This is, mercifully for you, going to be my last word on the sticky issues of Gift Giving. (Ah, never fear: the promised furoshiki crafting episode is to follow. I would never leave you hanging like that!)
My last word is this: sometimes, there is simply no way to please someone.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how perfect the gift, no matter how carefully you studied the person you love, no matter what, your gift falls flat.
This actually happened to me at noon today, so I am feeling this quite acutely.
You see, my boys have one day a week during which they do outdoor school. As the weather has turned colder, we all came to realize that they had no gloves deemed “appropriate” by their very high standards for winter gloves. There was an actual crisis this morning when I tried to slip a pair of knit gloves into my eldest scalawag’s backpack, just in case. Like, tears and yelling and the like.
I needed to take a trip to the grocery store, and I, dutiful Mama that I am, added “gloves” to my list. I stood for ten minutes in front of the glove display, parsing out sizes, colors. My littlest scalawag loves the color blue (or at least claims to). So I picked a nice black and blue pair that would go with his winter coat. There was a really nice pair of olive and black which I almost got (He is notoriously messy and I thought that black and olive would show less mud. Practical Mama wins the day.) But because I love this child, I bought the blue. I picked out a nice pair with navy and lighter gray for my eldest, who has a navy winter coat.
When I went to pick them up, I put each new pair on their car seat to be discovered when they arrived at the car.
Lo and behold, the youngest starts scream-crying, “I don’t like them! I don’t want them! I want my brother’s!”
Now: remember, my youngest hates surprises. I know this about him. This is one of his Gift-Receiver Templates. By virtue of the fact that he didn’t get to pick it out, he hates his gloves, even though they are in his favorite color.
Nonetheless, his reaction took me by surprise, and my immediate thought, I will not even try to hide it was, “You ungrateful little brat.” Once I let that little burst of irritation complete its cycle, I watched my eldest scalawag say, “I’ll trade with you if you want.”
I greatly appreciated this offer, but I was like, “You have got to be kidding me.” But I realized for a second that the scream-crying stopped, and that the youngest was considering the offer.
They traded. Then the crying started again.
“Okay, listen,” I said. “If you don’t like them, I will just take them back to the store. It’s no big deal.” I was lying. It was a big deal and honestly, the thought of going back to the store really really really pissed me off. I was kinda just saying it, because I was hoping he would change his mind by the time we got home.
But no, he wanted to go right now! A. I did not have the receipt with me B. It was lunchtime and he was hungry, therefore irrational.
“Give me the gloves,” I growled, not sounding at all the Disney Princess I like to fancy myself embodying. “Just give them to me.” I got the gloves back from his grubby little paw and no tags had been taken off.
I started the car and squealed out onto the street into the noontime traffic.
Unhook your feelings
My anger about his reaction had to do with many things: behavior patterns that I dislike seeing in this little guy, the volume of the screaming, just how much he reminds me of me, the ungratefulness…
But mostly, it was this: Because this ungrateful child refused my gift, I felt like he was rejecting me. And I hate feeling rejected.
Once, when he was littler than he is now, this kid was messing around on a bunkbed. He got his cheek caught on a hook attached to the bed. (Rest assured, the child is fine, there was zero damage and nearly no scar, if anything it looks like an extremely kissable dimple.) It pierced his skin through his cheek, hooked him like a fish. I was not home at the time, but I could only imagine the scene when my panicked husband called to let me know.
Getting him unhooked, apparently, was not easy. The weight, the angles, the delicate nature of being hooked like that…required patience and extreme calm. Thank goodness I wasn’t there, because neither of those are in my toolbox.
Why do I tell you this gruesome tale? Because our emotions regarding rejection are just like that. They are heavy, they can cause us to panic inside. They make us angry. We flail and just make things worse.
The critically important part of giving a gift is being willing to unhook our emotions and self-worth from the hook of someone else’s approval.
When we have done everything in our power to please someone, and they end up unhappy, it is not our job to carry that unhappiness. We need to get unhooked.
It sounds easy
I say that as if I know how to do it. And truth be told, I don’t. But being aware of the feelings of rejection can go a long way towards cutting them off at the pass. Love yourself enough to turn your back on the feelings of rejection.
When we invest emotionally in gift giving, which I would argue is the best way to give a gift, then naturally, there is a risk of getting those feelings hurt. Please, just remember that you were acting out of love. Love wins. Choose love. Do not give up on love.
I want your holidays to be filled with joy. Not just merriment, not just cheer. JOY. Deep, unrelenting joy. Joy starts with love.