Last weekend, we got together to watch the Puss in Boots movie. We all enjoyed the movie very much and decided to hit Barnes and Noble bookstore afterward. The girls were having a great time looking at books, but mostly separated and did their own thing. My daughter was intent on finding things for her holiday and birthday wish lists, so she was on a mission! I was surprised when she found an adorable stuffed animal that she told me she wanted to buy with her allowance money. It was so up her alley. I knew she had plenty of money at home to cover the cost, so I told her she could buy it, but she could also just add it to her wish list. She insisted that she wanted to buy it with her own money. I didn't see any reason why she couldn't, other than it made me a little uncomfortable that she was getting something when her friend wasn't. But we were clear that she was buying it with her own money.
Anyway, long story short (I know, kinda late for that now), when we were saying our goodbyes, my daughter gave her friend the stuffed animal as a gift. I thought she had just done it on a whim, but she had later told me that was her plan all along. As soon as she saw the stuffed animal, she knew her friend would love it. At that moment however, it was VERY awkward. Her friend was rendered speechless and seemed less then thrilled to get the gift. I could totally understand why. It was out-of-the blue and very overwhelming. I felt bad for both my daughter and her friend.
The mom of my daughter's friend didn't know what to do either. She didn't want to turn down the gift from my daughter, but it just seemed a bit inappropriate. In the end, her daughter kept the gift and wrote my daughter a very nice thank-you note the next day.
I was really conflicted. On the hand, I was very impressed with my daughter's generosity. She's really giving and caring. But on the other hand, it really isn't appropriate to give a relatively expensive gift unexpectedly. I didn't want her to feel bad about giving the gift, but I did want to tell her why it might not have been the best choice to make.
When I talked with her about the gift I first wanted to be sure that she didn't feel like she had to buy her friends things to get their acceptance. She answered that she didn't feel this way at all. She said that it's the holiday season, and she wanted to give a gift to her friend since it's that time of year. I told her that while it is that season, it's really early in the season, and people aren't really exchanging gifts yet. I also told her that while the saying that it's better to give than to receive is absolutely true, it really helps when there is an exchange of gifts happening when both parties get to enjoy giving and receiving. Since her gift to her friend was such a surprise, I don't feel my daughter really reaped the full benefit of giving.
The balance of power in friendship can be a difficult one to negotiate. It's also difficult to support generosity while still trying to keep it grounded to a degree. I do love that my daughter is giving. I see a lot of her dad in her with that aspect of her personality.
Nevertheless, is generosity always appropriate? What are your thoughts?