Rachel Pieh Jones writes in Brain, Child Magazine that when kids have these registries, the gifts become the focus instead of the guests. Registries make kids think they’re going to get every single thing they’ve asked for, or that nothing is valuable to them unless they’ve already requested it. Gift ideas, she writes, aren’t like grocery shopping lists, where the aim is to cross off each item and get what you’ve expected. I couldn’t agree more.
When my kids get invited to birthday parties, we pick out the gift together. I don’t want (nor have I ever gotten) a list from the parents telling me what to get; if that’s what’s required, I’d rather just hand them $15 and be done with it. Instead, I sit with my kids in front of the computer (because why go to a store when you can shop online?) and they choose something their friend will like, once I’ve sorted the options by what can be shipped via Amazon Prime and comes at a reasonable price. They choose the gift, they make the card, and then more often than not, they go to a party where the present gets opened later, after all the kids have gone home. I’m on the fence about this one; maybe when the parties are small, it’s nice to open presents with everyone around, but when they’re big, it gets unwieldy.
I do understand that there are relatives who want some guidance with the kids’ birthdays and on holidays. They want the kids to like what they get, and since they’re not involved in their day-to-day lives and don’t spend their time with other 11- and seven-year-olds, they need a little guidance. I’m not going to be a pain in the butt about it and refuse to steer them in the right direction, or sometimes help them outright with a link to something wished for.
But it’s funny, I remember sitting with a friend, decades ago, as we were making our Christmas lists together before heading out to the mania of shopping just a few days before December 25th. My list was a roster of family members and friends, with ideas about what they might want; his was a collection of items he wanted, complete with brand names and specifications. I had never experienced this side of Christmas lists, but now I know it’s pretty standard. My own kids make lists of what they want for the holidays, with the understanding that they shouldn’t actually expect any of it.
Jones sums it up perfectly, I think.
“Not every desire in life will be fulfilled, not every good or even reasonable expectation will be met. Maintaining a thankful heart in all things is an incredibly valuable skill.”
Words to live by.