems more homely to me, and filled with sentiment (rather than money). So, the moment I know age and sex of my child, I shall be putting the call out for second hand items and feel privileged to receive them. I would have been unhappy about your partner’s parents’ response, and hope that once they get to know your son they will know what to buy in future.

  11. Karen

    When my son came to me he was 13 months old and I was overwhelmed to get lovely cards and gifts for him from lots of unexpected people – neighbours, colleagues etc. I was however really disappointed that my brother and his family have hardly done anything, including no birthday present! A fellow adoptive mum has given us the most beautiful presents including one on the day we went to court to finalise the adoption as she totally “gets” what it means. As for second hand toys and clothes these have come in really useful as budgets are tight. I think people should treat the arrival of your child the same way they would a birth child with a card or a present…..its the fact that some people don’t do anything as it not a “birth” that is hurtful. Congratulations on becoming a parent!! X


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