I recently heard from a friend of mine that by the time your kids turn 18 you end up buying them a car as a birthday gift.
At least, that’s what she did.
I couldn’t hide how shocked I was mostly because, when, initially I thought she said “a carD”, she joyfully corrected me, “no, honey, when they turn 18, you drop the ‘D'”.
I remained silently astonished at how a parent could possibly buy their 18-year-old daughter a brand new car.
And she doesn’t even have a driving license yet.
The daughter is a wonderful and a serous girl, I’m sure she deserves the present.
I just wondered what the present would mean in actual fact; how it will, or could, affect the way a young person views the world and her loved ones.
I’m not implying that a particular present could spoil our kids.
I think well about what the impact of all our presents (throughout the years) would be on our kids.
Then, how do all our gifts affect our kids’ expectations?
I wonder how my friend’s daughter would react, if she only received a piece of celery this Christmas.
My kids will certainly be disappointed, unless the celery ‘does’ something.
The point is, all my previous gifts would have led to the kids’ disappointment.
After thinking about presents, I remembered an embarrassing story of mine where this guy, a good friend of mine, came to say goodbye to me on my last day before I left for Malta (14 years ago). He gave me this little black velvet pouch, really pretty, as a gift.
I thought, wow, that’s cute.
God knows what it’ll serve me but it’s very pretty.
So, I thanked him.
He laughed. So very honestly he laughed at me and then said, “no, this is not the gift. The gift is inside.”
I’m not sure I felt embarrassed back then. How was I supposed to know the gift was inside something that already looked like a gift to me.
Anyway, inside (for the curious) there was a little silver four-leaf clover pendant for good luck.
I thought, wow, very thoughtful of him.
But also, very obliging, because now I had to buy a chain for the darn pendant.
O. Henry has a story, The Gift of the Magi, where (spoiler ahead, for those, who haven’t read it) this married couple was so poor that, to buy her husband, as a Christmas gift, a chain for his valuable watch, the girl ended up cutting and selling off her long, beautiful hair, while her husband, to buy his wife, as a Christmas gift, a fancy comb for her long, beautiful hair, sold his only valuable possession – his chainless watch.
I have the feeling that presents are changing their meaning, just like the meaning of ‘friend’ is.
Especially with the new generations.
All the presents we give our children (verbal, material, old, expensive, symbolic), year after year, gradually carve out the type of understanding and expectations they will have about everything and everyone in life.
And that matters.
There may be a deeper meaning to the car gift from my friend to her daughter’s 18th birthday.
But at this point, I’d worry what birthday gift would match the 18th birthday one, when the daughter turns 19.
A trip on a space shuttle?