He was trying to hold it together; that much was clear, but the tell-tale tremble of his lip finally gave way to full blown Broken Lip Syndrome, followed by the darkening of the little brow, the clenching of the little fists, and the quick, dignified march to his room. “I don’t like it!” Baruch cried. “I don’t like it! Chili’s present is much better!”
It was the fifth night of Chanukah. Baruch had gotten a little toy garage, and Chili got a racetrack. They were both made of the kind of plastic that meant the toys had a handful of days at the most before meeting their inevitable demise, but I wasn’t about to reassure Baruch that actually, both of the boys had gotten a shekel-store special today.
Instead I said, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Doughnut?”
Which was the wrong thing to say it turned out, because the sniffling turned into heartbreaking and also ear-breaking sobs.
Five minutes later, Baruch emerged from his room, wiped his face with the back of his hand, and asked in a trembling voice if Chili would share his toy with him. The abandoned toy garage sat on a shelf, untouched, for exactly a year. Well, not untouched. Every so often, I’ll jab at it with a duster.
What makes one gift a total win and another a total disaster? Sometimes, it’s obvious, like when a relative of mine who holds strong beliefs on gender-neutral toys bought a box full of beautiful trucks for my girls, which I also dusted regularly until my boys were born.
Other times, it’s not so clear at all. And so, armed with this question, I consulted a panel of experts: i.e., fellow mothers (and a dad), who have many years of gift giving under their belts.
I asked them two questions.
The first question was: Have you ever spent the time and money buying what you thought would be The Perfect Gift™ for your child (or were you the child?) only to be met with a disappointed gaze or a full-blown tantrum? If so, please share your terrible experiences with me! Because who doesn’t love broadcasting their failures for the entire Ami-reading population? Exactly.
I also asked them to include their theories as to
why the gifts were a disaster, and I was met
with some surprising insights: