It's A Girl! And Another! And Another!
July 22, 2010 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Gift-filter: My cousin and his wife just adopted THREE little girls! YAY!

As previously stated, our family just got quite a bit larger! These are the only children in our otherwise small, adult family. We're all pretty close, so the little ones will probably be more like nieces than cousins.

Suffice to say, I'm beyond-words STOKED.

I live in NYC and they live in New Haven, CT. I want to be the "cool, big-city aunt/cousin who brings them awesome presents and spoils them freaking rotten."


The sisters are 6, 8, and 10 years old. A good mix of educational stuff and downright fun stuff would be perfect, along with something for the new parents. (Do new parents of older kids need anything?)
posted by functionequalsform to Shopping (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do new parents of older kids need anything?

Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea right away while the kids are adjusting to their new life, but I bet they need someone to watch the kids for a bit so they can have some alone time every once in a while.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:28 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Congrats to your whole family! How exciting!

My daughters are 6 and almost 8 and a little obsessed with American Girl stuff--they trick visiting family and friends into taking them to the American Girl store here, and I know there's one in NYC (my six year old, reading over my shoulder, says "There's an American Girl Place in New York City? Can we GO THERE?").

Other than that I'm's coming up. Awesome new backpacks? Cool lunchbags with reusable drink bottles and washable snack bags?

Does your family do any special activities together like camping or boating or any type of travel? Something to welcome them into that realm would be fun--new sleeping bags, headlamps, carryon bags personalized with their (new?) monograms?

Something I find very useful as a parent of school-aged kids is a big dry-erase calendar with different colored markers where I can keep our schedules visible to everyone, so we all know who needs to be where, when.
posted by padraigin at 10:33 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get to know the girls first. I'd imagine something generically aimed at 6-10 year olds would not be as awesome as, say, a kids baking book if one of them really liked making cookies or a book by an author they liked, etc. I think it's especially important in this instance because the girls are adjusting to a new life, but probably don't want to completely erase the old one. Get them gifts that suit them already, not something that may coma across as a new family trying to mold them into something different.

When you get to know them, awesome gifts will become apparent.
posted by piratebowling at 10:36 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe charm bracelets for all of them to welcome them into the family. Then each year, add a charm to commemorate the family anniversary.

Congratulations to the entire family!
posted by onhazier at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2010 [6 favorites]

Rereading that comment, I really hope I didn't come off as super negative. I think it's awesome that you want to welcome them immediately. Maybe a solution would be to take them out shopping and help them choose some gift of a book/toy/outfit that they would have a hand in choosing first hand. That way it something the definitely want, but is still welcoming and supportive.
posted by piratebowling at 10:45 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Congratulations to your family!

I'd talk to the parents first. If the kids were in foster care with your cousin prior to being adopted, that's a different type of relationship than if the children are adopted from overseas or even elsewhere within the US with no previous relationship. The mode of adoption may dictate how you should proceed, in other words. Also depending on the girls backgrounds, there may be reasons you can't just jump into spoil them that are either health or psychologically related.

I'd get each a girl a small, "Welcome to our family!" like gift. Something they can keep and consider special --- sterling silver lockets with their names and the date of the finalized adoption on it or something similar may be a good choice for now. And going forward make yourself available as you are able and willing to the parents and the girls.

Given it's three girls who were adopted, maybe when it comes out on DVD, "Despicable Me" would be a good gift. But I would a) make sure you see the movie first and b) make sure it's something that wouldn't hit too close to home in the wrong ways for either the girls or the parents. (But I have to admit, as soon as I saw your question, I thought of "Despicable Me" almost instantly).

And once you get the okay from the parents, go ahead and spoil them! At their ages, they'll probably be more than happy to tell you what they would like to get and/or do.
posted by zizzle at 10:48 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seconding "get to know them first", or just ask their adopted parents. They are so close in ages, they might all like the same stuff. Or, the 6 year old could be on par with much younger children, while the 10 year old might act like a teenager.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:50 AM on July 22, 2010

This sounds virtually identical to some friends of my wife and I - they're in CT, just adopted girls the same age.....

Its hard to know what to give the kids without knowing their interests or background. Our friends new kids had been without just about everything, so it was sort of easy. One of the things we gave was a bunch of magazine subscriptions. Its something that comes every month (so, multiple gifts) and its specifically THIERS - its got their name on it - something they've been without as they've bounced from one mediocre to poor foster home to the next. Also, a set of new family portraits.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

A really fantastic idea might be putting together a photo album of who's who in the family. Along with pictures of each person, stories about each individual with personal notes from each one welcoming each child to the family.

For example, "Here's Auntie FunctionEqualsForm playing with her puppy, Julius. We'd love to take you on a hike someday!"
posted by HeyAllie at 11:01 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The immediate details of the adoption are still on the DL, but they were fostered and are American-born, from Latino heritage.

Very great points, everyone! In subsequent visits, I'll be able bring more personalized gifts as I get to know them each. But no way in tarnation am I showing up empty-handed this first time!

I love the idea of a small, "Welcome to Our Family!" gift rather than a big bag o' random "little girl" stuff. Thank you guys for the advice— new territory here.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:05 AM on July 22, 2010

You can't go wrong with art supplies for kids of that age range. If nothing else, they can use the stuff at school.
posted by orange swan at 11:09 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

What about glow-in-the-dark stars for their new rooms?
posted by turtlewithoutashell at 11:09 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Congratulations! That's marvelous.

Here is a short article on how to be supportive for new parents of an adopted older child (children). But what all advice at this stage boils down to is this...ask the parents, respect their wishes.

Adoption is wonderful and amazing. Adoption has a layer of complexity for parents, kids and extended family members that needs to be acknowledged and accepted. Adoption is different for every child and family, adoption has common threads of experience. Until my husband and I began preparing for an older child adoption, we hadn't talked--in depth--about the joy AND the possibility of grieving/loss. The negotiations around attachment and boundaries.

I understand your excitement and your desire to want to get to know these kids and "spoil them rotten." Go slow. Very slow. Let the kids and your cousins take the lead. Enjoy the gradual unfolding of getting to know them and really developing a strong attachment. Don't take it personally if the parents or the kids have plans that conflict with your strong desire to jump in and shower them with gifts/attention. It's not that they wouldn't appreciate it's just that the transition can be more complicated then extended family members realize (even if that isn't very obvious to those outside of the family).
posted by jeanmari at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

When my cousin was born, I got him one of those personalized door signs (something like this), which he kept on his door until he was in high school, I think.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2010

Here is a wonderful book that you can read (and get as a gift for other members of the family!) that will be a BIG help to the parents and the kids.

I love the charm bracelet/locket/door sign suggestions. Items that are meaningful, symbolic and communicate positive messages about welcome and respect for them as individuals, that they aren't guests/visitors and have a space to call their own now. Those are all great ideas.

Have fun getting to know them and, again, congrats! How exciting that you have three new, unique, special kids who are joining their family to yours.
posted by jeanmari at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2010

I second the magazine subscriptions, but not until you know them a little better to pick the right ones. Depending on their background they may need a little help in the reading department.

Look into the Cricket line of magazines for the youngest. I got a magazine subscription to Ladybug for my goddaughter when she was 5 and she loved getting it in the mail every month. There are no ads in the magazines, which is perfect. The downside is the subscription is kinda pricey. There are Cricket magazines for older kids too.

The older girls might like Kiki Magazine. Again, no ads. I just got my goddaughter a subscription to this. The only downside is they publish just 4 times a year. But it's supposed to be a whopper of a quarterly magazine.
posted by wherever, whatever at 11:37 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you thought about sending them letters and postcards in the mail. Tell them about yourself, the things you like, the cool stuff about your city, then ask them questions. Send them pictures of yourself and maybe cutesy little things that can fit in the envelope like stickers and bookmarks. It would be super awesome if you could do it regularly so that it could be something that the girls could come to expect and count on.

That way the girls can get to know you slowly without feeling any kind of social anxiety. I know this is different, but I grew up as an Army kid and we moved "home" when I was twelve. The only person in my extended family that I felt comfortable with was my aunt who had been writing letters regularly. She didn't seem like such a stranger to me.

Plus, it's just really awesome to get mail. Make sure you send each girl a separate postcard or letter. It's just not the same when it's addressed to everybody. There is something really special about getting a letter with your name on it.

You might also want to start each girl some kind of scrapbook. I'll bet their mom would love it if you collected pictures and memorabilia and put it together so she doesn't have to. I mean it's not like she's going to have a lot of time to sit around and paste things into a book.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:55 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: TooFewShoes: Have you thought about sending them letters and postcards in the mail.

This. It's maybe more advice for after you've met them but I can't stress this enough. You'll know what kind of relationship you'll have with them the more you spend time with them, but I can't stress enough the importance of a cool aunt who is doing all the cool things that parents often can't do because they're stuck being parents (no matter how awesome parents they are)

My dad's youngest sister was my cool aunt when I was growing up. She moved from Hong Kong to Tokyo to NYC and always sent my siblings and I little gifts -- but me, the oldest cousin and the one most like her, the one who would end up studying Japanese because of her and becoming an English major because I'm like her -- she always sent little letters and postcards about her life -- stuff that I didn't even think she was telling my parents or anyone else. Nothing extremely personal - just stuff about her way-exciting seeming life -- the kind of life I could have if I kept striving toward it.

I'm 35 years old. I still call her "my cool aunt."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:02 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Congratulations to your family! Wow!

My brother adopted three older kids like that and it is a special yet wonderful challenge. My wife and I adopted three, but they were one at a time and as babies. I can tell you that they will probably need respite care and logistics support. They will need help with the added time and money burden that adding three older kids all at once will bring.

Give them several "Auntie Weekends" when you come up from the city and take over the house while Mom and Dad take a few nights off. Maybe Mom and Dad could stay at your place in the city and pretend they are carefree urban sophisticates. You can come be the fun cool aunt, do girlie stuff with them, and take them fun places. So everyone gets a treat.

Another big stressor for them will be summers when they are not in school. If you can kick in a week of a cool local day camp for the girls or take them for a stretch in the Summer that will be a big help too. Summers are expensive for parents of mulitple school children.

Or, if you have the money, you could get them season tickets to something fun or a family membership to a zoo, museum or an amusement park of some kind. Something as a source of cheap family outings.
posted by cross_impact at 12:16 PM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Jeanmari is exactly right (says this mother of kids who adopted when they were older). Specifically, family members are often asked *not* to bring gifts the first time they meet the kids, because these girls are still in early stages of attaching to their parents, and it can be confusing for them to get presents from someone else. They need to learn that all good comes from parents, not you.

Isn't this kind of sucky? It can feel that way, and definitely can lead to a lot of tension in families as very well-meaning relatives swoop in with lots of gifts. But showing up empty handed might be just what these girls need right now. Please do ask the parents, because they are the ones who really know and whose wishes need to be respected.

One thing that would definitely be appreciated: meals or a coupon for pizza delivery, something like that.

Good luck! Have fun!
posted by bluedaisy at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

So many great suggestions (and Jeanmari's advice is super important), but here are a few that have made my nieces/nephews insanely happy during appropriate gift-giving times as well as a few that made the parents happy at random intervals:

* Build-a-Bear
* Gift cards for bookstores, cinemas, and other outings they can share with the parents while knowing you're there in spirit
* Contributing to the back-to-school fund or even sending cool supplies to supplement what they'll get anyway
* Boxes containing a hodge-podge of fun items mixed together for the girls, with labels and lists to help them sort out who gets what (all the kids I gift dig this for some reason) - craft supplies work out particularly well in this arrangement
* Most girls dig stationary, pens, and that sort of thing - Sanrio store is great, but there are so many excellent shops along those lines where you are, I'm sure you can find lots of options
* Arrive at parent's place and throw a fabulous slumber party...while the parents get to go do their own thing

Congratulations to your wonderful family!
posted by batmonkey at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2010

low level kid-friendly digital cameras? they make them for kids, and for them to be able to start their own photo albums of their new family, new home, new life... that'd be kind of cool.
posted by lemniskate at 5:40 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Little girls like that might like a girly set of scented body wash, lotion, and perfume. Or perhaps nail polish. Check out your local Claire's.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:24 PM on July 22, 2010

That charm bracelet idea is beautiful - something like that would be so sweet. Even if some/all of the girls don't like traditionally girly things, it would still be something they could treasure as an adult.
posted by thatone at 8:08 AM on July 23, 2010

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