Sunday, December 09, 2007

Present-Buying Quandries...

If you have more than one child you know about the challenge of fairness.

I really enjoy Christmas -- or at least I used to.

In my home there was a game to it. You were supposed to surprise other people in the family. The best gift was not the most expensive, but the most unexpected. We were ruthless. We squeezed and shook our presents. We guessed. We tried to trick the other into telling us what our presents were. One year, afraid that my mother would be able to guess that the large box held the special standing bag for knitting she had too-recently admired, I tied jingle bells to it. When she shook it and it made noise I assured her that I would be able to put it back together. She kept coming back, trying to figure out exactly what the noise was and asking me if I was sure it wasn't broken.

Of course if you were going to surprise someone you could not ask what they wanted. To this day I feel just a bit unloved when someone asks me to tell them what I want for Christmas. Roland sadly thought in the beginning of our relationship that this meant that it wasn't important to me what I got. His family asks, then they buy something on the list they were given. Everyone gets what they want and everyone is happy. Our first few Christmases were cultural clashes, but I won't go into that now.

So Christmas is a challenge for me. I feel like I am cheating unless I can think of something the recipient has not asked for. I need to surprise him or her. I want the gift to show that I thought about him.

But I know that part of what will happen on Christmas morning is that the children (some more than others) will calculate whether I have spent more money on one than another. They will compare. Even if they cost exactly the same amount, if one boy is more pleased with his gift than another, the one who is less pleased will feel slighted.

It can just sap all the fun out of it.

This year though I am trying to find my own Christmas spirit again. I gave myself a fairly low budget for each boy, and I am trying hard to think of something for each one that will surprise and please each one.

What to get for Andrew and David came quickly. For each of them I knew exactly what I wanted to get them as soon as I even considered it. I haven't come up with anything for Brian, but he is 13. I'll think of something.

Evan though is a stumper. He is a frugal young man, but if he really wants something he gets it for himself. I bought something already, but the more I look at it the more stupid it clearly is. I will have to take it back. I just can't think...


  1. I'm with you on the surprise factor. I never like to buy someone something from a list if I can help it. I like to tuck away a thought when they mention (in July) that they would like something, or just see an item I know they would love. Sometimes it's a gamble, though. I bought my dad a digital picture frame this year and I have no idea if it will be a hit or if it will bomb.

    Slugger just wrote out a completely new Christmas list last night and I'm pretty much done with my shopping for him. Now I'm all worried he's going to be disappointed.

  2. I kinda combine both yours and Rolands gift giving traits. I really like surprises, BUT it is important to me to give them something I really thought about. Good luck with Evan's present, you will have to keep us updated on that one.

  3. i'm from a list family who gives lots of gifts. (surprises are also welcome, though). but my partner is from a family that doesn't do big holiday gifts and they don't do i go through the effort of asking her but really i just write most of her list for her. :) she's surprised, and my family has some things to get her that she will enjoy. for each other we just shop blindly (with a limit--some years it's higher, but this year it's quite low because of our wedding).

    in my family my mom spent the same on each kid. sometimes one seemed to get more because there were things on sale etc. but the budget for each was the same.

    as for evan, i hope he's old enough to just be happy that he has someone to care enough to choose a present for him!! :) (and *not* because he was a foster kid, but because it's truly great for anyone to have someone who cares.)

  4. Hubby and I are "discussing" this issue right now. I was raised that each kid got (for example) $100 worth of presents. If that was 1 big thing or 10 little things, it really didn't matter. Value was always equal. Hubby was raised each kid gets the same # of gifts regardless of value. We have spent more $$ on Emilee than JP and yet JP has more presents and Hubby thinks we need to buy Emilee more. I agree to the point that with Emilee's issues, she WOULD NEVER UNDERSTAND the value concept but at some point, we'll have to change this.

    (Sorry this turned into a short post!)


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