My parents came back from a week long vacation in Mexico with presents for the kids as well as gifts for my wife and I. There were assorted T-shirts, maracas, loose pesos, and neatly folded trouble lurking within the luggage.
Approximately one week prior, the following transpired…
My Dad: What would you like for me to bring back for you from Mexico?
My Daughter: It doesn’t matter to me. I’m sure it will be wonderful and it’s the thought that counts. (She is a giving and caring girl who knows that taking an adult approach to small presents could pay off big later for the Birthday and Christmas gift bonanza)
My Boy: Optimus Prime (And the boy looked at his Grandpa with the steely gaze of Clint Eastwood looking for A Fistful of Dollars.)
My parents were whisked away to a magical land were the food was spicy, the soda too sweet, and the booze was just right. They returned to tell us fantastic tales about getting lost, the Spanish version of CNN, and 4 foot iguanas that freely walked down the road. And they came bearing gifts.
My Dad: We brought back presents! (He hands each child a T-shirt and a set of maracas.)
My Daughter: It’s just what I wanted! Oh thank you! (Well played young Julia who turns 8 at the end of the week.)
My Boy: (Looking for an uncomfortable amount of time at the T-Shirt like it was toy kryptonite.)
Me: Isn’t that a nice T-Shirt? Say thank you. (I find it best to use prompts when either child is silent for too long. The same methodology applies to trying to calm any wild animal with an “Easy Boy” reference.)
The Boy: No. I asked for Optimus Prime and this is not Optimus Prime! If he brought home an Iguana that would have been cool too! And I don’t like T-shirts!
Me: Say thank you.
The Boy: I’m going to my room! (Storming off and slamming the door as only a 4 year old can while looking like a 40 year old who just got downsized.)
Was the girl better behaved than the boy? Should we be more appreciative of what we have instead of what we want? Should we buy toys from our neighbors to the south to encourage free trade? The answer of course is yes (unless you are in the 1% who doesn’t believe in that sort of thing) but the true fault lies in the gift giver who broke the three most fundamental rules of giving kids gifts.
1. If you ask and they answer under $20.00, it’s go time.
2. Surprise gifts are always the best return on investment. A SpongeBob pencil eraser can make you a hero for the day.
3. Big Iguanas are the unwinnable situation that even Kirk could not defeat. The Kobayashi Maru test was never designed to account for a 4 year old who wants a miniature dinosaur. Do not ever bring up iguana ownership in any parental conversation.
Don’t ask, don’t tell, and stay away from iguanas. It’s a crappy social policy, but it works wonders when you’re forced into battle at Toys R Us.