Posted by: thewoobdog | July 5, 2007

Birthday Etiquette

Okay, so I have a question.  I am in a bit of a quandary – see, TBear’s birthday is Monday .  We are doing something with my parents (fondue) Saturday night, his parents (grill) Sunday night, and then Monday we both have off work so we can just do something together with no outside pressures.  He wants his presents from me either Saturday or Sunday (he’s like a little kid at Christmas – it’s cute).  I was planning to wait til the day of, so that there was still a little something special for that day. 

See, his parents are old school – birthdays and Christmas are celebrated, but in a small way, and the gifts are always very modest in size.  My parents go all-out – I think it comes from having no money when I was growing up.  Seriously – they were trying to get their small business off the ground and literally had to meet payroll sometimes by maxing out credit cards.  We (my parents and I) lived in a 600 square foot shack, in which I had a bedroom the size of a closet.  I didn’t care – my dad had built me the coolest raised bed (LOL – don’t think a standard bed would have fit), with a hidey space under it that had a wood sign with my name burned into it.  Plus the room and the steps to the bed were carpeted in rainbow-shag carpet – mostly because it was the absolute cheapest carpet made, since it was literally all the scraps from other carpets woven into one – but I thought it was awesome.  (I was only like three or four – my little cheap plastic red and yellow cowboys and indians would actually stand up in it, and they wouldn’t stand up in anything, so I was just in kid-heaven, holding mock-battles on the rainbow-shag plains of the west… plus if you laid them down, it would disguise them, as if they were army-crawling through the tall grasses to sneak up on the enemy)

Then we moved into a bigger house that we got cheap because the guy had died, but we still had no money.  Clients would barter with us and trade a deck for accounting services, or hardwood floors for tax prep, so we didn’t always look like we had no money, but we really, really didn’t.  I never remember feeling deprived, though – my parents always did everything they could to make holidays special, like one time getting me a puppy (free) and having Santa deliver it (client dressed in the red & white suit).  That was awesome.  And sometimes there were things I wanted that we couldn’t afford, so that was when I started working – they told me how much they could do and I knew how much I had to come up with to make it happen, and somehow it always worked out. 

So now that the business is booming (26-odd years later), my parents have a lot more in the way of discretionary funds (my sisters – much younger than me – have never known what it is to be in lack), and they want to do everything for their kids (including me) that they never were able to do before or that their parents were never able to do for them growing up.  So my parents are over the top when it comes to Christmas and birthdays – a thing that was quite an astonishment to my TBear the first time he had Christmas with us!  I tend to be the same way, and TBear is, too (surprising, since his parents are very… frugal… with gifts), which leads to potentially embarrassing episodes.  They haven’t happened yet, but I keep half-expecting and dreading them.

For instance, I feel like I don’t want to give him something in front of his parents that would make them feel as though their gift was less exciting or whatever, and I really feel bad thinking that they might find out when my parents give him something that just totally outstrips anything either of us expects.  Sigh.  (Note to my parents, if you’re reading this – don’t stop, don’t stop!  I’m not complaining!  LOL!!!)  I just get frustrated with the dichotomy of our parent-sets, sometimes.  His parents are a lot older than mine and a lot different.  Just… really different.  Plus, they are pretty much retired, while both my parents still work, which really makes a difference in how money matters are viewed, you know?  And they (my in-laws) just had to shell out a bundle for their daughter’s wedding, which I’m sure puts additional strain on them when they think of budgeting around a fixed income.   

I love them dearly, I really do, and I have a great relationship with them – none of the in-law issues a lot of people have to deal with or anything, which rocks, since that would be way too much to deal with considering both our sets of parents live here!  I just feel culture-shock a lot of times, and I’m always conscious of not saying or doing anything to sound judgmental or ‘outside the box’ when I’m over at their house.  I mean, I just don’t want them to think that I think they are somehow ‘better’ or ‘worse’ parents just because of how I grew up and the kind of parents I have.

So anyway, somehow I digressed.  My original point, dear readers (ha!), was a question of gifting – should I or should I not give TBear his gifts early?  He has this thing where he wants witnesses to his gift-opening – he says if I give him his presents Monday no one will see what I got him.  LOL.  So should I hold out anyway and give him nothing til Monday, or should I maybe parcel them out – give him one on Saturday, one Sunday, and the rest on his actual birthday?  Or maybe I should forget about the actual birthday and just divvy up the presents between Saturday and Sunday, making sure to give the more down-played ones on Sunday at the in-laws’?  Somehow I just think Monday should be special, too – it’s the day he was born!  It just seems awful somehow to think of him not getting any of his gifts that day – I don’t want his birthday to be anticlimactic!

Has anyone else smacked into this one face-first?  Any advice?  Not that this is a change-the-world issue or anything…  I mean, no wonder the world thinks Americans are spoiled and shallow, if they read things like this and think silly little non-problems like these are the only things we think about!  Ah, me…  I’m posting it, anyway.

Edit:  I currently have two votes for the spreading-gifts-across-three-days idea (one of which came from TBear, not surprisingly); now I’m concerned that I don’t have enough stuff to SPREAD that far!

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