It was an innocuous phrase from my mother that doomed my 5th annual gift of a mushroom-spotted potholder & dishtowel set to it’s gloomy fate  - ”This is so nice, I’m going to have to save it for good,” she said with an awkward smile and a forced chuckle.  I think I was about 9 years old when I first suspected that telling me my gift was ”for good” was my mother’s oh-so-polite way of saying, “Gee.  Thanks for the thought, but this gift is a complete miss – total crap – and there’s no way I’m ever going to use it.” 

My mother had (and still has, I believe) a special drawer in her bureau for all her ”for good” stuff.  This drawer is like a little grave where unwanted potholder & dishtowel sets, cheap jewelry, and even cheaper perfume have all gone to rest for eternity.  When I stumbled across the ”for good” drawer as a child, I remember feeling devastated – seeing, finally, that all my suspicions about the “for good” gift designation were confirmed.  Looking at the contents of that drawer, it was obvious to me that there was never going to be an occasion good enough to merit the retrieval and use of those mushroom-spotted potholders & coordinating dishtowels.

Looking back on it now, I think finding that drawer full of abandoned gifts was a defining moment for me.  From that point on, I vowed only to give gifts that my mom would actually want.  I have to admit, this has proven to be much harder than I anticipated.  Years of trying to select that special gift that will really WOW her has brought me, at best, about a 40% success rate.  This past Christmas was a total failure as my recent credit card statement showed; the entire gift purchase was returned and the purchase credited back to my account.  So much for that book and DVD I thought she might enjoy…

Why are moms so hard to buy gifts for?  Darned if I know.  One thing I do know is that now that I am a mom, I can already see the crap gifts in my future and, honestly, I don’t want ‘em.  I don’t like the idea of more clutter that needs to be dusted.  I hate kitschy stuff that reminds me of the gift shop at Cracker Barrel.  But even worse, I loathe the idea of being revealed as the petty, fault-filled person that I really am in front of my kids. 

What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I just be like those other gracious moms who proudly incorporate all their sweet kid-crap gifts into their lives?  Would it really kill me to have a set of mushroom-spotted dishtowels on display in the kitchen? 

It might.  I know myself too well to think that I’d be happy integrating such crap into my decor, let alone my life.   

So where does that leave me?  Rather than try to change myself (which is next to impossible), I think I’ll just focus on educating the next generation.  By providing them with some guiding principles of good gifting – sort of a “No Crap Guide to Gifting” I might be able to avoid the crap altogether.  Or better yet, rather than overwhelming them with good gifting principles, I could just tell them what NOT to buy me.  I could tell them to avoid things like: 

Maybe if I can help them avoid crap gifts, I won’t have to have the painful conversation with them that my own mother never had with me?  I don’t want to say to them, “Thank you for the gift.  I feel it’s important to be upfront with you and tell you that if I can’t use your gift for anything or I find it’s just not right for me, I’m going to have to set it free -release it back into the wild for some other kid to discover and give to his or her mommy.”  Because, while saying this may be honest, it’s brutally so.  And, yet, hiding the truth from them as my mother tried to do with me, opens up it’s own brutal can of worms.

So, instead of lying to them or being brutally honest, I think I’ll say something like, “Don’t buy me anything.  Save your money for college and use your words to tell me how much you appreciate me.  Or, just do something nice like pick up your room without me asking you to do so.  Spontaneous hugs also make great gifts.  It may sound corny, but your love is the only gift I really want…  But please don’t give me a crappy t-shirt that says that, okay?”

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