My kids like giving gifts to visitors. I have noticed that when the gifts are of no monetary value– sticks, rocks, small sculptures made of twisted paper clips and aluminum foil– adults have no trouble accepting them with bemused gratitude. Not infrequently they fail to take the gifts home with them, which the kids always notice, but trusting in their love-filled lives, they assume it is only due to that particular accidental forgetfulness that adults are prone to, and insist I mail the gifts back to their intended recipients (which, truthfully, I often fail to do).
However, when the kids try to give away their toys, clothes, shoes, or money, adults tend to get uncomfortable. It’s a tricky position to be in and I think often there is the fear that either the child or, if it something of legitimate value, the parents will later regret losing the item. Duncan has offered his favorite cape to aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends; as it was a very special gift to him from my parents, I have had to coach him to pick something else, or to change his cape offer to a loan, rather than a forever gift– “How about this, Duncan,” I say, “You can say, ‘I’m so happy you’re here, I want to share my favorite cape with you!'”
I understand that he just wants to express his great love of these wonderful family members who dote on him, but I also know how much he loves that one-of-a-kind cape (and that he will undoubtedly get more use out of it than they will).
A few years ago, Wyatt insisted on giving the entire contents of his piggy bank (about $3 in pennies and nickels) to his Uncle Adam. Adam tried again and again to refuse the gift– “Wyatt, keep your money! It’s okay, I don’t need it,” he said. But eventually he realized how important it was to Wyatt and he accepted the gift. Wyatt never forgot this. A few months after Adam tragically and unexpectedly lost his life, Wyatt said, out of the blue, “Even though Uncle Adam died, I’m glad I gave my money to him. I just hope he got a chance to use it…”
My mom is, and has always been, fantastic with babies and little kids. The last time she came out to visit us, Milo gave her his favorite toy dog as a parting gift. Rather than refuse or devalue the gift, my mom, who the kids call “Didi”, accepted it and since then has texted photographs each day of what Didi and Spot are up to. Far from experiencing regret at losing the tangible toy, Milo has reacted with delight at seeing photographic evidence of what fun his dog is having with Didi and Papa.
“What Spot do today?” he asks and I show him, and then we talk about our own day. When Spot went moon-gazing, we did, too. When Spot helped Didi bake chocolate chip banana bread, we biked to the store for chocolate chips and baked some cookies. The photo of Spot in goggles before a soak in the tub made all of us giggle.