So today is Katherine’s birthday, and as I’m wont to do, we gave her a present this morning. We bought her two dresses (one blue, one pink), and we wanted to give her one this morning. As I was groping around in my closet blindly (the light was off so that Katherine couldn’t see), I grabbed the blue one instead of the pink one. I figured that wouldn’t be a problem since the dress itself is very pretty. Boy was I wrong.
Our tradition is that we have her close her eyes and then hold the present in front of her. She’s so used to the closing her eyes thing that she just does it on her own now.
So, we had her close her eyes, and when she opened them, this is the dialog we had:
Me: Open your eyes!
K: [looking at the dress like it was a dead rat] ….
Me: Don’t you like it?
K: It’s not pink.
Me: Yes, but it is very pretty.
K: Can I have a pink one?
Me: Katherine… That’s not very nice to say you don’t like a present someone gave you. You should say thank you.
Me: Why don’t you try it on?
K: [mutely puts on the dress]
Me: Go look in the mirror. It looks very pretty.
K: [standing in front of the mirror] I wish it were pink.
Me: Katherine, that makes daddy feel bad when you don’t like the present. I’m sorry that you don’t like it.
K: Can we get a pink one.
Me: No, we gave you this blue one. It’s very pretty.
Me: Maybe we also bought you a pink one.
K: Oh… Can I close my eyes again?
Ah the faith of a child. We did not, for the record, give her the pink dress yet. She can wait. Plus, I really do want her to learn to appreciate gifts she is given for the gift itself, and not what she wishes she got.
Birthdays and Christmas are unusually hard moral dilemmas for me. On one hand, I’m very much aware of what she gets and cognizant of the potential for being spoiled. We do our best to make sure she gets enough to be genuinely satisfied, but we are also very careful to make sure she’s not spoiled. I think we’ve done a good job, but I still worry about it.
And on the other hand, I adore that kid (both kids, let’s be honest) so much that it’s hard to not just give them anything they could ever want. Sigh…. What to do?
Whenever we talk kids with friends, I always offer the same advice: Have you tried beating them yet? Don’t worry, I know a particular kid that will be getting six swats right when I get home. But I don’t think I’m doing it right; she just laughs.