New baby - what to get now for 18th birthday?
September 29, 2008 3:34 AM   Subscribe

Our baby daughter is nearly two weeks old. We want to do something special now for her 18th/21st birthday. We are doing a baby book with our thoughts about her now and will be putting some money aside into her UK child trust fund. Port seems so old fashioned and whisky so inappropriate. Any ideas?
posted by Bigbrowncow to Human Relations (40 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing you could do is to be the kind of parents your child will want to spend some or part of their 18th/21st birthday with.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:48 AM on September 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

Plant some nice trees.
posted by ReiToei at 3:54 AM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

You could make a time-capsule of sorts, and put in all manner of current ephemera in it: newspapers, magazines, CDs & the like, to give her older self a look at how things were when she was born.

I don't know if there are any fruit trees that'll bear fruit after 20 years or so, but if there are you could plant one for her. Or what ReiToei said.
posted by misteraitch at 3:54 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: The neighbors across the street planted a tree in their yard the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. We moved away from that neighborhood when I was still a child, and yet on the rare occasion I find myself back in the same city, I make a point of stopping by the old house to look at "my" tree.

It's perhaps not what you're looking for in terms of a coming-of-age birthday present, but planting a tree can be something your daughter will find touching into adulthood, so I have to second the idea.
posted by adiabat at 4:02 AM on September 29, 2008

I did spend my 18th birthday with my parents (though they bickered like hell.) Anyway, when I was born my parents bought me a box of wine which was, supposedly, really good at the time and picked out by a wine buff. By the time I got to 18 I was told by wine merchants that it was valueless and may as well be poured down the drain. No-one would buy it from me. The sentimental value of it is minimal as I didn't buy it and wine is meaningless to me. Thinking of my 18-year-old self, a bundle of money that could be spent on education / travel / a car / a flat would have gone down better than anything else!
posted by skylar at 4:03 AM on September 29, 2008

In addition:

You're jumping the gun, the kid is just two week's old. Put some money away for her 18th and 21st and later, when you have a clearer idea of her personality, you'll be able to get her something she likes.

Planting a tree or two is also a really good idea.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 AM on September 29, 2008

Definitely a tree if you have space for one, bonus points if it's a fruit tree.
posted by ghost of a past number at 4:30 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: I remember seeing a photo journal that a photographer did of his daughter, wherein he took a picture of her every year from birth until well into womanhood. Perhaps you could take a photo of her every month or so - a candid shot of her doing something enjoyable to her - and assemble them into book format, to present to her on her 18th/21st birthday. No text, just photos. This would be a visual journal of her development into adulthood - engaged in those activities that were meaningful to her at the time, some of which she left behind, some maybe that she stayed involved in, but were all nonetheless those things that made her who she is today (today being her 18th/21st birthday). She might be touched to see how well her parents paid attention to her exploration of the world and herself, and find it interesting to see that journey herself, in photo format.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:34 AM on September 29, 2008 [7 favorites]

My parents had saved all of the seminal books of my childhood - Watership Down, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Island of the Blue Dolphins (you get the picture). When I graduated from college they let me know that whenever I wanted it, the box of books was mine. Given, reading was (and is) one of the most powerful activities of my life, so YMMV. . .But I love picking those books out of my shelf and rereading them now.
posted by dirtmonster at 4:58 AM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

Penfolds Grange. You'll have to wait a few years for the 2008 bottle.
posted by kisch mokusch at 5:04 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, some people like buying something sentimental for the future. Let's answer the question instead of telling them they're wrong, okay?

I would see what I could do to donate to a local library or school, with a plaque in my child's name.
posted by sondrialiac at 5:10 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: You might ask the locals if there is a park/county forest/suchlike where you could get permission to plant her tree on public land, so if you sell the house she can still always visit it.

I have a separate fund for each grandchild for their retirement, not college. (My father always regretted he was not able to do that for me. He was a firm believer in the power of compund interest, which is no longer the security arrangement it once was.)

A bottle of good but not hideously expensive champagne might be nice, but not the only thing you'd want. Ask someone who knows about such things for a suggestion for something that will age out well at about that point, (probably based on the history of similar wines, the winemaker? You will know someone who prides themselves on this sort of knowlege.) I would see it as more of a stocking stuffer.

Some moms are big on making a tiny fancy baby bonnet out of a very lacy, fancy hankie, which can made back into a hankie with the removal of a few stitches to be carried on the wedding day.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:16 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Take a lot of photos, and not just of her. Make some nice photo books if you can. As a 20-year-old some of the things I love the most are old photos of weddings, my siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, you name it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:31 AM on September 29, 2008

You might find some good ideas in this AskMe and this AskMe. I write letters to my kids on occasion, but so far I have kept them. There will come a time/milestone when it seems appropriate to hand them over, or they'll find them after I die, whichever. I have a couple of letters my father sent me at college, and I treasure them.
posted by headnsouth at 5:32 AM on September 29, 2008

I would start a charm bracelet, and make a point to by a new charm every year on her birthday. For her 18th - 21st this will be her gift. Bonus is that as she gets older she'll be able to help construct it, but won't see the finished product until she reaches the milestone.
posted by anastasiav at 5:32 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Port is old fashioned but Champagne and Red Wine... get a few bottles of 2005 (best year in recent ones afaik) Gigondas or Chateaux Neuf De Pape.

They could well turn out to be a lovely stocking filler that if not drunk could help with college fees!

Wine from the med is going to become extremely valuable in my admittedly not very informed opinion. They are good wines and I think global warming is really going to impact negatively on these regions, so a wise investment.
posted by twistedonion at 5:43 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

A suitcase.
posted by jquinby at 5:44 AM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

You could buy a selection of the best and bestselling books published this year. The first editions may be quite valuable in a couple of decades.
posted by orange swan at 5:52 AM on September 29, 2008

Addendum to my idea above, get the books signed by their authors if they're on tour and coming to a bookstore near you.
posted by orange swan at 5:53 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some institutions let you put the kid's name on a brick or a paving stone for a donation, and it would give her someplace to visit her stone once in a while, like a park.

I have seen charm necklaces too, which gives you more room to work with later. You can also use the bracelet as an extender for a charm necklace, which gives you 2 matching pieces or one longer one, more choices.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:55 AM on September 29, 2008

Second the charm bracelet. We are doing that for our daughter and now that she is 8, she loves looking at it and wearing it (only for very special occasions). Do that or an add a pearl necklace. Those are WONDERFUL and then she will have a strand of pearls when she is grown. Just be SURE to get grown up size pearls, 5 or 6 mm. Most add a pearls are tiny, good for children but useless to a grown woman. A nice jeweler will help you start a necklace using adult sized pearls. Either gift would be a lovely keepsake from her parents.
posted by pearlybob at 5:57 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you haven't already saved it, order the Times from the day she was born.

18 year old girls don't like port or whiskey so much, but they do usually like champagne. Make yourself a note to buy a bottle of Dom Perignon 2008 (or nearest actual vintage) when it is released around 2015. My father-in-law had a bottle of the '76 stashed from when my wife was born. He opened it with us when we announced our engagement and we were blown away.
posted by roofus at 6:23 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

My father planted cherry trees outside our house where we were living when I was born. I still live quite nearby, and they are a great reminder of my childhood when they blossom.
posted by roofus at 6:26 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: Make a concrete plan for ways to spend time together, as a couple, so that your relationship stays strong and you'll be there for her. Come up with small vacation ideas and actually list them on a piece of paper or in a small notebook. This can be as simple as a date every two weeks or whatever you think is appropriate, but PLAN IT.

Think about what it would take for you to entrust her care to someone else for a couple of days -- if that seems unthinkable, make a list of possible candidates anyway, including grandparents (keep it hidden so your friends' feelings don't get hurt), so that you'll be _thinking_ about this in the middle of all your busy-ness in the months to come. Then, when it's time, you'll have a much easier task in actually putting together something.

And then make a serious commitment to do this, if you haven't already.
posted by amtho at 6:29 AM on September 29, 2008

This isn't so much a "birthday" idea, but buy your daughter a Christmas tree ornament every year. She'll get to enjoy them as she grows and by the time she moves out on her own she'll have enough ornaments to decorate her own tree.
posted by orange swan at 6:47 AM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Charm bracelet is a nice idea. Take a photo of her with you both in the same place every year on her birthday. There's a photo series of a daughter and dad with the family car on the 1st day of school every year. It's a great record.
posted by theora55 at 6:56 AM on September 29, 2008

The Christmas ornaments are a great idea. My partner's parents did that and it was a wonderful, heartwarming gift when we finally got our own place and our own (mini) tree.
posted by sondrialiac at 7:11 AM on September 29, 2008

A coin set for 2008 from the US Mint - a tad geeky but will always be mint and perhaps by 18 it will mean something. I know from about age 11 on, I was fond of mine.
posted by fluffycreature at 7:35 AM on September 29, 2008

Start a tradition and for each birthday get her one nice Christmas Tree ornament (if you do Christmas trees) and one tool. By the time you send her into the real world, she'll be equiped to decorate a tree, and fix her own place!
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Talk to friends and relatives. Ask them to write a letter to her at 18. ESPECIALLY older relatives (Great-Grandma still around?) Make a video or audio of them answering questions like: What was did you do for your 18th birthday? What was it like to grow up then. If you were just starting out, what advice would you give?

What a treasure it would be, to have family stories and advice saved for you!
posted by davereed at 8:24 AM on September 29, 2008

Following on from fluffycreature... I would normally think this would be a bit dull, but this year, the Royal Mint have introduced new pictures on our coins. I'm currently trying to collect them as I find them, but buying a presentation set might be nice.
posted by Helga-woo at 8:35 AM on September 29, 2008

Ignore that Royal Mint link, these are sets of the new coins.
posted by Helga-woo at 8:37 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Planting a tree or writing letters sounds pretty good, because you're also not trying to predict what your daughter will be like at 18/21 - as in, there's a whole lot of people who don't care for pearls or charm bracelets, and it would be a pity to have the gift be something she'll feel guilty for not really liking.

My parents bought a bottle of good wine for the year I was born, and surprised me with it when I turned 21. Unfortunately, by then I had stopped drinking, and we were out in a restaurant where there was a slightly misjudged joke about sending it back 'cause it was corked and having a mock-argument with the waiter, while I hid in the corner dying for the whole thing to end. It's kind of hilarious now and illustrates a lot about my family, but that night, I didn't really enjoy the choice between snubbing my parents and drinking something I really didn't want to drink.
posted by carbide at 10:25 AM on September 29, 2008

We're planning on doing a video interview of my grandmother while she's holding our child, something none of her 75 living descendants have thought of.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:43 AM on September 29, 2008

because you're also not trying to predict what your daughter will be like at 18/21 - as in, there's a whole lot of people who don't care for pearls or charm bracelets

Agreed. My mum collected silver bangles for me throughout my childhood. All sorts of different ones, whenever they went on holiday they'd find one to add to my collection. She still knows where she bought every single one of them and can tell me a story about them. I think that's really cool, and I appreciate the gesture, but... I don't wear bangles. So that's kind of sad - they're all wrapped away in a drawer at home and will never be used.

I really like the tree, coin, and "get relatives to write / say something" ideas. Also for added entertainment value you could get them to "predict the future" - both in general terms ("this is what I think the world will be like in 2026") and wrt your daughter (here it would probably be good to wait until she's a few years old so they have more of an idea what she's like).

And tree! Plant a tree! I wish I had a tree twin, that would be so cool!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:28 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

They may have a rose with your daughter's name. That would be nice to plant. There is one for my name, and I love it.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 1:37 PM on September 29, 2008

Definitely keep newspapers, old newspapers are fascinating, and often not as much for the front page stuff as all the stuff inside. `Look at the fashions. That classic old film is a new release! Ha! No hover cars!' etc.
posted by tomble at 7:29 PM on September 29, 2008

My mother made a hope-chest for me throughout my childhood of various things - my baby blanket, a tea set from my grandmother, bunches and bunches of stuff. She gave it to me on my 16th birthday and cried her head off. Only now do I really get WHY it was so emotional for HER.

Also, she gave me a string of *real* pearls for my 18th birthday saying that "Every grown-up woman needs pearls." I've worn them countless times, including on every job interview I've ever had, and I always think about my mama when I do.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:35 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for all the suggestions. We particularly like the idea of planting a tree and doing it on public land (in case we move). We might also do a photo journal. Many of you pointed out that we need to do something our daughter will appreciate (rather than do something for our benefit) and of course you are dead right.

Having loving parents of course is the most important thing!
posted by Bigbrowncow at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2008

BTW, "Port is old-fashioned" is true today. Two decades from now, another story... (Likes old-fashioned drinks anyway.)
posted by IAmBroom at 9:47 AM on September 30, 2008

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