Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How do you handle gifts?

Let's imagine that I'm at my sister's birthday party.  Her birthday is after mine (mine is in April, hers is in June).  Let's pretend that she just opened a really cool gift - a new book by an author I love.  What would I do?

I know exactly what I'd do.  I'd have it ordered on my Kindle before she blew out the candles, that's what.  The last thing I would do is wait until Christmas to ask for it and then hope that I got it from someone. 

Ok, let's imagine a second situation.  My sister gets a book, and I want it, so I take it from her.  When Megan got angry, would my mom say, "Megan, you need to be a better sharer!"?  Would she insist that Megan give me a turn with her book?  Would Megan get in trouble for not sharing?  No.  She would say, "Amy, quit being a jerk and get your own book."

Exhibit A
So, based on the above, I don't see anything wrong with running right out and getting Claire a Jessie Doll like the one MG got yesterday from Grandpa (or Grandma - it was unclear who got what from whom in the chaos).  BJ says we can't because 1) we don't want them to be spoiled and 2) we work hard for our money while Claire doesn't have to do anything productive but convert oxygen to carbon dioxide for the next 15 years and therefore 3) we're not going to set the precedent of getting two sets of everything and 4) Mary Grace doesn't have to share her special toy even though 5) it's breaking Claire's little heart in spite of the fact that 6) Claire totally usurped the Woody doll that MG got and 7) MG didn't even blink because she was too busy falling in love with Jessie.

It's different for kids, BJ insists.

But Claire doesn't understand!  I counter.

That's why we have to teach her!  he says.  And I know he's right, except that it's so hard.  And people always bring gifts for the non-birthday girl in our house (we have such generous friends and family!) and it has rarely been an issue.  But they're both in love with Jessie, and you can't share a doll like that.  You can't take turns with a best friend.  It's really not fair to make Mary Grace give Claire a turn (see above re: Amy, get your own book).

So do we make her wait until Christmas?  Do we let her take her piggy bank money and buy her own Jessie?  That's what we did with Mary Grace when she wanted something Claire got last Christmas - it was a "FurReal" kitten.  Neither one of them have played with the kittens in months.  So while I'm leaning toward the "use your pocket money to get your own" option, I'm not sure that's the right thing to do.

We were not planning ahead when we had these kids 19 months apart.  That is too long between birthdays.

It's going to get 33% harder in December.

I hope Gozer's a boy.  Poor Woody needs someone to love him.

How do you, especially those of you with close-in-age same-gender children, handle birthdays and gifts?  Am I totally being a marshmallow if I take Claire to Walmart with her piggy bank money and let her buy her own? Is anyone hiring pouty three year olds?  Could I have her do some chores around the house over the next couple of days to earn enough money to buy a Jessie doll?  For the record, I hate the idea of paying kids for chores, because chores are something you do because you're part of a family, not because you get paid (no one pays me to do the laundry, after all).  But in this instance, I might be able to make an exception.

And, bigger picture, do the things we teach kids about waiting and sharing in our culture make any sense at all?  And if not, why do we teach them what we do?  Do we do it to make our own lives easier?  Does that even make any sense?


Anonymous said...

Amy, I would go and get the doll. You should see the way the girls with Jesse together (yes they each have one and will both have bullseye soon). So worth watching them play together instead of fighting over....


Jen said...

Wow, big implications here. I think while it may break your heart, let MG revel in her doll and let Claire continue loving what she has. Lesson is, if your neighbor wins a 2011 Corvette (red, convertible) learning that you can't have one and learning to be appreciative for what you DO have (read: disappointment), is a good live skill to have...

Heidi said...

My oldest are the same ages as yours. Here's our rule for all three kids:

On the birthday/party day, the gift is the sole property of the recepient.

Yes, this means us running interference to allow X time with Woody/Buzz/Jessie (We feel your pain - in our house it's Buzz. And yes, our daughter LOVES him too.)

It is explained to the siblings that it is X's toy that day. It is also explained to X that, come tomorrow morning, the toy WILL be shared with siblings. Not evenly shared, not always willingly shared, but shared or no one will get to play with it.

I'm probably jinxing it by saying this, but - so far - this has worked, even with the littlest guy. Yes, they still fight over toys (duh!), but the defend-it-with-my-life period passes within a few days.

So I say hold off on buying another Jessie... but Bullseye is awfully cute.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, we haven't had this issue pop up yet, but I really like Heidi's rule.

The other idea I like is that when friends/cousins/etc. come over to play your kids get to decide on one or two things each that they aren't going to share and those get put away. Everything else is fair game and must be shared. Perhaps you could modify this for a week - that MG gets to decide each day if she wants to share Jessie or not - but then if she doesn't want to share then she has to, I don't know, sit on her bed to play with it.

Just an idea!

Jami said...

Team BJ here. Agree with eveything Jen said.

Something I try (emphasis on TRY) to remember is that our job as parents is to raise future adults. Too many adults are so focused on immediate gratification to their own detriment (i.e., debt).
"I see someone with a cool new gadget and I have to have it."

Although, I am totally guilty of this... I wish I had all the money back I spent on impuse purchases because I HAD to have what everyone else had. (I have evidence on film of bad 80s fashion I HAD to have! YIKES!)

I don't recall my parents buying me everything I wanted, so not sure if learning it early changes much.

But if you don't set the standard now, you may be in for a lot of "drama" in the future - ha ha!

LOVE your blog! Jami (:

angel0199 said...

Kids need to learn that they don't get everything that everyone else has. They need to learn delayed gratification. Better now when the cost is a few dollars for the doll than when they are in college and rack up thousands in credit card debit.

Abby has heard "put that on your Christmas list" a few times lately. Even at 5 she is ok with the wait. But at 3 it is a little harder. I wouldn't think any less of you if you told Claire she could use her own money for they doll unless you are one of those mom's who buys them something every time you go to the store.

Kim said...

Well, now you know *I* want to go right to Amazon and buy Claire the doll and ship it to her....but....

I was a parent, too. And I had these same problems. My 2 last boys were 2 years apart and they *always* loved the same stuff. Generally, I stemmed this by buying "not quite the same but similar" things for them as gifts. One would get the Sega, one would get the Nintendo kind of things.

But if one of them got something the other wanted, we had the "wait X number of days" rule. However old they were - Claire is 3 so we'll use 3 - you had to wait THAT many days before using your OWN money to go get your own toy at the store. The wait was twofold - it gave the other kid that many days to have sole possession and bragging rights with the coveted item, and gave the other kid time to think about if they REALLY wanted the item. It was kind of 50/50 after the allotted wait time if the item held it's charm. 50% of the time it did, 50% of the time it didn't.

And sometimes we would get to the store and ended up buying something else the kid saw and had to have.

So, I say, wait 3 days. MG gets sole ownership and play rights with Jesse. In three days, Claire gets to take her own money to the store and buy herself one - if she still wants it in three days.

strwberrryjoy said...

This isn't about the price of the doll. At. All. This is about the price of sanity. I would have gotten dolls for both of them. Even if they won't be played with in 6 months. Worth it!

One doll is not going to spoil anybody. If anything, it's going to make everyone happy and sane :)

Anonymous said...

I think Claire should wait until Christmas. If each kid gets the same toys on each others birthdays, the magic of birthdays becomes lost. It was Mary Grace's birthday, so she should get all the attention and the toys that she patiently waited for.

If Claire is still hell bent on getting a doll, have her pull weeds or mow the lawn to earn money to buy it.

Rachel said...

SO TRICKY! We are yet to encounter this, our number 2 is still a baby. I constantly want to buy things for our older one, yet I know that giving him everything he wants (or that I want for him) is not the best way to be - learning to wait/be disappointed/appreciate what you have etc are such great life skills....but also very difficult for a preschooler. Sometimes sanity for the mother is best, sometimes the life lesson is best - wow, this post has really got me thinking!

LWH said...

Let her buy the Jessie doll with her piggy bank money, but make sure she understands that she's buying it and therefore can't buy other things. It's a teachable moment, and it will still help keep the peace.