During the summer, I received a text from a friend reminding me about her daughter's sixth birthday party the next day. She'd told me about the party a few weeks earlier and promised to pop an invite in our door with its details. She subsequently forgot to send the invite and realised the night before when we hadn't RSVPd.
I'd forgotten all about the party chat weeks earlier, so was caught on the hop without a gift in the house. Early the next day my husband took a quick dash up to our local shopping centre where the supermarket has a small toy section.
It wouldn't ordinarily be our number one place to source gifts, but it was the only solution with such short notice. In the end he chose a cute craft set for the birthday girl, containing a fabric ballerina doll she could make with some grown-up help.
When he came home he admitted that the selection of toys was disappointingly stereotypical. He could choose between vehicles, super heroes and dinosaur toys (even the Lego was construction or vehicle-based) or dolls and make-up sets. He wasn't happy buying make-up for such a little girl so he chose the make-and-do present instead.
After the party, the little girl's mum told us her daughter had been delighted with her gift. Of course, she may have said this simply to be polite but we hope it was genuinely meant.
When choosing a gift you can never really know if it's going to appeal to its recipient, but you can, at least, make an effort to pick something that's appealing and suitable.
I mention suitability because, as a parent, you'd hope that a child's birthday gifts would all be appropriate. So, imagine this mum's utter surprise when her daughter unwrapped another gift to reveal a matching bra and knickers set. That's right: a bra for a six-year-old child. It's really more of a crop top than a bra, with thin straps and no cups, but it's still a ludicrous invention for a young child.
You have to wonder who these items are made for in the first place. Who on earth wants their child to start dressing as a grown up when they're in junior infants? Dressing up is an important part of a child's development, and there's nothing cuter than a child running about in her mum's heels and appallingly applied lipstick. But that's a make-believe game they're playing full of innocence and imagination.
Popping a child in a bra years before their breasts will form is a completely different story. It's sexualising them, because, let's face it, boobs are far more revered for their sexual nature than their ability to nourish a new baby.
And while it may be strange to dress your small daughter in teenager apparel, it's even stranger to buy the offending object for someone else's child.
When the birthday girl saw her new underwear she was delighted by it. "Cool," she announced innocently and gleefully. Her mum wasn't quite as impressed. Despite being liberal and open-minded parents, both she and her husband were utterly astonished at the choice.
Later that evening, they tucked the offending items away in their wardrobe, out of their daughter's sight. There's nothing wrong with a bra -- it's just a piece of clothing -- but a bra for a six-year-old is something different altogether.