Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Books: The Ultimate Gift (And Why Gifts Are Not My Love Language)

Look, I know gift-giving is a really big deal in our culture. I understand that this is a love language, and that some people view giving and getting gifts as the ultimate expression of love.

I am not one of those people.

I took that 5 Love Language Quiz thing, and "Gifts" came in dead last.

This is not to say that I don't appreciate getting gifts. I mean, who doesn't like getting gifts? Especially on my birthday and Christmas, I totally expect gifts and enjoy them, like any normal human being.

But gifts carry a certain amount of anxiety for me too.

When it comes to getting gifts, I'm always a bit embarrassed by gifts that are super generous (especially if my gift in return obviously isn't as nice), or disappointed in gifts that aren't quite my taste but I still feel obligated to keep them. I'm even stressed by nice gifts that I like, but I don't quite know what to do with it, how to use, or where to put it in my home (Marie Kondo has actually helped me resolve a lot of this anxiety, and given me permission to let this stuff go).

When it comes to giving, I feel a lot of the same anxiety. What if the other person hates this? Views it as useless junk? Expected more? And as a consummate underbuyer, I really hate paying for gifts. Even when we budget for gifts, even when it's for people I love, I still begrudge the money spent.

Related tangent: I do not think gifts should be expected at children's birthday parties. Don't hate me for saying this, but my three year-old gets invited to a lot of parties, and I dread coming up with gifts for these kids (confession: sometimes I don't bring gifts at all, which I understand is some sort of terrible breach of social etiquette). Time is my love language, and I honestly feel like if I take the time to wrangle my kids and get them to the birthday party (inevitably in the middle of the baby's naptime) and spend a decent amount of time there and deal with the sugar crash afterward, I have suitably expressed my love and appreciation for you and your child on their special day (I am clearly an introvert).

Does this make me a terrible scroogy person?


I was absolutely baffled when we invited kids to my three-year-old's simple little birthday party last December, specifically saying on the invite NOT to bring gifts (I don't want the crappy toys just as much as you don't want to pay for them), and people STILL brought presents.

Obviously, this is a very ingrained love-language in our culture, and I'm learning to appreciate that for what it is. I just hate having to cough up gifts myself.

The exception is books.

I LOVE getting people books, especially kids. For me, giving books is absolutely an expression of my love. There's still a little bit of anxiety. After all, buying someone a book is the ultimate in aggressive book recommending (You Will LOVE This Book! And if you don't... too bad, you own it now). But I have slightly more confidence in my ability to pick out books that people will like than any other random item that could pass as a gift.

Years ago I decided that I would be the "Book Aunt," and every year on my nieces' and nephews' birthdays I would get them a book. As the number of nieces and nephews has expanded over the years, this goal has become increasingly more demanding to fulfill (I'm sure there are a few nieces or nephews that I've missed or neglected as their birthdays come at busy times of the year), but I still must say that when a birthday comes up, I take a great deal of pleasure in perusing various options, from board books to picture books to middle-grade novels, deciding if I want to gift an old favorite or spring for a new untried title. Since I don't live near any of my nieces or nephews, and sometimes feel like I don't know them well enough to know their tastes, I often feel like this gift is more for me than for them, an excuse to peruse book lists and look at exciting titles and new releases. But it's still a way of saying, "I love you," right?

Obviously, I always give books to my children when any gift-giving occasion comes up. I usually have book gifts planned out months before Christmases and birthdays, while I hem and haw about other gift choices up until the last minute. I have an extended list of books I'm excited to get my children for many years to come.

And I LOVE getting books myself as gifts. Growing up, my mom used to just go down those "Recommended Reading Lists" for high school or college and buy me ten or fifteen for my birthday or Christmas. While my book-ownership preferences have changed since then (I want quality over quantity these days, with my precious limited shelf-space), I still very much appreciated those books. My husband has learned this well, and I make sure to keep him updated on all my current book-lusts (right now, I'm all about expanding my collection of quality and pretty classics).

Where do you fall on the gifts love language spectrum?* Do enjoy getting books as gifts? Giving books as gifts? Am I totally lame and the last person you ever want to invite to your kid's birthday party?

*If you love gifts, that's great! Please don't feel like I'm criticizing you. This is the love language of some of my favorite people, including my mom, so no judgment here. I'm just really terrible at speaking this love language.