National Edition       •       Saturday, 22 December 2017       •


Gift Giving 101: The Art Of How To Give, Receive & Let Go

by Dustin Alexander-Pérez, 
Metro News Anchor & Sentinel Columnist

Updated Friday, 22 December 2017 / 5:00 A.M. PT - Early Morning Edition

LOS ANGELES – Giving a gift should be free and clear of any restrictions or conditions. Receiving a gift should be the same, without conditions we put on the giver. After all, nobody is owed anything just because.

How many times, when we were younger did we hear a parent or guardian remind us of those silly, unwritten rules about gifts we received during special occasions?

For those of you too young to know, some of the rules were as follows: if you don't behave, St. Nicholas will give you coal instead of toys. I told my parents that wouldn't bother me since I was in charge of keeping the coal refreshed for cooking and heating during the winter. To this day, my sarcasm remains.

And the rule that we had to wear some bizarre coloured piece of clothing that was too large or too small to fit properly because one of the aunts knitted it and us wearing the monstrosity was a sign of our appreciation?

I ask you, who really appreciated it or was it actually our parents getting revenge for some other naughtiness we had been a part of?

My family reality was our Mothers made us model such attire because that would give them ample opportunity to get their verbal jabs in to each other after a few too many egg-nogs during family meets.
Let us not forget when, where and how some of us were told we could use certain gifts. We didn't have gift cards back then and all cash was quickly whisked out of our hands and trustfully put into our Christmas Club bank accounts for use when we were off to college. How many of us ever saw or heard of that money ever again?

Then there was the rule of sharing certain gifts. I didn't mind sharing my toys with my siblings, but what use did I have with Barbie or a dainty tea set? And having to share things with people I just didn't like was rather annoying. One must truly set boundaries in these instances.

Adulthood vs. Childhood

As adults, do we still feel it necessary to follow those same awkward traditions and practices that were instilled in us as children?

If you haven't determined as an adult it's okay to have your own set of values and beliefs and it's really okay to let go of some of those your parents and family put in place for you as a child, then you're probably like me – a person who is still unpacking emotional baggage from childhood.

It didn't matter how uncomfortable or how odd it looked, that was just what mother wanted and as many of us know, at our age of innocence and very little say-so in any fashion matters, mother always won the argument for us to wear clothing that most people wouldn't dress their pet poodle in at any time of the year. -

After all, the sweater was a gift to me, not mother.

 And please do note, my mother was my best friend. The point here is and will unfortunately continue to be that parents and guardians have a habit of dictating to children how gifts they receive are going to be enjoyed and used. That is something that needs to be finely tempered with experience.

My wife and I decided to change everything when we were rearing our children. If the kids didn't like a gift they received, we would let them either exchange it or donate it to the local orphanage.

We asked our kids to make a list of things they needed first and then another list of the items they only wanted, but could live without.

We were very firm, yet reasonable about our short list of safety guidelines and expectations as well.

They could ask for anything they wanted as long as it didn't make noise all the time, wasn't going to hurt or intoxicate them and would be something that was safe and served some sort of purpose for a long time rather than a toy or game used for a month and then stored away til they were grown.
Our kids knew that we would audit their holiday and birthday lists for content and cost. They understood that if we couldn't afford certain things or if they weren't appropriate or they would probably lose interest very quickly, that those were not options for their list.

We did our best to encourage the children to think about the long-term instead of being popular and having what everyone else was current with and that once we determined the gifts for them, it was a done deal. They could do what they wanted with them unconditionally.

I'll Give You This, but...

In today's society, I'm amazed at parents I encounter that seem to have to bribe their children to do household chores or get better grades in school.

Those of us “Baby Busters” who are from Generation X just scratch our heads in utter amazement and sometimes can become rather agitated at the Millennial and Generation Z's that are at the receiving end of these somewhat unjust rewards.

My parents weren't wealthy, but we never went without either. Daddy worked his arse off at two jobs to see that our family had the best education possible and an better than average home life.

We never thought of asking for an allowance for doing chores. And our reward for at least trying to get decent marks in school was not “getting the switch” after report cards were received in the post.

We weren't always willing workers when it came to chores and I had to “go to the tree for a switch” several times growing up because I was a horrible student, but I wouldn't trade the lessons I learned about just doing what we're all supposed to do as human beings. -

They Don't Know How Good They've Got It

The teenagers we hire to do landscaping and minor repairs at The Ranch constantly tell me how they're parents pay them to behave. But, if they get bad grades they lose privileges like mobile phone usage.

I don't agree with either of these methods. Do these young men misbehave if their “extortion” isn't paid? And every young person should have a mobile phone in case of emergency.

Overall, the boys are really good young people. But, I'm astonished at how things have obviously changed whereas getting a gift based upon good behaviour for a week at a time is an actual thing. What a shakedown!

What Lady Justice Says About Gifts

According to the law, the three elements which are essential to the making of a valid gift are donative intent, delivery and acceptance by the donee. 

For example, if I want to give you a gift, I have to do it because I intended to whether you suggested the idea or not. Obviously, it can't be coerced or forced.

Then, I or someone I trust has to get thegift to you. It can't just be a mention or promise that the gift is forthcoming either.

The physical thing needs to be from my possession or control into yours.

Finally, you must accept the gift in order for it to be a legal situation. With that in mind, I now think twice before I make any promises to anyone that I might get stuck having to live up to.

Have you ever met those idiots that have given you gifts and then because they have a Bah-Hum-Bug up their bum one day ask you for it back?

Let's not even begin to mention how courtrooms are filled with adults acting like their back in prep school wanting their things back they gave you.

We don't have to give anything, but “the middle finger” back to those jackasses and the law has our backs. Besides, it's rather ignominious to behave in that sort of way.

To Gift or Not To Gift

Nothing warms your heart like giving or getting a gift, free and clear, of which you can do whatever you please with.

But, nothing is worst than getting that odd gift you really didn't ask for, already have one of, don't have anywhere to put it, doesn't go with any of my outfits, isn't my colour, I would have fit into that 20 years ago or other reason. Thank heaven for gift cards!

My slight anxiety comes from my partner habitually purchasing all the clothing and gourmet cakes and biscuits he has.

I ran out of room two years ago for the clothing, but have gained enough weight that he now discreetly orders me XL's (extra cuddly) sizes in certain things. That neither balances the universe nor my water closet scale.

But, I'm always happy to know that he will never ask me for anything back he's given.- His gifts are one-way, by the book, genuinely from the heart presents.-

What Have We Learned?

When you're giving a gift, think about it before you do it. In today's society, people can just ruin the whole process by getting stupid about giving and receiving.

Taking the fun out of a birthday, holiday or anniversary because of petty conditions attached to a gift just ends in misery for everyone involved.

Parents, don't give your children anything if you're going to dictate what your child is and isn't allowed to do with it.

If you're worried that little Johnny might shoot the cat or neighbours kid with a pellet gun, buy a gift like that in the first place? As parents, we often go against our better judgment and put the wrong toys into immature hands because we want the children to be happy or to just shut up and go to sleep already.

As funny as it may come across, anyone who gives a gift should put themselves in the receivers shoes for a moment.

I can't tell you how many analog face clocks my mother-in-law now has because we failed to ask her exactly what type of clock she would be most comfortable with.

The Gift Isn't About You

Please consider other people's feelings. My mother-in-law was going to purchase an expencive weight-loss program for her morbidly obese chauffeur because she was concerned about his health. That is a thought that would definitely not count.

We tend to buy gifts that we'll be happy to keep for ourselves if the receiver doesn't need or want it.

That can work both ways. Giving my wife a vacuum one year for Christmas definitely got me out of washing dishes, but stuck with vacuuming duties instead.

Finally, if you have thought the entire process of gift giving through and still choose to do so after reading this article, great! More power to you.

Just be kind, thoughtful and responsible when giving a gift of any kind to anyone. If you have to put any stipulations on it, then don't do it at all.

Gifts like love must be unconditional. I don't personally believe that if you truly love someone and they love you in return, that you'll ever be able to take that gift away from them.

But, someone has to be accepting of your love in order for it to truly be a gift.

Giving a gift expecting something in return isn't right either.

It's when we completely put our heart and mind into giving a gift and release any fears or second-thoughts about doing so, that we give ourselves one of the greatest gifts of all; the gift of us being at peace within our soul and enjoying life the way the Almighty Architect of the Universe has so gifted us to be.

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