My daughter had a baby recently (he’s quite lovely, btw). Since then, her house has been flooded with gifts and cards. Like seriously flooded. We’re talking a veritable tsunami of gifts.
That’s lovely too. It means that she and her hubbie have lots of friends and colleagues who like them so much they want to celebrate the good news and give them a little something. They must be lovely people to be so popular (of course they are). Based on the number of presents given to them – and if they weren’t married to each other – they’d probably smash the Bachelor or Bachelorette competitions or some other popularity contest.
The ceiling in their lounge is strung with lines of dozens and dozens of gorgeous cards, and it looks beautiful. But I can’t help noticing this gift-giving thing is getting a little bit crazy. Sometimes madly crazy and excessive. Nearly three months into a new baby (not even their first), and each week still brings new gifts.
And not just small token gifts. We’re talking amazingly beautiful, generous, and sometimes large and completely over the top wonderful gifts, sometimes from people she doesn’t know. Designer labels, hand knitted toys and shawls, Parisienne fashion. I looked at one gift yesterday. Not just one gorgeous little outfit in the gift bag, but three! Dear Lord, it’s like the baby section of David Jones on steroids in that house.
Now who wants to look gift horses in the mouth, and these lovely gifts are given with love and affection and thoughtfulness, but where’s the limit? Each one creates expectations for whenever someone else has a baby (or a birthday, or gets engaged, yaddah yaddah), and the bar keeps being raised. Whoops – up it goes again. Whatever happened to the notion of a small gift being perfectly wonderful? It wasn’t that long ago that a bib or two was just perfect to welcome a newborn. Wasn’t it?
And it’s not just baby births that spurn this gift-giving frenzy among the 20-somethings (although that seems to be the craziest.) It’s a modern phenomenon. Gifts that are amazingly generous and often over the top, even when pronouncements of ‘no gifts’ are repeatedly shouted from the rooftops. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of remarkable gift giving.
Next they’ll be swapping brand new Victorian replica cubby houses or mini gold-plated Rolls Royces. Oh wait, that’s already happening. Just not with the people we mix with.
Just for kicks I did a quick Google exploration to discover just how ridiculous gifts for kids could be and found this brilliant list of excess.
Who doesn’t have room in their life for a seven foot robot for just under $50,000? (a whole 5 cents under). And that’s in US dollars.
In primary school we learnt about the ancient Japanese art of gift giving, so important in their societal culture and still practised. It’s a tricky business, and there is much etiquette involved, and certainly let’s not forget the all important thank you’s (let’s put those in writing for a really old-fashioned concept, shall we? ). But surely keeping gifts within reasonable limits was and is part of the art, for the Japanese as well as for all of us?
Don’t get me wrong. I rather adore presents. I put a lot of time and thought into present buying and giving, but also restraint, and I sure as hell love getting them. But now as I look at what’s going on around me I’m torn between being blown away by the generosity of others or aghast at their extravagance.
Good Lord, I’m all aghast and curmudgeonly. Or maybe I’m just jealous that all this excessive gift giving isn’t being pressed on me.