Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Finer Points of Gifting

Last month the Little Dude completed his fourth lap of the sun.  As tradition dictates, we had a party and cake and celebrated the birth of this amazing little creature.  We couldn't keep a lid on the festivities and family and friends all showed up to let him know just how special he is to us all.

Athena and I are really slack at giving each other presents.  There is a little saying in our house that if there was something we really needed (read: wanted), we would've bought it on the way home from work. Neither of us has the collector's disease, so whenever the odometer rolls over, it's pretty much a handshake and commiserations.

But kids' birthdays are different, they are magical.  We think they are really special little people and we want them to feel really special because being a kid is really special.  And everyone else in their lives thinks the same.  So much so that the inundation of presents is almost too much.

One loving aunt bought a great age-appropriate board game that the Little Dude already owned.  She quickly took the gift back to replace it with another (which she did admirably, the replacement was equally good).

This got me thinking about other, less healthy habits people have regarding gifts.  I have seen these countless times in the past and I think they are weird.

Santa raises the bar for giving
The strangest one is the gift on a string.  Somehow the giver still has some ownership over the gift.  Lines such as "if you aren't going to use this, I'll take it back and give it to John," or "if you don't like the colour, I can put it in my kitchen," are hallmarks of this type of gifting.

Another is the subversive time-bomb gift.  The gift is used as a point-scoring mechanism to be blown up in the face of the receiver at a later date. It is a one-way ticket for future guilt trips.

A gift shouldn't be a hassle or a burden and should never be given with narcissistic intent to be used as ammunition later.  Attaching conditions or giving inconsiderate gifts (think giving a 1500 page book you love, or a puppy, or an ugly Christmas cardigan etc.) to someone runs counter to the whole concept of gifting.  The gift is for the receiver's benefit, not the givers.  It should be an altruistic act and never forced.  It should not be accompanied with a song-and-dance about how great/rare/expensive the gift is.

Next time you give a gift, do it with the following in mind:
I humbly give you this gift, of my own free will. It is yours to do with as you see fit.  You can use it as intended or in any other manner you desire.  You can return it to the store, regift it, ungift it (sell it) or donate it to charity. I will not throw the gifting in your face at a later date and I do not expect anything in return.  If you do not wish to receive this gift, please tell me and I will take it away without any hurt feelings.
Now that you know how to give a gift properly, go ahead and do it!

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1 comment:

  1. There's also the gift version of mutually assured destruction: The escalation and ultimate annihilation (of bank accounts) from a gifting arms race. The only way to win is not to play. (I will be giving this speech to my son instead of the traditional "Santa's coming!" Let's see how he grows up.)