Have we lost the art of gift giving?
Tell me if this sounds familiar: One night last week I get home from work and there’s an Amazon box waiting in the living room, addressed to me. The kids are excited, Is it a present? For me? They both ask. I tell them not to look — I’ll open it later when they aren’t around (it’s likely from one of the grandparents, aunts, uncles … who knows) so I can wrap it up with the others and put it under the tree. After they are in bed and I am alone (husband was away), dinner is done and the dishes are washed, I bring said package to the Wrapping Station (aka workbench in the basement) and open the box within a box and … It’s the pair of black ankle booties I put on my wish list. I opened my own gift. Again.
To be fair, I had it coming. A couple years ago, I created a wishpot for my immediate family to help my far-strung extended family shop for us for Christmas and the kids’ birthdays. Having the web-based wish list prevents people buying the same gift twice (which has happened more times than you’d imagine) and from them buying gifts several years too old for my kids (a tiny-beaded necklace kit for my then choking-hazard-prone, not quite-dexterous enough 3-year-old comes to mind). It also, frankly, prevents a lot of unwanted gifts which is just a waste of money. Plus it’s much easier on the extended family: Click. Buy. Send. Done. We are a practical family above all else, so it seemed to make sense to be practical with our gifts. Or so it seemed at the time.
So that night last week, I went ahead and wrapped my own size 7 black booties. And I put them under the tree. But it really made me think: What’s a gift if it’s something you asked for yourself, down to the size and the color? Where is the fun if Grandma sends a check (a scenario a friend of me just lamented to me) and says to just buy whatever she wants for her kids? Where is the surprise and delight if your husband and you share an Amazon Prime membership so you get the confirmation emails for all your gifts? And most importantly: What does this teach our kids about gift-giving? That it should surprise and delight the receiver and even the giver? That giving honestly feels as good as getting? No. It says, You give gifts because it’s that time of year. Because people want stuff. And we give it to them. It’s just a big revolving wheel of stuff. So next year, I’m not creating a wish list for myself. I’ll just have to get the wrong size. Or something that’s totally wrong for me. But the good thing is this: My kids will be watching (aren’t they always?) and the lesson that they will take in is this: Even if you hate the gift, at least you know it was given with care and someone picked it out just for you. And that’s what really matters.
But this year? Well, this morning I unwrapped the gift that I wrapped (and picked out) for myself. I figured, Why pretend? So I’m wearing them today at the office, as I write this blog … and, no surprise, they look amazing! Thanks, Mom!
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