What Gives?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Have a gift-giving dilemma? Send it to home@washpost.com and we'll tell you what we think. Or chime in by posting a comment at the end of the article online at http://washingtonpost.com/homeandgarden.

Belle Elving

Editor, Home

We have two boys, ages 7 and 9. My husband's brother and sister-in-law have one son, age 11. For the past five years she has bought our sons a Lego gift certificate and asked that we purchase the same for her son. Our sons have little interest in getting more Legos because they already have so many. We told her this last year, but both boys received Lego gift cards again -- which, by the way, have gone unused. It seems this has turned into a meaningless trading of gift certificates. I don't want to rock the boat, but what can be done about this?

If you have already told her that your sons aren't particularly interested in Legos and she insists on giving them more anyway, it sounds like time to rock the boat a bit. Gifts should be chosen by the giver, not dictated by the receiver (much less the receiver's mother). In this case, the transaction seems worse than "meaningless;" it's causing bad feelings all around. Get all four adults -- the brothers really should be involved in this -- to talk about the impasse and decide either to find a compromise or stop exchanging gifts. And here's a thought: Maybe the boys are old enough to choose their own gifts for each other; give them all some money and let them take charge. As for those unused gift cards from last year, the customer service people at Lego say they can't be redeemed for cash. But they might make fine presents the next time your sons are invited to a birthday party.

I hate to say this, but I have much better taste than some people on my gift list. Should I buy them gifts I think they would choose, even if I would rather pick out something for them I think would be more stylish?

The idea is to choose gifts you think they will like. If you don't happen to favor bandana print blouses, for instance, but you love someone who does, I'd say give her a bandana print blouse. Assuming you can find one. If you like subdued colors but he likes things vivid, give him a classic V-neck sweater, but orange rather than charcoal gray. Taste is, after all, a matter of taste.

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