Ask Amy: Gift dilemmas dominate the season

FresnoDecember 20, 2013 

Dear Amy: My parents live in another state. They graciously mailed my 7-year-old daughter some Hanukkah presents. One of these presents was a shirt with a character on it that I happen to know my daughter hates.

To her credit, my daughter's response when she received it was, "Oh, that was nice of them."

Here's my problem: Although I'm proud of her response, I know the shirt will never be worn. Should I try to give the shirt away to someone who would wear it?

If I do, what message am I sending to my daughter? And what should I say to my folks? I love that they are involved in her life and are thoughtful enough to send presents, but it's frustrating that they don't ask me what she likes and doesn't like before they send them. Is there a tactful way to handle this?

— Trying to be tactful

Dear Trying: The tactful thing to do is to take a page from your young daughter's playbook and see this gift for what it is — a gift, not a statement.

In your daughter's life, she will receive many gifts; some will be hits, and some will be misses. You don't need to pre-screen or edit gifts on her behalf.

You should enter this shirt into her clothing rotation, and if she doesn't wear it or outgrows it, give it to someone else.

After your daughter (and you) thank your parents, you can say to them, "If you ever want specific suggestions, I'd be happy to try to help." Otherwise, be grateful this gift isn't a full-length fake fur bunny costume — and move on.

Dear Amy: I've been out to the stores with my nieces and nephews, and as children often do when they see something they like, they will say, "Can you get me that for my birthday?"

Never one to miss a teaching opportunity with them, my response is, "Never ask someone to buy you something. If someone asks you what you want for your birthday, feel free to tell them. But never solicit a gift."

And now for my dilemma. I am going to be starting construction on a new home in the next couple of months. Christmas is here, and if anyone is going to get me a gift, the only thing I really need would be gift cards to a home improvement store, so that I can purchase items for the house.

— Auntie hypocritical

Dear Auntie: No. Asking for gift cards to your favorite store is like asking for cash. Some families have incorporated specific requests into their holiday giving, but — dear Auntie — you don't get to bend your teachable moment to suit your own purposes.

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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