Gifting Protocol

gift givingYesterday was Mother’s Day which means that many mothers everywhere received some kind of gift, trinket, or other remembrance from their children. When small children give gifts that they have thoughtfully created at school, daycare, or as a scouting activity, or that they have bought at the dollar store with their own money, moms receive these treasures lovingly given. What to do with kitschy gifts after their ‘time’ has expired?

One thing not to do is to dispense with the gift carelessly with total disregard of the young gifter’s gentle feelings. A scarring memory for me was when my aunt took me as a young child for a week to Canada with one night spent playing bingo for entertainment. I was amazed to actually win a bingo round with the prize among this old ladies group of a bone China single teacup and matching saucer. I was delighted to bring this delicate treasure home to my mother as a gift from my trip. Several years later, when I was no longer as young, it’s still made me cry to overhear my mother carelessly offer away my gift to a visiting friend with, “If you like it you can have it; I don’t know where it came from.”

When I was the mother I made it clear to my children that I would treasure anything that they made by hand but would not want any cheap store-bought knickknacks. By pre-empting the gift giving in this way saved me from oohing and ahhing over something that would end up in a yard sale. So I never ended up with a house of childish knickknacks and there were no hurt feelings or insincere thank yous for things I didn’t have any use for. The handmade gifts made from the heart were truly treasured and spawned more of the same when they were older and very capable, putting in good effort resulting in some lovely creations.

So what about those ‘handmade’ gifts from very young children that you know the adults in charge really had a large hand in creating, or gifts that are largely made from a craft kit and the child’s contribution is minimal? These fall into the category of ‘macaroni necklaces’ and went into an annual collection box, one for every child for every year. Yes, we lugged 56 collection boxes (I had four kids and started when each child was in preschool) from one house move to another to another until finally the boxes dropped down into file folders containing pictures of the creations that were finally able to be dispensed of.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: The purpose of gifting is to teach children how to share their resources (not just money, but also time, energy and skills) with consideration for another person’s happiness. Creating or selecting a card is gifting on a smaller scale. A good gift communicates, “I thought of you today and wanted to make you happy.” The more personal the gift (not the larger the gift or the more expensive the gift), the deeper the feeling of caring and affection is created. Setting up a family protocol on gift giving with these guidelines in mind will help children to learn a valuable lesson over a lifetime of gift giving occasions.

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