My older son held a crystal in front of me and asked me what I thought of it. It was the tenth rock I’d seen and they all looked fine to me. Then he said he was going to give it to his brother. Before I could say that was nice of him, he added, “this one isn’t as nice as my other one, so he can have it.”
And so my thoughts began…
In one way, I can acknowledge that a gift of any kind should be appreciated. But I can’t help but be bothered by this.
First of all, a gift that is knowingly “less than” really isn’t much of a gift- it’s pawning off something that didn’t mean much to you. It’s not a gift of thought or heart; it’s more an act of convenience that serves to make the other person think you are kinder than your intentions are. It’s deception.
Perhaps gifting is an art that must be learned so that we might recognize a gift is more than an object. I am honored to receive a gift that shows a person pays attention to me and knows the little things that make me smile.
On the other side of that proverbial coin, receiving a gift that is devoid of thought or meaning just leaves me feeling sad and unappreciated; like I’m invisible. It’s worse than not receiving a gift at all.
When presented a gift that is completely not me, I force myself to put on my best gracious smile and say, “thank you.” I hope my smile covers up my hurt because even though I’m devastated inside, I would feel worse if I made the giver feel bad about the gift.
I realize that my expectations sometimes get in the way. I do expect people that know me best to have some idea of who I am and to be able to choose a gift accordingly. Or, if they are still stumped, just write a note; tell me why I matter.
Maybe if I can learn to expect nothing, then I won’t be disappointed. I’m not there yet, but no expectations might be just a gift away.
I can relate to this, Janna. One Christmas I opened up a series of gifts from long time friends and NONE of them were me ~ decorative cat plates and sweatshirts emblazoned with gaudy holiday designs and . . . NO CHOCOLATE! Nothing that indicated they knew me at all.
As far as your son goes, though, don’t be too hard on him. God invented younger siblings so that older siblings could pawn off “outgrown” stuff on them ~> big brother’s “trash” is younger brother’s “treasure.” 😛
Happy Mother’s Day!
No chocolate? That’s horrible, Nancy! 🙂 Yep, you definitely ‘get’ what this is like. I think my younger son was okay with the ‘gift’… maybe one day the heart will be there behind gift giving… I hope!
I never thought of it that way. Happy Mother’s Day!
I hope you had a happy Mother’s Day too, Tessa!
Happy Mother’s Day, Janna! Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of mothers in the same situation.
I just shake my head and wonder if they know me at all 🙂 Thanks for the mother’s day wishes, Timothy!
I left early this morning so Laurie uncovered and fed the birds. I normally uncover them and talk to them while I prep their food and get them water. Laurie said the African Gray was depressed all day — he wouldn’t come out of his cage, talk or sing. He came out of his cage and started talking and singing after I got home. The Gray seems to like her better than me, however, as she pointed out he imitates me more than her, and it seems to matter more to him whether I uncover him or not. Then Laurie said “moms don’t get any recognition! It’s always the dads that matter. Even with silly birds!”
Yeah, why is the animals do that, too? My parents have a dog that has really attached herself to my dad, but when he’s traveling, the dog runs my mom ragged and drives her nuts… but then abandons her as soon as my dad gets back home. Yep, no appreciation from the pets or kids 🙂
Totally agree on getting gifts that are not you. Last Christmas I found it very hard opening the gifts from my mother – of all people! She should know me better than that. To be fair, some of them were things I would have been excited over 20 years ago… others were just strange. I would prefer one nice gift than a whole bunch of crap that I then have no idea what to do with, but she seems set into the mentality of quantity over quality. It is so hard!
On the other issue, I see what you’re saying, but I don’t entirely agree. Just because one person doesn’t value a thing, doesn’t mean the person they give it to might not. I have been given a thing which was not right for me, but I thought, oh, my friend would love this, so I gave it to her and she did. I wouldn’t do it if I thought the other person would have no use for it either, then it can go to a charity shop or something, but if they will like it better than me they might as well have it. Usually I would just give it as a random gift, rather than for their birthday or whatever though! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure 🙂
Oh, I’m sorry you had that gift experience, Knotrune. It’s not funny, but it was rather humorous the way you described it. Perhaps she just can’t get past thinking of you as her little girl.
I agree with what you’re saying about giving a gift to someone when you feel it really suits them – I think that’s still thoughtful. Gifting can be hard because even if we know the person we can still unintentionally miss the mark 🙂
I totally get this! I enjoy gifts (no matter how simple) that say I have been heard and validated. I hand pick gifts for people in the same way. If the gift doesn’t say you care, it’s pointless.
Yep, that’s right, Suzicate. For instance, I went into the office yesterday and found a co-worker had bought my favorite chocolates and left them on my desk just because. I thanked her and truly do appreciate her thinking of me!
Very poignant, Janna. I remember once, during the early dating phase of one relationship, a guy gave me a piece of jewelry (I think it was a cameo necklace). Anyway, it was totally NOT me, and I’m sorry to say, I behaved like the brat I was, insisting we go back to the store and get something I’d like better. Snotty, huh?! Anyway, I happen to know that younger siblings generally “worship” their big brothers and sisters, so anything handed down becomes a prize. This thing called Life isn’t easy, is it? And it sometimes takes years of practice, finding out how to navigate the gift giving and receiving arena!
It’s funny how we can look back at some behavior of our younger selves and cringe a little. I always felt guilty exchanging a gift but have done it a couple times. I think my younger son was okay with it, but I am hoping that one day my older son will put a little more thought into choosing gifts 🙂
aww that is sad! The giving of gifts is fraught with psychological danger! But I remember a sweet story- when my daughter was little, she told me very enthusiastically that I would be so excited to see the gift she got for me for Christmas. She didn’t think I’d be able to wait!! She had earlier gone shopping with her dad and I though they might have picked out something I would like too. Well the day came and I opened up the tissue and there was a a tiny stuffed bunny rabbit she’d taken from her collection of bunnies. She thought it was the best gift on the planet and it is still in my drawer- the best gift on the planet. On a more sour note a friend I once had said to me that she gave some people chocolates because to her that meant- I don’t really care much about you!! Whenever I get chocolates that thought still goes through my head!! Now, when my ex would give me a toaster on my birthday I wanted to toast his whatever !! Thanks for your story!!
I think that stuffed bunny is awesome – I would have kept that, too 🙂 My 12-year-old got me a giant bag of Skittles even though I changed my eating habits a year ago where I don’t eat much sugar. My mom said he’s 12 and he’s a boy, so I guess this makes sense… anyway, he’s got himself a giant a bag of Skittles, now 🙂 I always like to get chocolate, it’s a shame your friend ruined that for you. See, I don’t understand why one would give a gift in that instance… if you don’t care or you’re giving out of some kind of obligation, it’s a ‘gift’ that shouldn’t be given. Just my opinion, though! Your comment about your ex actually made me laugh. Yeah, some things like that fall into the “what were you thinking?!” category. I’m a practical person, but some things are too practical, even for me- like a toaster, unless it was something really special that I’d had my eye on but didn’t want to spend the money on it.
Feel the rainbow!! lol yes, I love chocolate!! thanks for your reply Janna!!
What a great post. Philosophers and theologians spend a lot of effort on trying to make sense of gift-giving. They are mostly intrigued by the (sometimes not so) subtle expectation of a return for a gift. In other words, giving a gift obliges the other in some way. Your post nicely highlights how giving a gift is also an instance of messaging, and how that can be duplicitous, or not. Sometimes we send pretty strong and clear messages with our gifts. This makes me think that having no-expectations might be a tougher than it first appears, and it first appears to be tough!
There are many emotions tied to gifts, both on the giving and receiving side. It’s wonderful when I see something and think, “oh, so and so would absolutely love that!” but then it’s disappointing when you can tell they didn’t enjoy it as much as anticipated. That has happened a couple times. Not having expectations when receiving a gift is hard, but I do need to work to get closer to that point.
I relate to every word.
The title of my autobiography should be, Low To No Expectations.
Aw, I wish you didn’t relate so much to it, Lance. I hope you are doing okay… haven’t seen you writing in a while.
“Dying flowers make me sad…”
I’m still trying to figure out what that was supposed to mean, do you not like getting flowers because they die, do you want someone to get you new ones or is it just completely unrelated?
The title kind of makes me think of “Great Expectations” (mwahaha great joke I know… ok no it’s not, nvm), which is a story about a boy who gets sent money by an anonymous person and this person makes him rich but he gets horribly disappointed when he finds out who the money comes from because he thought it was coming from someone else. And it just goes to say that it works both ways: we expect certain things from certain people but also certain people to be behind certain things!
As for the gifts that weren’t me the lowest I got (not counting the two identical pink fairy/barbie castles I got one year in primary school) was pink nail polish. Because I hate pink, especially that kind of bright pink, and I NEVER wear nail polish, so I have no idea where that idea came from but hey, I use it to mark my scout cutlery, turns out it’s harder to wash off than marker and at least no-one has the same :p
Those flowers were actually from my anniversary. After 18 years, I don’t know why he wouldn’t remember that I don’t like getting cut flowers because I am sad when they die and can’t bring myself to throw them away. I know, it’s weird. A couple years ago, my younger son wanted to get me flowers for some occasion and I begged him to get fake ones and he did – it was great!
I remember Great Expectations…see? Expectations really do get us into trouble 🙂
Yes, that nail polish is exactly the kind of thing that baffles me and makes me want to ask the person. “do you even know me at all?” But then I feel bad and scold myself for not being gracious. I’m glad you found a use for the nail polish (I happen to like certain shades of pink). Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and stories, Imab00kworm… always good to see you around 🙂
Ah I get it now…
I also like some shade of pink but that particular pink was just so “girly” and ugh. Feminist at a young age I recognised in primary school that pink was an inferior colour reserved for girls and my fight agaist it started then (you can imagine my mother’s despair when all the little girl clothes in England either were pink or had pink in them). Pink degraded girls and fit them nicely into that “inferior” category, that and flowers. I was one of the only girls who played football with the guys or who talked to them normally without talking about “girly” things or comparing them to girls so I think I got some credit for that.
Now my relationship with pink has improved and I treat it like any other colour but I still stay away from those “barbie colours” when I can 🙂
Your relationship with pink is interesting. I’ve always liked pink 🙂 I did have a phase where yellow was the color and everything in my room was yellow… it was quite cheery. Hmmm…. maybe I need more yellow in my life!
Growing up someone told me that presents should be something you know the other person wants, but will never buy for themselves.
Of course this was in an era where you never gave the guest at dinner the chipped plate ( always the mom got it). An it seems people didn’t have as much spare money – and if they did, they usually wouldn’t think of selfishly buying something for themselves.
If you were observant all year round knowing a person’s “want, not need” meant you had a clue what to buy for them. But it still wasn’t easy as everyone got jobs and was busy with their own lives.
(and I had a big brother who was always “giving” me things when actually we’d been told to clean out our rooms, fill the Goodwill donation bag with outgrown items, and he really wasn’t ready to give something up and knew I could squirrel things away. Bet now he still doesn’t know, that I knew.)
The part about your brother passing stuff to you made me smile… that’s one way to get to keep something close enough to get to it if you really wanted it. My parents told me they have boxes of my stuff in their attic. I told them I don’t even want to see what’s in there because it’s 25+years old and I know as soon as I see stuff, the memories attached to them will make it hard to part with stuff… but honestly, after this long, I have no reason to keep anything 🙂 I think the best gifts are the ones that don’t cost a lot… just a little something that shows someone cares. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and stories, Phil!
“It’s better to give than to receive” is the prevailing wisdom. It is quite true because giving, real giving, requires selflessness and often entails hurt on the part of the giver. But ‘receiving’ can be a difficult thing, too, as it also requires humility and grace from the recipient.
I have found myself in the situation where I try to be nice when receiving a blah gift. It was quite an awkward moment.
It is really hard to mask disappointment when receiving a gift that is so off you almost wonder if they gave you the wrong gift! Thanks for sharing your comment, Imelda 🙂
I know what you mean about ‘gift betrayal’ Janna. It’s upsetting when close friends don’t put thought into gifts or cards. Although I think it’s true some people have more of a ‘gift’ for gift-giving than others…
PS Have you done that 5 Love Languages survey? Would one of your top ones be receiving gifts?
I have not done that survey… I’m curious about it now. I’m not the greatest at picking gifts, but I really do try. Sometimes I manage to do well, but often with the kids I’ve missed the trends (they move on to liking something else and don’t clue me in!)
Oh I remember this.. even worse is if you receive something horrible that the giving person have made themselves.. What should you do? I have reached the age when I do not want anything at all (except wine or chocolate). Every item I receive means I have to get rid of something else..
Oooh, that is hard with homemade gifts. That’s why I like homemade gifts of food – they disappear no matter what 🙂 I agree with your philosophy on gifts – for birthdays, my best friend and I go to lunch – that time is gift enough!
I’m the same way with flowers. Would much prefer a live plant to nurture.
That’s a good idea – sadly, I’m not good with plants. Thank goodness I have better luck with animals 🙂
I can relate to getting a gift that isn’t quite what I wanted. I think my husband would say it’s because the expectations are unachievable for him to get me what I would like. I told him that flowers and diamonds are welcome anytime. I bet he forgot I said that, right after I said it.
Honestly, a card, with the right sentiment puts tears to my eyes, because I know it was chosen with care. I just want to be remembered and loved.
I hope you are well. I’ve been absent for quite a while from blogging. I am hoping to get back in the groove.
You’ve hit on the key point – thought. I try not to be too picky, but I do like something that shows the person kind of, sort of listens to me and knows me 🙂 I’ve been out of whack on everything – including my blog too… I hope you are able to get back into things, Patty!