Hand-Me-Downs Are Getting Me Down

It may come from a good place - or it may come from a lazy place... But why do other kids' cast-offs always end up at my place?!

You know the story – you're at the school gates, bidding your child farewell for the day when out of the corner of your eye, you see a flash of red, black and white (Cruella De Vil comes to mind) and then you feel it – that cold, bony hand of 'helpfulness' upon your shoulder, that sends shivers down your spine.

Other Mum: Ooh! I'm so glad I caught you - I was clearing out our cupboards the other day and I found Tarquin's broken bike/old shoes/too-small trousers/too-tight shirts and jumpers...Makes so much more sense to recycle clothes amongst good friends.

You: Oh, thank you so much! Thanks for thinking of us, no really, but I think we're all kitted out.

Other Mum: But they've barely been worn and they're all top brands, great quality stuff...

You: Of course they are! But we really don't have the space.

Other Mum: Are you sure?

You: Yes, definitely, I'm sure the charity shop would love them.

Other Mum: Why don't I just bring the bags over to your place so you can have a look and then decide?

You: No, really, I think you should –

Other Mum: Say four this afternoon?

You: No –

Other Mum: See you then, then!

And off she yoo-hoos, racing over to another unsuspecting mum at the school gates who is no doubt desperately trying to avoid her too.

We've all been there. And most of us have learnt through bitter experience that the story doesn't end well for you. Even if you make sure you're out at four that afternoon, what's the bet she'll leave a few garbage bags on your doorstep? And sure, you'll do the right thing, bringing them inside, trying the clothes out on your own kids – even oohing and aahing a bit at how nice one or two pieces look – and then you'll do it.

You'll cave and pack all Tarquey's cast-offs into the children's already bursting at the seams drawers, consoling yourself with such rubbish as 'a few more shirts/duffel coats/broken bikes won't hurt' and 'it'll actually be saving us money in the long run' – even the old self-deluded classic 'it was actually really nice of Cruella to pass these gorgeous things on to us!'

But mark my words: before too long, YOU'LL be lugging Mr T's hand-me-downs to Oxfam (precisely what CDV should have done her own lazy self all those weeks ago) and vowing, once again, to never accept another 'kind' offer of taking some other kid's old tat into your own home.

You'll be muttering under your breath, letting slip thin-lipped snippets of bile into the ether about how you've never even liked Osh Kosh dungarees on the child models – let alone on a real person - and rehearsing your part in the exchange the next inevitable time some other 'well-meaning' mum tries to offload her kids' crap onto you, as you twist your uterus chucking the three bags full into the charity bin.

And the moral? Whether it comes from a good place or a lazy place, cut out the middle mum and take your second-hand stuff to Oxfam in the first place!

Mink Elliott's three novels, A Mother Dimension, Just Another Manic Mum-Day and The Pissed-Off Parents Club are all available at