Steamers, Steak and Some Birthday Cake
How do you teach your kids to buy birthday presents?
It was Walter’s birthday the other day. He wanted a dinner with everything starting with the letter S.
He was kidding.
Allan and I took it seriously. There was shrimp, St. Andre cheese, St. Augur cheese, steamers, steaks, salad, ‘spuds (work with me here), sour cream, sweet butter, served with Syrah and Samuel Smith pale ale.
I was looking for Schlitz but I don’t think they make that anymore.
Of course, the kids had soda.
About a week before, I started asking the kids what they wanted to give Walter for his birthday.
Flowers, Jake said.
Walter works with flowers every day, honey. Besides, I cannot begin to buy or arrange them as well as he can.
Chocolate, Ben said.
Allan loves chocolate, I said, but no so much Walter. He’s not a sweets guy.
Zachary said, Can I get him something for fishing? Like a bag or something for all the stuff?
Mind you, Zachary does not like fishing. Jake goes fishing with Walter. Never Zachary.
Yup, I said. I’ll get one.
The other two kept thinking. The next day Ben said, Flowers. Jake said, Chocolate. This went on for several more days, each unable to move off the motif.
What does Walter like to do? I finally asked, getting exasperated trying to explain multiple reasons why chocolate and flowers were not okay. I wish the man wore a tie to work.
He likes baseball, Jake said.
I don’t know! Ben dramatically flew off into a tizzy. It was too much to ask him on a day the news came out that the young actress who plays Hannah Montana might be pregnant. I decided to order Walter a book of photographs of Down East Maine from Ben.
Walter does like baseball. What do you think we should get him? I was very hopeful Jake was finally moving in the right direction.
How about a jersey?
He has one.
He has several.
A ball with an autograph?
While Jake had come up with a perfect idea, it was two days before the birthday and I knew I could not get an autographed ball in that little time.
Jake crumbled. The kid had done a lot of work on it. How about a book on salt water fishing so you two can learn together? I suggested.
Yeah! He popped right back up, happy he came up with a great idea. Get him a book on fishing for me!
Bought, wrapped- don’t get me started about wrapping again- and the boys made their cards. It was interesting to see that Zachary, the one who had the perfect idea? Made a very basic card. Few words. Ben and Jake, however, who could not for the life of them, come up with an idea? Drew elaborate cards.
My mother was one of the best gift givers. Okay, the asparagus steamer was just plain weird but I could see the time and care in her choices. She looked for things that were completely off the beaten track. Things you would never expect. I’ve always tried to be as thoughtful. Except for the few, muted attempts at giving Jeanine a technology gift, I think I’ve done fairly well.
I try to help the boys come up with ideas but with their friends, I’m often at a loss. I don’t know them that well. It’s important to me they learn how to see the other in giving a gift. The act is not just about stuff but an acknowledgement of your love, care and connection. Kids are quick to grab what they love which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve watched their faces, however, when they get something that is completely out of the blue. It’s not fun.
Jake, however, bought his buddy a present in Lego Land in July for the kid’s September birthday. And Zachary got it right on the nail, first time. I must be doing something right. It was a stretch for the other two for Walter’s birthday, though. Maybe I’ll start earlier next year. Still, as I’m sure Walter would say, it’s the thought that counts.
Just don’t ask Ben when there is a breaking crisis in the pre-teen world around one of his favorite actors.
The S theme- and the effort behind it- hopefully made it special.
Although at the end? We had to stick with chocolate cake. So... Steamers, Steak and Some birthday cake.(Keep working with me, here!)