Friday, December 2, 2011

Is Generosity Always Appropriate?

This past weekend, my daughter had a play date with a friend she made from summer camp. I blogged about how they met here. This was the nice girl that shared her tent with my daughter. Since then, my daughter has become pretty good friends with this nice girl and they have occasional play dates (disclaimer: I hit it off with the mom too, and I know she reads this blog so I'm going to have to be extra nice! HAHA--just kidding! I'd be nice anyway because my daughter's friend is so nice)! In fact, the two of them get along so great that it's really amazing!

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?


  1. It would seem to me, that there are two distinct "giving" scenarios:
    First is the "exchange of gifts" scenario. This is the normal "expected" model, that we all annually take part in, in one form or another.
    The other is the "expression-based" scenario. It comes from the heart. Social norms and other relationship considerations don't play a part. You give because you want to express your feelings to another person. Planned or spontaneous, you do it because that person is important to you. End of story. Your daughter is a kind soul, I think. :-)

  2. Aside from the awkwardness, b/c that would be super awkward, I am amazed at how she thought of her friend upon seeing the toy and hatched her own little plan to give it to her. That is amazing to me. Maybe tell her the next time she wants to do this, to run it by you first? I mean, she clearly is a very generous, thoughtful kid, and you don't want to squelch that, but checking with mom or dad would probably be a good idea in the future!

  3. Bravo! to your daughter. You have done a wonderful job raising her to be so thoughtful of others at such a young age. I see no reason to be concerned about the gift. Unless she is doing this on a regular basis, then I would be concerned that she needs to have a talk with you about the value of saving her money for when she may NEED it someday herself. My son is the same way, and I am a single mother, with no child support or alimony (as I make more than my ex). We are tight on money, but if my son did this out of the blue, I know that this act of kindness would make me so proud to be his mother.

  4. Recently I read a blog post about the best reaction to receiving a gift is politely and genuinely saying thank you and leaving it at that. I wish I could remember the post's link, because the author had a great point about there not being a need to immediately respond with anything other than a "thank you."

    Your daughter did an amazing thing. Focus on that. So many kids today are wanting so many things for them them's nice to hear of a kid willing to give. And giving a thoughtful gift too!

  5. I can see how your daughter would be so thoughtful and generous, since she seems to have learned that sensitivity from you. What a thoughtful post, on your part. I love that you are considering the motives of her generosity and the outcomes of it. How many parents would even think of this!! I say hooray to you AND your daughter!

  6. I think that the lesson of learning to give AND receive was taught well here... your daughter learned that gifts may not always be met with an overwhelmingly positive initial reaction and her friend learned that it's okay to be gracious and thankful in an appropriate time frame...

    If your daughter starts buying gifts every time they end up in this situation that's when it might become inappropriate... but as a one off thing... I think it was generous and appropriate.