Saturday, October 17, 2009

Don't expect to get your gifts back...

A friend recently had a several falling out with her sister over a gift one had given their mother. The mother had this vase for years then when downsizing gave it to the other sister. The "giver" was upset because she always expected to get the vase back. I've discussed this situation with other friends and it seems to be an issue over and over, one family to the next. A child give something to a parent expecting to get it back 'someday' 'when Mom loves' or dies. Within my own family, my brother claims many of the things in my mothers home, and says "because I paid for it" - which may or may not be true. The rest of us have households with enough stuff, so if he wants it, he can have it. It's not worth arguing over.

My friend's situation above, however, resulted in hurt feelings, not necessarily anger. The giver was upset that her mother gave away "her" vase and upset with her sister for taking it when she knew the giver wanted it back. The giver felt betrayed by both her mother and her sister. What to do in cases like this is difficult. One must understand WHY mom gave the vase to the other sister. Did the sister ask for the vase? Did mom forget that the giver wanted it back? Did the giver clearly tell Mom that she wanted the vase back some day? In this case, I know the Mom and I'm sure she just forgot about the arrangement to return the vase but I could see where Mom could resent such an expectation. In the end, the sisters talked without involving Mom and sister two gave the vase to the giver. I could imagine, though, that this type of thing could escalate into one of those situations that triggers an argument, grudges and the breakdown of a relationship.

If it were me, I'd tell my daughter that if she wanted the vase, she should buy one for herself and I'd wonder why she gave it to me in the first place. It is obsurd to present a gift to someone and then expect it back. It's a GIFT not a LOAN. There are all kinds of complicated scenarios that could arise and each is just one more chance for hurt feelings, disappointment and confusion. It's best to just avoid that completely.

When we give a gift, we must live with the outcome of that action. Once the gift is presented, it becomes the property of the recipient and is theirs to do with as they please. I would hope that people could be genuinely open and act from a loving place. If you like and appreciate a gift, say so and use it with pleasure. If you are presented with a gift but it's the wrong size/color/texture/smell/style/etc. then gently speak up and let the giver exchange or return it. When it comes to your parents, don't complicate their lives, especially if they are elderly. Give them things that they will use and enjoy. Don't give them something because you want it for yourself at some point you just risk hurt and disappointment if it's broken or damaged, or also desired by a sibling.