Rebecca - posted on 12/04/2011 ( 40 moms have responded )
This is a crazy-long post! Sorry!
Do you have a "policy" on gifting for adults? Or for children? For Christmas (or other holidays) or for birthdays?
For some background, my family does not believe in giving gifts to adults for birthdays. Kids get gifts up until their teens, but then the gifting ends. From that point on, we celebrate birthdays by getting together, having cake, eating, etc., but there are no gifts exchanged. Normally, our extended family would get together and celebrate all the July birthdays, then all the June birthdays, etc. There is food, family and festivities, but no gifting.
For Christmas, we follow the same practice, except for the kids, we draw names so that everyone isn't buying a million gifts (and the kids aren’t receiving a million gifts). We don’t exchange gifts for Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day, or Anniversary’s either.
Generally, the theory behind our family gifting practices is that the purpose of the event is to celebrate and that the expectation of a gift puts the focus on the wrong things (e.g., materialism vs. celebrating the accomplishments of the past year). The focus is just on celebrating the event rather than a gift.
Does this mean I never buy gifts for anyone? No. If I happen to be out and see something I think someone would like, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it, not because it’s their birthday or Christmas, but because I think they would enjoy it. Would I expect a gift back in return? Never.
I have a group of friends that is very into gifting. We are all in our late 30s now, and all have multiple kids, but the expectation is that we will all go out for every birthday and buy a $30 - 40 gift for each adults' birthday (as well as each child’s birthday). The end result in dozens and dozens of gifts each year. This practice has continued through hard times for many of us. Even when people have been out of work, the group still expects everyone to buy gifts for the person’s birthday whose it is. When I’ve mentioned that so-and-so is having a hard time financially and maybe we shouldn’t do so many gifts, I’ve been shot down. I should also add the some of the recipients have no problem telling you exactly what they want for their birthday (e.g., calling you and saying I saw this at this store last week and this is what I want for my birthday). Or telling you flat out that they didn’t like what you gave them. The whole thing just reeks of greed to me. I also can’t stand the air of expectation – I will only buy you a gift if I get a gift and it better be the right gift. I figure we are all adults, if you want something, go out and buy it yourself. I don't want gifts for my birthday and have repeatedly said so. A simple “happy birthday” is more than enough. After lobbying for a change in my friends' “policy” for several years, and being repeatedly told that "we don't like that about you [that I don't believe in giving gifts for adults' birthdays)", I announced that my husband and I would no longer be participating in the gift exchange. Everyone bought gifts for us anyway at the next birthdays, but we didn’t buy gifts for anyone. Once my friends got the hint, they stopped buying gifts for my husband and I’s birthdays. However, they still engage in the gift exchange with each other, normally in front of my husband and I, which is awkward to say the least. I should also add that, in the past, we’ve had Christmas celebrations (e.g., Open Houses) at the one mom’s house and she thinks nothing of holding the gift exchanges in front of other families who don’t see the group as frequently and weren’t participants of the gift exchange, which I personally think is incredibly rude, particularly when small children are involved. I was mortified a few years ago that gifts were exchanged in front of a very nice family (and their 4 YO daughter). I felt there was no reason to have other kids opening gifts in front of their daughter if she always was not receiving any gifts. Talk about making someone feel excluded. But I digress….
Of course, now that Christmas is right around the corner, I received a call from one of the women in the group, who said that the other moms what to do gifts for adults and wanted to know if we were going to participate. I said no and as usual was treated like the Grinch. I’m actually dreading our Christmas get-together because of the gifts issue. I have no doubt that, given the history, the other moms will be pulling out the gifts and giving them out in front of my kids, who are now at the age where they will understand they are not getting gifts.
Long post, I know, but I guess my question for everyone is how do you handle gifting among friends? Do you give gifts for every adult for every birthday? Do you buy gifts for each of your adult friends and each of their children for Christmas? At the end of the day, the #1 thing that bugs me about this situation with my friends is the air of expectation and the tit-for-tat nature of the gifting. I also can’t stand the greediness of (unsolicited) calling someone and telling them what they need to buy you for your birthday. Plus, I don’t like the fact that they organize a gift exchange and make a production over it in front of people who aren’t participating.