Thursday, July 16, 2009

Present Woes

A few days ago, Ayaan was invited to the birthday party of a good friend from school. In preparation for the same, I went to the toy store the previous day and picked up an appropriate gift for the birthday boy and got it nicely wrapped up. The brat, however, had other plans.

I came home early from work so that I could go with him and walked into a mulish Ayaan with his own ideas with regards to the gift. He had found a tattered little box and filled it up with the dirtiest and most broken crayons from his vast crayon collection and he insisted that this was the gift that he wanted to give, not the one Mama had bought.

I took a deep breath and mustered all my good intentions to get through this minefield without a tantrum. The first tactic was to give him a spiel about birthday presents and to convince him that they had to be new. I reminded him of all the new birthday presents he had got on his birthday. And that no one wanted to get old things for birthday presents. But the boy wasn’t buying.

Then I changed tactics and decided to try some trickery. I suggested that we take both the gifts and proposed that I carry the crayon box in my bag (in the hope that he would forget all about it in the excitement of the actual birthday party). But he was having none of it, the crayons would be carried in his own two hands and that was that.

And that was when my good intentions melted in the face of his stubborn refusal to be swayed. And I lost my temper and said something to the effect of ‘I said you couldn’t take the crayons and that’s that’ and then dragged him out of the house kicking and screaming, with the designated and duly purchased birthday gift in hand. He cried all the way in the car and got a smack for all his efforts. Of course, once we reached the party, all was forgotten and he had a good time... and I heaved a sigh of relief at having survived the storm without any lasting damage.

But in those dark hours of the night before sleep claims me and I critically assess and judge my parenting, I wasn't so sure I had done the right thing. Maybe the crummy crayons were worth much more in his eyes and were really his idea of a perfect gift for a pal. Would it have really done any harm to let him that gift along with the main one as well? I mean, he didn’t want me to take the original present at all but I think he would have been amenable to the idea of that being a present from me while the other one was from him…

But on the other hand, I think he needs to know that birthday parties are not about him but about the person whose birthday it is. I find it hard to believe that the birthday boy would have appreciated the gift (unfortunately, I do not have a picture to convey the absolutely pathetic quality of those crayons but take my word for it - they were a mess). In that case, wouldn’t it have been selfish of Ayaan (and me) to give him something that he, as the giver, wanted to give but the receiver would not appreciate. Isn't that against one of the very basic codes of gift-giving?

So anyway, in hindsight, I may have let him take the crayons. But I am not sure that would have been the right thing to do. What do you think? What would you have done in this situation?

38 comments:

  1. Ofcourse I'd have done the same as you ! :)
    But here's what you could have done:

    Allowed him to carry the crayons as "his" gift, while you carry the real gift as mine, and hope that he will not really give the crayons once he gets to the party and you do some helpful nudging about how everyone's gifts are so shiny and new.

    Tell him the crayons have magic powers and cannot leave the house or...

    Allow him to take the crayons and once in the car, cheerfully remind him that the crayons are his own and not to be gifted away

    Mock cry that you wanted those crayons how could he have wanted to give them away to a friend? Maybe say that the baby wants those crayons.

    Unfortunately all these ideas always come later :D

    Point is, if he'd given those crayons so what? You could have explained to the parent that Ayaan was just trying to share his very favorite crayons. As for the lesson, everything does not have to have a moral or a lesson. Somethings can just be as they are, right?

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  3. Oh this is another technique that sort of works with Poppin - elaborate story.

    It could be about the crayons or not, but it just serves to defuse the tantrum and then the moment blows over.

    You could invent a story about how one of your colleagues wanted to do the very same thing at office (Does ayaan love to hear about your work?) and so on.. All in a very dramatic way so he gets distracted.

    The only thing that usually works is for me to pretend it doesn't matter either which way to me.

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  4. stuti3:44 pm

    Hehe.. maybe he knew how messy they were, and THAT's why he was going to gift them... you know, get rid of them and stuff... :D .. kids are so cool!

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  5. hmm... if it was a close friend, and I was pretty comfy with them, I'd have let him take those crayons and gift it and all of us would laugh about it. But if it was a formal kind of do, where only the kids are friendly, not the parents... or if its an office party, the the crayons would be a no-no and I'd have done eggjactlee what you did!

    And Poppins, my Mom can relate those distracting stories and get away with it, but the minute I start to spin a yarn in these kind of situatiuons, Sonny smells a rat and yells even more.. Sigh!

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  6. can offer n solutions but most likely none of them would have occurred to me right when it was needed. will therefore refrain.

    parenting is easy-peasy. as long as its someone else's kid.

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  7. awwww. at least he was being generous and wanted to share his stuff. . .

    agree with chox

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  8. I am no mommy, but I have dealt with my niece and her tantrums quite a bit.

    I guess depending on whether I know the parents and can explain the two gift situation.

    I think the kid would not have minded and maybe told what he felt about the crayons.. which would have helped solving further such situations. On the contrary, if I do not know the parents, then I really would have done nothing different from what you did.

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  9. I am single but if that happens I would have suggested to present the first gift and then mama's gift.

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  10. I was going to give you a lot of suggestions, but that Poppins woman has done it before me...and very well too, I might add!! :)

    @Poppins: Ever consider a career in giving advice to tortured moms doggy-paddling in the deep-end? ;)

    And don't worry Ro, these tantrums from hell usually have a way of making us all forget our good intentions. To understand what was going on in your little boy's mind, why don't you ask him why he wanted to give his friend his crayons. Now that things are calmer and the party is over, have a little mamma-and-son heart-to-heart.

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  11. I'd say take them along with the other gift, explain it to the host. And that's that!
    Brat will understand appropriate, inappropriate-ness of life when he grows up.

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  12. Anonymous7:32 pm

    i'd do what you did. try logic and reason and when all else fails put my foot down anyway.
    the earlier we teach our children social skills (including that other people do not usually like to receive messy crayons!) the better off they are in the long run!
    d

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  13. hi
    Rohini this is the first time I am writing in your blog
    what you did was correct and how will the birthday boy feel seeing those messy crayons and there is no harm to reprimand the children in those times
    Haritha

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  14. Unrealistically speaking, would have taken both and said that while the crummmy crayons are from his side, the nice one is from Mummy. This only if there was something in the theory that he wanted to give something from the heart and not because he wanted the nice gift for himself (sounds like the kind of thing I would have done as a child!)

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  15. Loved Poppins suggestions..she comes up with amazing advice!

    But in the heat of the moment when one is pressed for time and angry and irritated, its difficult to be creative with one's approach so I understand your reaction.

    I have a stubborn child and have learned to compromise my social image a little in favor of not giving my child a tough time. For example, if my son is throwing a tantrum about changing his stained t shirt, instead of hitting him and forcing him to do do I just take him out like that. I prefer being seen as a messy Mom to them than a bad Mom to myself later. You know what I mean, kuch to log kahenge...

    Although I'm not sure whether I ma doing the right thing . I didnt help you at all did I? :)

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  16. I'm pretty sure I'd have done what you did Ro. And perhaps delegated the job of explaining to R, who would do it so much more nicely than I. :)

    You did the best thing under the circumstances, though of course, re-assessing the situation with the gift of hindsight is always a good thing for the future.

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  17. Its difficult, isn't it? As other readers have mentioned a lot of thoughts might occur on hindsight, but that's not the point! I think you did pretty well. With my little one at 2.5, distraction and stories work well. Not sure how long it will continue.

    End of the day he was happy at the end of the car ride, kids forget easily, so don't trouble yourself! Need to take it easy since you have the second one inside.

    Make a general conversation with him another day asking him what sort of presents he would like for his b'day and if he would be happy if someone gave him something similar to what he wanted to give. That would make him think a little more! Give it a shot!

    BTW, first time here.

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  18. oh dear god, i was in the exact same situation- one difference- she had smuggled some old crayons into her pocket. i argued valiantly, she dismissed my ideas altogether.

    i hoped she would forget when we reached, she did not. she gave the newly wrapped 'mother approved' gift. and the crayons wrapped in a used tissue. the child smiled politely at the gift i gave and put it away, and clutched tightly the gift sanah gave!

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  19. ok prolly in the heat of the moment i wud hav just forced them to drop the idea but if i was in a cool mood i wud hav taken both...

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  20. I agree with Chox, it's easy to come up with "sensible advice" afterwards and for others kids !

    D, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this, social skills appropriate to their age must be taught. And definitely everything doesn't merit a major battle. I think 4 year old Ayaan giving a messy gift isn't that socially inappropriate for his age.
    Case in point Sanah's friends reaction to her messy gift :)

    Munchkin's mama, M4: Thankee, but as Chox said advice is easier to give when it's someone else's kid :)

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  21. Mum's Delight3:27 pm

    I think it was very sweet of Ayaan to have got his own gift ready for his friend and should be encouraged. But as you said the gift has to be given with the receiver in mind. Next time maybe you could take Ayaan to the toy shop and ask him to chose what he wants to give his friend instead of you buying the gift. Then he would feel that the gift is personally from him.

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  22. Mum's Delight3:27 pm

    I think it was very sweet of Ayaan to have got his own gift ready for his friend and should be encouraged. But as you said the gift has to be given with the receiver in mind. Next time maybe you could take Ayaan to the toy shop and ask him to chose what he wants to give his friend instead of you buying the gift. Then he would feel that the gift is personally from him.

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  23. I would have taken both the gifts. Let the Birthday boy's mom know that your child is insisting on giving the crayons too, but she can return them to you later- that way its not a gift. The Birthday boy will get a new toy, and your child will also be happy.

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  24. Mothers actually think so much....as a kid someone had once gifted me a beautiful paper mache box from Kashmir, however I was livid as to why I got an empty box as gift

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  25. I agree with "Mum's Delight". I would involve the child in buying the gift. If I hadn't done it, I think I might have done exactly what you've done.

    Ofcourse this is all hypothetical and lord alone knows what I'd do when faced with an actual child and a tantrum!

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  26. I can sympathise with u so much on this..My daughter, Lil P does it too..
    We usually buy two gifts.. one is for the bday boy n 1 for lil P. If P wants to gift old crayons.. she gets old crayons as her "gift" . If she gifts something new .. she gets something new!. - Come to think of it, its downright bribing. But whatever works. I like the idea posted by memyhubbynbaby & Mum's Delight too! Might try it next time..
    First time here.. :)

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  27. Anonymous3:01 pm

    poppy - we live not more than 40 km away from each other and we have to resort to rohini's space to talk!!! anyway i stick to my guns. i have a lot of valid points to make but i am not a writer (hence the state of my blog!!!), so will do so on the phone at some point, so for the time being we shall just agree to amicably disagree?
    - d

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  28. tagged
    http://itchingtowriteblogs.blogspot.com/2009/07/magik-number-seven.html

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  29. [Poppins] Those are some lovely strategies. *files away for future reference* Now if I only I can hold the temper for long enough to implement some of them :)

    [Stuti/ Parul] It's quite possible, knowing the little terror :)

    [JLT/ Aathira] Unfortunately, this was a school pal's birthday and I didn't know the parents well enough to know that they would understand...

    [Choxbox] Well said :)

    [Art] Hmmmm.... now if only I was sure about that. The fellow's mind works in devious ways.

    [Hobo/ Big Zed/ Memyhubbynbaby] If I had a do-over, I might do that. The operative word being 'might'...

    [Mamma Mia/ Sole] Tried a sane conversation after the party. Didn't get beyond 'because I wanted to'. Can't argue with that

    [D/ Haritha] I am confused about this one. I am not sure he learnt anything except 'Mama gets angry when I don't do what she says' from this particular instance :(

    [Munchkin] I have a stubborn child too, unfortunately I have a stubborn streak that more than matches his, hence the battles.

    [Tharini/ Itchy] Knowing you 'might' have done the same makes me feel better for some reason... :)

    [Sur] LOL! You mean it's possible that the birthday boy might have actually liked the crayon present... darn, I didn't think of that

    [Mum's Delight/ Broom] The son was duly taken along for the present shopping. But he was least interested in choosing the present for his present. He was too busy rushing around playing with all the display toys... and having tantrums because I refused to buy them for him.

    [Pesto] :)

    [Shruti] I am very stingy with buying Ayaan gifts though, so that would not work for me.

    [Itchy] *Looks at the tag adding to the ever-growing pile of tags not done and hyperventilates*

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  30. Rohini, I've had moments like that too. I'd have done exactly the same thing! No different. I'll need to go back and read Poppins' comment again for better strategies. Then again, my youngest is six, so the period of dealing with these problems is coming to an end for me.

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  31. Forgot to ask you ... How're you doing? How's life being pregnant, working and caring from Brat?
    Take care.

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  32. Ro, I would have done the same thing, losing my temper and forcefully taking the child to the party. At 2.2 my Sunsine gets distracted by stories so its easier to handle her. I have created a naughty character called "billu" and everytime she does something unreasonable I try expalining it to her through a story of Billu which she thoroughly enjoys. In hindsight, I guess you could have allowed Ayaan to take those crayons and ask him to gift both the presents. The birthday boy's reaction would be enough (good or bad) to make Ayaan understand the value of gifts.

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  33. Ro, I would have done the same thing, losing my temper and forcefully taking the child to the party. At 2.2 my Sunsine gets distracted by stories so its easier to handle her. I have created a naughty character called "billu" and everytime she does something unreasonable I try expalining it to her through a story of Billu which she thoroughly enjoys. In hindsight, I guess you could have allowed Ayaan to take those crayons and ask him to gift both the presents. The birthday boy's reaction would be enough (good or bad) to make Ayaan understand the value of gifts.

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  34. Good god. This motherhood thing seems complicated. :)

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  35. i think i'd have done what you did. though in hindsight, having read all the comments and what not, i might have taken the crummy gift along as well and prayed really hard that my child forgot about it.
    if s/he didn't, oh well, i'd let it go and hope the parents/birthday child understood.
    i think.

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  36. Ro, I would have done just what you did and I would not even have given it a thought later :)
    KT is forever putting old things into boxes, wrapping them with used gift paper and gifting them to her dolls when she celebrates their birthdays. But she has never suggested actually gifting them to a friend.

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  37. Good Good.Thanks for sharing.

    Lingerie news

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  38. at least he was being generous and wanted to share his stuff. . ..

    Awesome.

    Work from home India

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