Smile Politely

Gift Time Begins

The “No Presents” Birthday Party went great. The little guy still ended up with plenty of presents (around four or five) from family — not too many so that he couldn’t remember what he got. The Preschooler seemed fine with everything. He doesn’t watch any broadcast TV, and I think that is the reason why he doesn’t really know what to want.

We used all the glass plates in the house and between the pizza and cake we quickly washed them so we could re-use them. End result of birthday party: half a kitchen garbage can of trash. We were able to make it through the entire week with one trash bag. I was really, really proud.

So now it’s Christmastime. And Hannukahtime. Being the Jew in the family, I have to represent Hannukah in the only way that saves it face in the massive Coca-Cola Christmas American Consumption Explosion: have at least five days of presents, have some really cool menorah candles and let the Preschooler light the menorah by himself. Of course, maybe on Christmas, Santa brings the mall to you; but on Hannukah, you get to play with fire.

This is the first year that our extended family broached the subject of alternative gift giving. Specifically, one person gets one other person a present, instead of all of us spending hundreds of dollars getting each other things we may never use. None of the family is poor, either, so there’s nothing any of us need. We’re not rich, but we’re definitely within the Brookstone catalog tier of “necessities.”

I videochat with my mom every morning. This allows her to critique my hair before, during and after haircuts, and also to make fun of my bathrobe. To me, it’s like I still live with her. To her, it’s like she’s watching a TV show and the daughter character has been wearing the same bathrobe for six seasons. She’s sick of it and has threatened to buy me a new one. “No!” I cried, horrified at the thought of yet another bathrobe. I have three bathrobes: a short one, a longer one and an ankle-length one, and I don’t need any of them. If she buys me another, I’ll have four. Bathrobes take up a shitload of room, and I can’t get rid of them; they’re all in perfect condition.

Anyway, many gift-giving schemes were proposed: the Secret Santa Grab Bag (each person gets a name and has to buy that person a present); the White Elephant Exchange (gifts in a pile and each subsequent present-picker can decide either to take someone else’s already opened gift or open a new one — which seems really, really hardcore); and, of course, the Give A Sheep to a Poor Third World Family.

It’s pretty amazing when you think about how many things could go wrong in one of these situations. When pulling names from a hat, you could pull your own name (and not want to put it back into the hat), or you could pull your husband’s name. You still need to figure out what the spending limit is, and you need to figure out if that limit is before or after sale-price. Stories abound of people getting strange gifts from grab-bag situations. I actually saw one of the oddest grab-bag gifts ever, which was a given to a friend’s mom. She received a genuine Radio Shack internal heat-sink component for a build-it-yourself computer tower. How does something like that end up in a ladies’ grab-bag event?

Anyway we successfully muddled through the negotiations with hopefully no sour feelings, and of course the Preschooler is going to prevail in the gift-getting department because everyone wants to get him toys. I wanted to lay out the ground rules, but I was too chicken to do it. These would be my dream ones though:

  • No guns
  • No toy guns
  • No water guns
  • No cannons
  • No army men
  • No camouflage clothes or underpants (I don’t want my baby even practicing dressing up to go to war)
  • Nothing with Sponge Bob Squarepants on it because that is one horrific-looking cartoon
  • No sports team t-shirts
  • No frigging Chief paraphernalia
  • No more t-shirts with guitars on them (he has six now)
  • No plastic toys that are bigger than a loaf of bread
  • Nothing for children aged under six
  • Please do not buy him any more Giant Sculptures Filled With Candy (like he got last year)
  • No Bibles
  • No live animals

Anyone want to share a gift-giving story? Please feel free!

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