I am an only child and have been very lucky to have been spoilt for most of my life. Growing up I never wanted for anything. Toys, games, days out, everything I could wish for was there. As I got older, like most kids in my position, things changed. Gifts became harder to pick, toys became clothes, and clothes turned to indecision on my part.
This left my parents and family with only one real option, to give me cash as a gift. I am ashamed to say now, but at the time, I thought this was a thoughtless and lazy gift. But recently, very recently, my mind has been changed completely.
As a relatively new parent of just over 3 years, I am encountering lots of new social situations that I must navigate. From children’s parties to Christmas gifts for friends’ children, the problems that can be thrown up by gift giving are huge. The ambiguity of what has been spent on gifts by others, for example is a social situation that can be quite difficult.
Considering how much to spend on a gift and how much has been spent on a gift can be a tricky balance to find. Some of those considerations are, “how much did they spend?” “how much is too much?” and “I hope this is enough, I don’t want to offend someone.”
These are of course all irrational thoughts; I am reassured by others that these are thoughts a lot of parents do have. The conclusion that I came to, was to give cash to my little boy’s friends as a gift, and to my friend’s children. Recently I took my son to a birthday party, the first party he has been to where I didn’t have a personal relationship with the parents. This was the first time I was putting my cash as a gift to the test. I learned something very interesting the next time I saw the little girl’s parents. It turned out that other parents had gone down the route of giving a gift, four of the parents no less, got the exact same gift.
This, I must admit, left me feeling relieved. As I left, it made me think about what I had done by giving cash. I had tried. It was a thought through decision. I was allowing the parents to make the choice for their daughter. The little girl may have wanted something and now she could go and pick it from the shop herself.
So, what was I missing when I thought that my parents were lazy? I was missing what my parents were giving me. It wasn’t just cash. It was freedom to do what I wanted, to save the money for a holiday or buy new clothes. My parents were giving me the things that every child wants; independence, responsibility and freedom to make my own choices.
My gift of choice this holiday season is just that. Choice.