I have been amazed over the past 18 months at the thoughtfulness and love that has clearly gone into the selection of gifts our son has been given. From handmade wooden cars made by Nana and Papa to the soft and silky monster doll purchased at a local/handmade church good shop by his adoptive clergy g'ma. Our son truly has been blessed. On one of the parenting forums I read fairly regularly there are fairly frequent (read annual, usually around this time of year) discussions of how to handle gift giving occasions if your values run contrary to the mainstream (e.g. no plastic; no batteries; or no sweets). These discussions become fairly heated and hackles are raised. In response and in reflection I recalled the jars of pennies and handfuls of ribbon candy my great grandmother and great aunt would give us when we visited...
Every time we visited my great grandmama when I was a child she gave us piles of, stuck together with age, ribbon candy. She was housebound for the most part, and when she was growing up sweets were a true rarity.
These were not candies we were encouraged to eat at home--and I'm sure my parents were not thrilled at the sticky mass of rock hard, yet at the same time, gooey stuff that traveled into the car with us.
But, I don't remember most presents from childhood and I remember those candies. Mostly because they tasted of love...and lint...but mostly love, because my grandmama was old and infirm and soon after those visits experienced a stroke which left her in a vegetative state.
Sometimes when folks don't know how to say "I love you" they buy or give something to try to show their love. Unfortunately, many people think bright, loud, splashy and plastic is the most loving thing to give ("all the other kids I know LOVE this!" "Oh, I saw it at the store and I just HAD to get it for her"; "I saw the add for this and it just looked to neat to pass up!").
So, how something is received can represent how a person is loved in return (to the giver). And, dictating presents can become a dance in which the giver feels that their love doesn't measure up or isn't good enough.
So, thank you, loving and lovely folk who give out of love and care. Our son will be happy to receive the sticky, the gooey, the loud and the flashy--and whilst his mamas may wince, we will wash his sugared hands before he reaches for the plastic buttons and we will listen...glad that he is loved.