Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gifting...

I just read this post by Cantaloupes.Amma about a gift she received for her daughter. Really this whole gift thing really gets me sometimes. I wish we could all go easy on the gifting and give a gift when we really want to and also give it only if we want to and can afford it etc etc. For example, we have a fabulously, incredibly rich relative - not a close relation but close because we live in the same area. When I visit them, I really don't feel like getting them anything too expensive because even something very expensive in my budget is of not much value to them. They really just have everything. It is the thought that counts yes but honestly I don't wish to waste my money on that thought. Instead I just take flowers and also cook something good because I know they really enjoy good food. Another relative, on the other hand when she went to visit them, bought something quite expensive. Because they are so wealthy (live like top movie stars) she bought them an expensive gift just while visiting them casually since she was coming from a different state. Some people tend to do that. Get expensive gifts for rich people because they only have expensive stuff at their place. It irks me - although it is not my money - because it is not appreciated much anyway, it doesn't mean too much to them anyway...you might as well donate the money to someone who will appreciate you for eternity for such generosity.

My father-in-law had a good friend who's son happened to be in the same area - so we invited them for lunch to our place soon after X-mas holidays one year. We invited them because his father and my FIL were good friends. They came to our place, chatted , sang, had lunch, coffee - over all a good time. They brought us a big package in a nice gift bag. They were quite friendly and told us we should visit them sometime for lunch and that they had a good time with us. I opened the package soon after they left - I found some tasteless, garish, obvious holiday curio item in the gift bag. I just don't get this sort of thing. Why bother bringing anything. If there is no space in your garage for junk, just trash or donate it to salvation army - may be someone who likes that sort of stuff will use it for X-mas decoration. Don't download your useless holiday gift on us. When we have gone out of our way to cook and invite you over and be hospitable. Not only that - it has been over a year and half now - no sign of them ever inviting us to their place - after all that friendly talk. I bumped into them at some concert when I had gone to drop off my FIL and even then the woman was just making friendly inquiries but there was no sign of any invitation. After all that warm talk when they were at our place. And now the guy emailed me a month back out of the blue asking how we were doing and again said that they would visit us sometime to say hello and see the babies. But this time around I did not bother calling them over for lunch on a specific date or anything. I just told him they could visit us anytime after checking in with us to make sure we were home.

Now with children's party gifts. Once you have two kids the party invites for kid's birthdays start multiplying. Especially if they go to pre-school or if you happen to live in an apartment complex like my cousin does. It is quite a task to go shopping and buy good gifts for every party - and it gets to be very expensive overall. Especially if you want to give the child a good gift not some junk that is on sale. Of course they too give your child a gift at your child's birthday - but really the rigmarole gets to be tiring. Often times the gift turns out to be a waste even if good in quality. And it takes up space and adds to the clutter. Especially when it comes to clothing I feel very bad if they give something and I am unable to use it because it doesn't fit right and I give it to someone else or donate it without ever using it. I feel as if their money and effort just went waste - if they don't give a gift receipt for return. These days with close friends I just ask them what they want and if they don't tell me I gauge what the kids reads/plays with and I get a gift card from the shop that carries that. But gift cards can't be bought on sale and it feels awkward to give a gift card that is not a reasonable amount. And if it is to a rich family it seems so wasteful to give them money literally. When I asked my cousin, a mother of two toddlers how she manages to attend so many birthday parties and how she finds the time/money to shop for gifts - she said "Of course people don't always buy a gift each time. I don't open every gift my child gets. I put it away and give it to some other kid and I know other parents do the same too". This whole farce of gifting seems so unnecessary. Why can't we really have a party to just have fun. Yes children love gifts - the close friends can do the job of pleasing them by giving them something in the privacy of their home after asking the parent what the kid may enjoy. No point passing on useless gifts around. When you don't particularly care to gift either.

Edited to add based on Dotmom's comment: This is another thing I feel about kid's birthday parties. They get so used to getting so many gifts, they begin to expect a lot of gifts and often their joy lasts for two minutes when they open it and then move on the next gift. Of ten gifts, two may be a hit. 5 will be fun for a few days and remaining go waste. Especially if the giver did not put much thought into it. And they all wait for the goody bags to have those 10 seconds of joy. When I was at the cash register at "Party city" after buying a bunch of goody bag items for my valaikappu ceremony (a bunch of kids were invited), a father standing behind me said, "Oh, looks like some kids are going to be happy" and then he grinned and said "for five minutes"!
My BIL has told his daughter that for every new gift she gets she has to give away one toy she already has in her closet. It was hard on her but now she is so used to it. He strictly enforces it. I feel bad sometimes to see her have to make that choice but I think she is learning some invaluable lessons there. I may not be able to be that* strict with my children but I do hope to teach them to give away some of their toys to other children who don't get to enjoy such luxuries.

I read this post by Tharini. I find gift giving also an indulgence for myself. I love to see the happiness on a child's face when I give him/her a gift that they enjoy. Same way for adults. If I were very rich my greatest indulgence would be buying gifts generously for children and for people I am close to. But I feel guilty sometimes. When my very close friend visited me, I gave her son a gift which he already had so I returned it and gave a gift card instead. She is very close to me and I know for sure she would not have minded and in fact would have been happy had I given the same money to a needy person. But I had to get him something. Knowing fully well he doesn't need* anything I give him. Knowing that he gets enough toys and clothes from his own parents. Yet I just had to give him a gift. I am unable to put a ceiling on this desire for sure!

In all this I don't mind getting gifts that are passed on. I would rather you pass on something than waste your money on more useless curio items which may not be to my taste. But I find it only objectionable when people pass on junk like an holiday item soon after the holidays are over. Or when they give gifts without even checking to make sure there are no obvious signs (it happened to my friend - the back of the gift had the name of the original giver and receiver) that it being re-gifted. At least put in that much effort!

I honestly would like to have a gift free party for my child - but then I get into the issue of - is it my right to deny my child gifts from others? I don't believe in asking people to donate to my favorite charity - they then become bound to do something they may not want to do. For example for kutti boy's second birthday (Aug 3) I did not have a formal party - a casual, spontaneous party at 9.30pm - called two of my friends. Had one large helium balloon and a cake. There were two older kids and two babies. My son had a rollicking time with the other two kids running around chasing the balloon. The kids loved the birthday candle that played the birthday song while they sang. It was simple and delightful. I was so content and happy that night that my child enjoyed his birthday (even if he had no idea what it meant). I don't know if he would have enjoyed it as much in a large party.

Anyways. I had all these random thoughts rushing in when I read Cantaloupe.Amma's post. Instead of clogging her comment space I decided to do a post on it.

24 comments:

Sunita said...

I so agree with you. To feel obliged to gift and buy something for the heck of it totally takes the spirit of gifting out of it. I have mostly received and gifted gifts after the occassion because an event puts a deadline and you just pick anything.
For kids, a gift-free party makes a lot of sense.

DotMom said...

I had done a post on this a while ago... I agree that the whole birthday circuit is a bit much.

http://thekarmacallingblog.blogspot.com/2007/07/birthday-bashes.html

DotMom said...

aah forgot to add... I don't agree with gift free parties..because they teach the little guests to be generous and the birthday child to be gracious.

Tharini said...

Oh that was beautifully written and hits so close to home. We all go thru the struggle to put a ceiling on desire in one form or another.

I hve had the exact same thoughts abt you on the guft free party, charity donation, the whole forced obligatory thing when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. It really is tiresome isn't it. And such a huge chunk of time is lost in the process of finding something and having it pass hands from one non-needy person to another non-needy person. I think its worth a thought on how to put a stop to these things, have the courage to live on those beliefs and focus energies towards worthy causes.

noon said...

Hi Sunita
yes these days gift giving has become such an obligatory thing. Even when people visit you at your own home, you have to have a return gift ready for them anticipating that they will bring something for your child. No visit is relaxed and free of this sort of thing.

Hi Dotmom
Oh yes, I should read it again...forgot about it.I don't know if gift giving necessarily teaches them to be generous. I feel it most often gets them used to being greedy and excessive - they have no value for gifts. Actually I should edit to add this point I feel about children's gifts..

Tharini - thanks...
yes one non-needy person to another non-needy person. Not just that, it also makes the whole party scene so tiring - you just sigh and huff when you are invited to a party because it means you have ot make time to go shopping for the b'day kid and the sibling. And they will bring some more junk in the goodie bag that they will enjoy for one day!

Tharini said...

yes, and if that junk includes yet another bubble blower....I know I shall have a hissy fit!!!

Kodi's Mom said...

nice to have fellow bubble-blower-haters.
and reading your post sent me on a guilt trip as I thought of all the gifts I had given and wondered if they were trashed or loved.

as for gift free b'days, ditto, ditto.

the mad momma said...

tagged!

noon said...

Tharini - yes the famous bubble blower in the goody bag!

Kodi - Please don't feel guilty - you know you can't feel guilty if the kid does not like what you give...I just meant that some people pass on junk that they don't want in their house - they are the ones who should feel guilty!

noon said...

MM - will look at the tag soon..

Poppins said...

Ah nice post. I have yet to become part of the mad frenzy that is kids birthday gift giving. It all is very confusing to me, what is appropriate, what is not?

For poppin's first birthday rather than buying standard return gifts I handpicked one for each baby depending on the age and interests (as far as I knew). I even gave away Dr Seuss books !

In return I got 50 Rs plastic drums, elephants and the like. But I still didn't feel bad because poppin played even with that..
I don't like to give a gift just cause.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

So glad to read my thoughts reflected in this blog :)
Completely agree with you on this forceful practise called "Gifting" which most people feel compelled to follow and end up dumping their garage dump to others.

choxbox said...

hi noon.

come her often, am probably commenting first time.

agree with you totally. plus the whole effect it has on kids - how can one expect them to value things if there is an over-abundance of everything?

99 out of 100 times we gift books because i think these can be enjoyed over and over and passed on once a child has outgrown it.

namvor

Swati said...

Totally with you on this. People gift just for the sake of it and I hate this

http://recollectthescattered.blogspot.com/2007/06/gifts-are-they-all-about-money.html

noon said...

Hi Poppins,

Thanks...
Yes I think gift cards are good even if boring for us to give...
I also don't mind cheap (money wise) gifts as long as it is not some useless junk that is obviously being regifted or bought just because it was cheap and could be bought on sale...I wish I could convey to such people that I really really don't mind if they don't give a gift...I would rather they give a hand written card even wishing the baby well...

CA - well, it is your post that inspired me to pour out my thoughts on gifts...


Choxbox - Thanks for visiting!
Books are great gifts I think...alhtough tricky because quite often they have the popular books and the not so popular ones - depends on the taste of the child. I too tend to give gifts but my husband says it is for the parents to do that and that I should be getting something fun that the child can play with...


Swati - with you on that..
Will look at the link you have sent soon...

Sue said...

If you feel like gifting and are not sure about the taste -- stationery is a good way out sometimes. It's moderately expensive, one can never have too many crayons/colouring books/funny notepads/sketch pen sets, to name a few.

Something to Say said...

Unbelievable. But we've both posted on pretty much the same topic - and share pretty much the same views. Why pass on gifts? Seriously a lot of time and money would be saved if one went to these gift-less parties.
BTW - its a rage in mumbai these days to write on wedding invites - no gifts. i wonder how many people seriously enforce it - and how many just write it to sound fancy

WhatsInAName said...

hmmm I agree with you about gifts losing the meaning at times. But then I also agree with dotmom.
Atleast for children, I feel that there are some moments they think are special! One of them is when they receive gifts. Arent we depriving them of it, if we say NO to gifts? But I like the other suggestion from you... where for every gift accepted, one goes away!

Lovely post :)

The Inquisitive Akka said...

I SO SO agree with you!My mom would have loved your post!You know what my mom used to do? She would give money to a charitable organisation, make out a receipt in the name of the person who she was supposed to give the gift to and then just hand it over to that person :) Initially people found it a bit strange but they got used to it :)

Kodi's Mom said...

pls do this tag for kutti girl!

noon said...

Sue - I love stationary shops myself...true - will always be useful...

STS - well I tried it for my valaikappu (7th month event) ceremony - problem is some people end up bringing gifts anyway and the ones that actually went by the invite and didn't bring gifts end up being embarassed...didn't work too well I would say...

Whatsinaname - thanks...
I agree too - I feel uncomfortable about deciding for my child that he should not get gifts for his bday. But the godo compromise would be to give away toys periodically to those children who are not able to afford it...

Hi IA - Hope you are doing well. I read about your mom in the tribute posted by her student - incredible woman. Quite nice that she was able to do this - giving money to NGOs - in India where it may not always be received well...

Kodi's mom - will think and do the tag...

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