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?