Tag Archives: Presents

Defending The Thank You Note

Thank-you notes were the bane of my existence.

I couldn’t stand the horrible things. Just straight-up couldn’t stand them.

Even worse, to the young dude I used to be, my birthday is in late November, just about a month before Christmas. Which meant I had to write all those thank-you notes at the same time.

Mooo-oooo-oommmm! My hand hurts! Do I have to write all these? What’s the difference? No one cares? Mom! Are you listening to me?

Writing thank-you notes just went downhill from there.

The thing is, even though she’s dead, I have the feeling she’s still smiling over what I’m about to write.

The same answers she gave me when I was a young complainer who didn’t know how good I had it. . . Yeah, those are the same things I tell my three young dudes, young complainers all, who all don’t know how good they have it.

Sarcasmo, Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad . . . None of them count good penmanship among their many skills. In this way, they really take after their dad. I’ve never been able to craft a written letter with a neat hand that will allow others to read it without struggling.

(The fact that I became a reporter and didn’t get sued for writing down the wrong thing, or writing down the right thing, but not being able to read it and printing the wrong thing, is a testament to my young eyes and resilient brain that could actually remember stuff.)

So writing anything is not their favorite activity. Not even in their favorite top 100. Or top 1000. Or, well, you get the idea.

Still, I make it as easy for them as possible. I take notes during present times so we know who gave what. I’ll give each young dude a list (as well as a list for their mom), with the name and address for each person written next to it. Some years, I’ll even help write the address on the front of the envelope.

And still they complain. Zippy the College Boy, especially, keeps harping on about how no one cares about thank-you notes and how he’d never want to get one from anyone he sent a gift to. And, if he does have to write one, why can’t he type it out and e-mail it to the person?

That last one is a toughie. Personally, I’m all in favor of writing electronic thank-you notes. It saves paper. It saves energy. It gets there quicker. It’s better than sending a paper note at all levels.

The problem being that most people who are sending the young dudes gifts are older than they are. Which means they were raised in an era when a handwritten note was essential if you wanted to express a sincere emotion to someone. An e-mail is seen as the slacker’s way of doing things, as not requiring enough effort to show that you really did mean a sincere thank you.

It’s silly, but that’s the way it is. Which means we have to live with it and work within it.

Which means I get to hear the complaints again and again.

Eventually, I fell back on my mom’s best counter to my note whining.

“If you really don’t want to write a thank-you note. . . That’s fine.”

I’d celebrate, but she wasn’t done.

“I’ll just tell everyone that doesn’t get a thank-you note that you’ve decided not to receive presents any more. Receiving a gift from someone means you’ve entered into a contract. You’re end of the contract is that you will write a thank-you note. No note? No present.”

It’s mean. It’s heavy-handed. It’s autocratic.

But, darn it, people who took the time to pick out and mail a gift to you, deserve acknowledgement for trying to make your life better.

It’s a small price to pay, but one I think is well worth it.

So. . . *sigh* Yes, Mom. You were right about saying thank you in a short letter. Again.

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The Box Or The Thought

My little dudes loved ripping wrapping paper off presents.

I can’t tell you the number of times I cringed my way through a birthday party with one of the three dudes. They’d sit up there in their place of power (that is, surrounded by the rest of the party guests with presents stacked around them), and rip their way through the entire stack, barely pausing to breathe.

Cringing seemed mandatory to me because they would at times only Birthday parties for young dudes and dudettes are rapidly becoming greedfests, in which the birthday girl or birthday boy rip and tear through packages and don't even care about who's giving it, or what the present even is.rip a hole in the paper, see what the gift was, drop it and then move on to the next gift.

They took no time for appreciation, no time to thank the giver. Heck, they took no time to even find out who gave them a present. That was up to their mom and me.

Here’s the thing about that. Most of the presents? Hardly ever got played with. Either they already had something like it, didn’t like it or whatever reason. And my little dudes weren’t the only ones.

Most parents aren’t going to spend a buttload of money on a birthday present for a young dude or dudette, so there’s a certain range that the presents will be.

It felt so. . . wasteful.

And then our kids were invited to a party by a friend of ours. The birthday card requested that, instead of gifts, we bring either dog food, or a canine toy, or money to donate to the animal shelter. The girl of honor, you see, wanted to use her birthday to help those who couldn’t help themselves.

It was brilliant. And, apparently, it’s an idea the time for which has come. In a major way. Thanks to the internet. Of course.

EchoAge is an online invitation service that not only handles inviting the kids, but makes sure the party thrower gets wanted gifts and gives to charity.

When you receive an invitation, you can go to EchoAge to either accept or decline. While there, you can give whatever amount of money you choose to the birthday boy or girl.

Rather than being crass, it’s brilliant. See half the money goes to the kid and half of it goes to a charity the kid has already designated. Once the party is over, the kid can take the money given through the service and go out to buy a present he or she actually wants.

Not only does a charity receive donations, but both party giver and party goer can have discussions with parents about charity, the importance of helping out those who are less fortunate than you are, and finding ways to do things that are more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

How cool is that?

I really wish I had this service when my young dudes were young enough to actually use it. Right now, though, my young dudes are in that parental awkward age where they’re too old to want to have a cake-eating birthday party and invite friends and too young to go to Las Vegas, so that’s out.

Fortunately for you, though, EchoAge is expanding beyond the birthday party for kids and is starting to invite adults for various different kinds of parties, still offering to give half the money or more to charity.

No matter the age of the party giver, I think that’s a great idea.

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Christmas Changes

Depending on the age of your little dudes, Christmas is a vastly different experience.

In general, the younger the little dudette, the earlier you get to awaken on Christmas morning. I used to be able to count on no more than six hours of sleep between Christmas Eve and Morning, if I was a very lucky dude, mostly because I had to stay up a little later to make sure and “help” Santa distribute presents and stuff stockings.

In the mornings, we’d hear the pounding of little feet racing back and forth in the hallway upstairs and one little dude ran to the bedroom of the next little dude, who ran to the next. And then they all tried to sneak downstairs with the subtlety of a meth-crazed elephant putting out flaming ducks*.

As they get older, things. . . change.

Since the youngest little dude now is 14, an official teenager, we’re not faced with such appallingly early wake-up times most days. In fact, my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Getting Her Beauty Sleep If I Know What’s Good For Me, and I were able to get up on our own around 8 in the morning, walk the dog and still sit down to share a bit of that instant Christmas classic: Breaking Bad. (Because nothing says Christmas like the story of a milquetoast chemistry professor turning into an ego-crazed, blood-soaked methamphetamine dealer with delusions of grandeur.)

Instead of racing down the stairs, the young dudes stumbled downstairs, slowly, peering around with sleep-clogged eyes, running hands through tousled hair and croaking through coma mouth in a ritualistic, “Ugh. mumblemumble-orning mumblemumble.”

I won’t say the young dudes actually took their time opening presents, letting each person go in turn, remarking on the wonderful way Aunt Someone took the time to pick out just the right shade of puce for the sweater she knitted each of them. Still, there were occasional pauses in there that didn’t come from them accidentally inhaling a floating piece of impromptu confetti drifting through the air.

Christmas coming right before the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, offers the perfect time for reflection, for considering how things have changed. I’m not one to focus on the past, to talk about how things were always better when I was younger, or when the young dudes were, in fact, young, but it is interesting to see how they have adapted to the passing years.

It’s taking these moments of reflection that enable parents to come to terms with the fact that, while they’re horrifyingly impersonal as gifts, teenagers really do want gift cards so they can get exactly what they want for themselves. I wish it weren’t the case, but there it is.

Time, as is its wont, passes. The black pencil writes and, having writ, passes on. Stuff happens.

And you will not be able to stop it, so you’d better find a way to enjoy it. The sooner the better, dudes. The sooner the better.

 

*Why do ducks have flat feet? To stamp out forest fires.
Why do elephants have flat feet? To stamp out flaming ducks.


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