Back when my husband and I were foster parents, it wasn’t unusual for our foster children to come home with gifts after visits with their biological parents. It also wasn’t unusual for those gifts to be something annoying, time-consuming, or impractical, such as a karaoke machine, a set of drums, or a toy that required assembly—at the foster home, of course, while I was trying to cook dinner or fold laundry. Rarely did children come back with a set of underwear, pajamas, socks, or a jacket.

I was reminded of this the other day when I stumbled across the following:

I know I’m not the only parent who has ever cringed at some of the “goodies” other people give my children. I started out as a well-meaning, yet naïve, mother who wanted her older son to eat healthy and did not give him sweets. It didn’t do me any good, as day-care workers and teachers readily supplied his sugar stash with candy, cookies, and cakes. And I was left picking up the sticky wrappers from my car, my floors, my furniture, and my washing machine. For a while, at the end of her class, one of Younger Son’s Sunday school teachers gave the kids gum, which made it into the church service. Every Sunday, I had to listen to Younger Son’s smacking and popping during the sermon. Once, Older Son’s Sunday school teacher gave the kids balloons right before church. Older Son and his friends sat in the front row happily blowing up and letting the air hiss out of their balloons before the pastor admonished them with, “Gentlemen, the only rush of wind I want to hear is that of the Holy Spirit.” Thankfully, that was before my husband was the pastor. Otherwise, I don’t think the reprimand would have been so gentle.

But I sometimes have to wonder what these well-meaning people are thinking. Do they think parents are actually going to thank them for loading their kids up with sugar after school or before church? It makes me want to get even by loading my kids up on sugar before school and Sunday school! I also wonder how I managed to make it through an entire day of school or a Sunday school class as a child, doing what I was supposed to do, without a sugar “reward.” For that matter, I remember back when we went to parades, we actually watched the parade. We didn’t knock other kids under the wheels of the floats while diving for candy. Nowadays, kids can get more candy during a thirty-minute parade than we got schlepping from door-to-door for two hours on Halloween. At least we had to work for our sugar by walking several miles!

Then there are the irritating toys, such as whistles, noise makers, and anything else that is designed to make parents go batty. Even the harmless ball thrown repeatedly against the side of the house can drive a formerly sane parent into a gelatinous blob of quivering lunacy. Or the Play doh that I didn’t give my kids because they left it all over the house on the floor or tables and I invariably had to try to scrape it off the wooden surfaces or the carpet. Or the bubbles they blew in the house and then the rest of the bottle got knocked over. Have you ever tried cleaning up that slippery mess? Or the inappropriate clothing that became the kids’ favorite. Yeah, try getting that T-shirt with the tasteless saying or the movie you don’t want to promote on it away from the kid.

I know I’m coming across as an ungrateful curmudgeon, particularly toward people who have gone out of their way to give my children little gifts that will bring them pleasure. But perhaps I could make a suggestion. How about you keep these things at your place and you and my kids can enjoy them together!