Sunday, June 19, 2011

Giving to Dad

Father's Day is one area where I doubt my effectiveness as a mom.  When the kids were babies, I bought the card and gift and signed their names.  When they entered preschool, Sunday School, and elementary school, the lovely creative teachers helped the children make sandcasts of their handprints, funny marshmallow concoctions in the shape of neckties, and pillowcases - with painted handprints and "I love Daddy" on them.  I was so relieved that the teachers went all out like this.  I just sort of went along for the ride as far as Father's Day went.  How could anything outdo these precious gifts?

But the teachers in middle school were decidedly less creative, forcing me to have to step up to the plate.  The kids had limited money so I would go with them to pick a card and pay for something like a plant (Daddy wants a lemon tree!) and orchestrate the whole gift presentation.  I got the nagging feeling that the kids were more observers than participants in the gifting process.

This year it happened again.  My husband's trusty charcoal barbecue grill died a few months ago.  He let us know his resolve to turn his back on briquets and enter the gas grill league.  Then he proceeded to work 16 hour days and travel every other week.  The gift that would delight him was obvious.

As Father's Day approached, I pow-wowed with the kids on gift ideas.  Shrugs and blank stares.  I floated the grill idea.  Their relief was obvious.  Mom would take care of the whole thing again.

Let's be clear.  I knew about as much about gas grills as I know about building an aircraft carrier.  I fired up the computer and began my internet research.  Hours and hours later I found the perfect model, well within my price range.  The catch?  It's only sold at the big box hardware store down the street that I can't stand.  I feel the same way about hardware stores in general as some men probably feel about needlepoint shops.  My mind goes numb and I want to get out as fast as possible.  The salespeople are always unable to help me and the lines are painfully long.

So when Drama Girl needed a trip to the library on Saturday I bargained with her that she needed to go with me to the hardware store.  We pulled up and Hooray!  Lines of grills lined up OUTSIDE THE DOORS!  I wouldn't have to go in!  There was the model I needed.  I couldn't believe my good luck.  Thirty minutes and two trips through the cashier later, I had the grill in the minivan and even the very last free apron "gift with purchase" (who knew hardware stores speak my language?)

As we pulled up to the house I consulted with Drama Girl on how we should announce our surprise.  Her solution?  She brought in the apron to give her dad.  Then she broke the news that his new grill was waiting in the car.

He was thrilled.  Mission accomplished.

I still have a nagging suspicion that this is the wrong way to teach kids about giving.  When they're out on their own, nobody is going to organize their thoughtfulness for them.  I can only hope that they internalize the joy they feel in seeing the recipient of a gift really love the thoughtfulness that went into it.

As for me, even though this experience was relatively painless, I'm hoping to never have to endure that hardware store ever again.

Now tell me, at what point do your kids come up with and procure gifts for others?  Do they pick out gifts for friends birthdays and holidays?  Do you remember at what age you became responsible for gift-giving?

5 people stopped folding laundry to write:

Elizabeth said...

I think it was late teens, very late teens for me when I started to be thoughtful about gift giving. I had really great examples (my mom and grandma) and learned that it isn't about the money spent, it is the thought put into the gift. On the other hand, my husband's family is completely gift-giving inept. He is really lousy at it. It is a learned skill, so there is hope for your kids. If you set the good example (like with the grill) your kids will learn.

Loved your post today!

xo -E

Cheryl Lage said...

My man is a consummate gift giver; me not so much. At this point I can see one of our twosome takes after me, and one after him. Oh well! ;)

Happy Father's Day to your Double Daddy!

Wendy said...

I don't know how old your kids are, but I'd cut them loose. I was very young - about 8 when I had to come up with gifts myself. For my family I had to make them (which I enjoyed - they were crap but they appreciated them!) and for friends I'd get a little bit of money and mum would take me to the shop but I had to come up with it myself.

My stepdaughter is 12 and she expects me to think about, purchase and wrap her dad's gifts. I said no way. I know it's hard as I don't see her alone, but I said that she has to think about it and tell me what to buy. For Christmas she wanted to get him a Michael Jackson CD. He was less than thrilled with the gift, but more than thrilled that she'd tried (he likes old MJ, she'd bought him the new CD) and thought of it herself, and that's the bit that counts. cut them loose!

Melissa said...

Gifts are hard - my girls like to give gifts - sometimes they initiate it, sometimes they don't.

However, I think it is good to know what your children's love languages are when it comes to gift giving.

Words of Affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time

In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Receiving Gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch

This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

I cut and pasted the love language synopsis from here:

If you can use their unique way of showing love in providing gifts for others, it might help them to be more involved and more spontaneous.

Age helps...the older your kids get, the better they will get (if you make them practice good habits now)...that is the theory right?

Tami said...

I may have been one of those overly-helpful moms, but I never wanted to witness disappointment on a special occasion - so I always reminded the kids of the upcoming occasion, made suggestions, kicked in some money (or ALL the money), etc. Now that they are out of my house (to college) they are on their own in this area. I might give a quick "Don't forget Sunday is Father's Day" text, but whether or not they send a card/gift is up to them. And I don't give them money.

I will add that hubby did not always reciprocate. He thought the kids should start doing gifts for themselves much earlier. And I was always thrilled with handmade craft projects and cards when they were small.

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