Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Gift That Keeps On... Waiting

What is it with the new trend of not opening presents?! I understand when we're at kid parties held at a remote location that it's easier not to do it, especially when you've dropped $300 so Little Jane and fifteen of her closest friends can give their parents migraines at Chuck E. Cheese. I get that. However, I have a problem with the following:

1. Recently, we were at a home birthday party, with about ten kids, all of whom were 5-6 years old, and presents were placed on a table and left there, unwrapped. I have never been to a party at someone's house where the gifts were left for later.

2. This morning, I visited a friend at the hospital with her new baby, who is absolutely gorgeous because of a) good genes and b) c-section delivery. I brought a gift for her, one for the baby, and one small thing for each of her two other girls, both of whom I actually know and see on a daily basis. I didn't expect her to open the girls' gifts, so I placed them on the floor near her bag, but I put the presents for her and the baby on the bed. She didn't open them. They sat there awkwardly for about fifteen minutes, and then she placed the bags on the floor next to her bed, where they stayed until I left 45 minutes later.

WTF?!

I have adjusted to not having gifts I have brought to kid events opened, even though I dislike paying money to bring a gift to a child I barely know and then never hearing so much as a thank-you afterwards. I, myself, have left gifts unopened at event parties, although I always make sure to have my child thank the person at the time, and then we thank them again the next time we see them, mentioning the gift and how much they liked it. Even at that, I'm still uncomfortable with it. Giving a gift is a personal thing, and receiving a gift should be personal as well. I feel that we are removing the personal from so much of our daily life with technology, and now even things that should be intimate are not. I guess that's another reason why I'm more OK with kids not opening gifts, since kid-to-kid gifts are typically not of a personal nature. However, I would not like it if I bought something for my niece or nephew and they didn't open it, because I love them and pick out things for them that I think they will love.

I suppose in that way gift giving is a selfish thing, because it also gives me pleasure to give, and to see the happiness in someone's face when I've gotten it right. I pride myself in giving good gifts, and I put a lot of thought into things I give to other people. When a gift is left unopened, the recipient is ungraciously denying me that pleasure.

I was particularly shocked this morning that my friend didn't open her 'congratulations' gift. She is not a person that I would expect bad manners from, and is in fact typically very sensitive and concerned about other's feelings, so I'm not offended because I know she didn't mean to disappoint me or be rude. But, since she obviously didn't mean to be rude, that means that it was a casual thing, which in turn makes me wonder if this is some new common thing in society now that I have missed out on. It must have been assumed that I would be OK with her opening it later on. Are we so removed from each other now that we can't even accept gifts comfortably? It makes me sad to think that.

Have any of you either given and gotten no 'opening', or gotten and not opened? If you don't open, why?

11 comments:

Mrs. M said...

I babysat some kids and their parents always brought the gifts back home which I perceive as a bit rude.

I was at one such child's party (at home) and gifts weren't opened. I asked if he could open the gift before I left. I worked hard and spent a fair amount of cash on a left basebal glove for him because I knew he was trying out t-ball in a few weeks. I wanted to see how much he loved the gift because it I love the child and it warms my heart. I thought it was odd gifts weren't opened.

In other occasions I usually ask the recipient to open it now. (baby, etc.)

Mrs. M said...

I babysat some kids and their parents always brought the gifts back home which I perceive as a bit rude.

I was at one such child's party (at home) and gifts weren't opened. I asked if he could open the gift before I left. I worked hard and spent a fair amount of cash on a left basebal glove for him because I knew he was trying out t-ball in a few weeks. I wanted to see how much he loved the gift because it I love the child and it warms my heart. I thought it was odd gifts weren't opened.

In other occasions I usually ask the recipient to open it now. (baby, etc.)

AndreAnna said...

My daughter isn't old enough to go to kids parties regularly for me to notice. But I do think it's odd not to open a personal gift like you gave your friend.I would have never done that.

bacioni said...

I don't have any kids so I don't go to kid-centric parties, but I have noticed over the years that people are more reluctant to open their gifts. I don't get it at all.

I do know that one of my friends prefers to open her gifts in private because if she dislikes something you can tell right away. So, if I get a call thanking me for whatever gifts, I kind of listen to which item she didn't mention and then I'll know.

That's no justification; just an example.

If we aren't going to be able to see the person opening the gift, what's the point? I go to a lot of trouble to make sure the gift is appropriate, and I would like to see that they really like it (hopefully) and thank you right then and there.

Kristin.... said...

I'm with you. A gift should be opened. I remember taking Meg to a birthday party and they weren't allowed to open the gifts there and she was devastated that she couldn't see her friend enjoy the gift she picked out for her. THAT is what kid parties are all about~seeing what the birthday boy/girl got. Not how much was spent on the location or who wore what. ugh. i think we're all so dependent upon email/internet/cell phone that the personal touch is getting lost. Getting snail mail is a luxury now. I love getting real mail. Not that I don't love my blog or email, but there's something about seeing familiar handwriting on an envelope addressed to just me and it isn't a bill or request for money from my college or law school that makes me happy.
Sorry, I digressed.

Susiewearsthepants said...

I love to open gifts. I love to open gifts sooner rather than later. The only time I have ever held on to a gift is at Christmas. Since I am a single mother, I don't have very many gifts under my own tree for me. On occasion I will ask someone if they mind if I take the gift home and put it under my tree. IF they don't mind I will wait. If they want me to open it right then, I will. I think some people just feel awkward opening gifts in front of people, I have a sister like that.

Swistle said...

I think it's what's TRYING to be politeness, at least that's my theory. I think people don't want to be ripping greedily into the present as if they must have the loot now Now NOW, who cares if YOU'RE there?, GIMME LOOT!

Or, they may not be sure if they're SUPPOSED to open it now, or if they're supposed to wait. What I do is I say, "Go ahead! Open it!" Then if they're shy or uncertain or don't want to look greedy, they know what I expect/want them to do.

For kids' parties, I think it's to avoid that horrible session of "Oh, I already got this!" and the icky feeling when a child opens two of the same thing, and the icky feeling when a child opens a $30 gift and then a $5 gift, and also the way kids keep wandering off or asking to have the ribbon from the gift they gave, and the birthday child gets more and more over-stimulated. I've been to two parties now where the gifts weren't opened, and although I WAS kind of disappointed not to see what everyone else gave, I was mostly relieved not to have to suffer through it.

Swistle said...

Oh! I thought of another reason! I like to keep careful track of who gave what, not only for the thank-you note but also so that years later I can refresh my flailing memory ("Let's see...this cute outfit was from Anna, right?"). So I would find it nerve-wracking to open a gift in the hospital when I was so distracted by a baby and a visit, because I'd worry that I'd forget completely to write it down (and I almost certainly would), and then I'd forget a thank-you and forget to put it in the baby book and WWAAAAHHHHHH FREAKING OUT! And yet it would look so tacky to write it down in front of the giver!

desperate housewife said...

I concur with all of Swistle's reasons. It IS disappointing not to enjoy watching your gift being opened, but I think at kids' parties, it is actually better to wait, at least if they're very big parties. Kids have short attention spans, can get outright jealous, get their feelings hurt easily, and can say casually cruel things about presents chosen for them WAY too easily. Waiting until later to open them does avoid these problems. So does learning manners at a young age, but you know...

Melospiza said...

Delurking to say how much I agree with Swistle and Desperate Housewife...especially related to kids' parties. I really hate the dynamic of "let's watch little X rip open all of his new toys in front of these children, who don't get anything and don't really get to even play with the toys."

And as for myself, I also hate opening presents in front of the giver. I always feel like it's in bad taste, which I also have always realized is weird, until Swistle verbalized it for me: it's less the presure to show that I properly appreciate the gift (though there's that, too), than the feeling that I'm greedily ripping open the loot (GIMME NOW MINE). I also don't like to eat in front of someone who's not eating. I think it's related in my mind, even if it shouldn't be.

I love to hear your perspective, Astarte, because I have also always (and will always) labor under the realization that my relationship to gifts and giving is weird, weird, weird, and problematic. I am terrible at giving gifts and not very good at receiving them. I don't understand the whole ritual. I think this is because a) I am just weird, and everything I have to say on the subject can be disregarded; but also, b) we get a lot of mixed messages on the subject. Giving is good! Or so the advertisers tell us! But they just want us to buy more of their crap! But giving is good! But be sure to say thank you! And write a handwritten note! So give generously! But a gift can be an obligation, to thank, or reciprocate! So don't give too much! And it needs to be personal! But then there's really an obligation!

See, I'm messed up mentally with the whole giving thing. But I think I am not alone.

Creative Kerfuffle said...

i'm on the side of open the gift and open it now. both as a receiver and a giver. i love to watch people open gifts, especially when i know i've picked a great one.
i think as far as kids parties go--open the gifts. yes, the other kids aren't getting presents (because it's not their birthday) and why is this something that's now not politically correct? also, who started the whole thing of giving guests at kid's parties gift bags? i hate that. as a kid i never went to a party expecting to get a gift bag and now it's like a requirement.