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Money Canít Buy Me Love

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
The first Christmas that we lived in Oklahoma my girls were five and three years old. I bought them great big dollies with curly blonde hair and different outfits to change into. I donít remember what Sarah named her dolly, but Katrina named hers Gloria after the Christmas Angel. You know her. Sheís the angel that hangs over the manger on the Nativity with a great big name tag which says, "Gloria." Nobody else is wearing a name tag Ė at least in my motherís Nativity Ė "Hi! My name is Mary!" But Gloria has one and my children were the second generation of children who were happy to know her name. Everyone knows angels are super nice and watch over us and protect us from bad guys on the way home from school and keep us safe from falling to our deaths when we cross bridges and all, but they are just so much more approachable when you know their names. This why Gloria was always our favorite angel (truthfully we didnít know any others personally, but she would have still been our favorite) when I was growing up and was my childrenís favorite angel too.

My point, if I can slog my way back to it, is that the girls just loved those dolls and they were so happy and so impressed by them. They thought their hair was like beautiful princess hair and they had so many cute outfits (three or four each, and if they shared, that would be six or eight), and how did Santa know that they needed just exactly this kind of fancy dolly for Christmas when they hadnít even known that there were such pretty dolls in the whole world???

You see where I am going with this. There is absolutely nothing that you can give a child past a certain age which will be met with such unbridled enthusiasm. Do not fool yourself. Do not think to yourself, this is it, the yearís Christmas present is going to be the end-all and be-all. You will never see that kind of pure amazed and amazing joy again unless you have some nieces and nephews in the right age range or grandchildren, or even more children if you are that brave.

My point is that beyond the age of around 14 you might as well just forget it, hang it up and surrender to the fact that your children will probably prefer money over any other gift that you can give them. Except possibly for jewelry, and then it had better be the good stuff.

I am not saying that children are greedy. Well, they are greedy, but they are supposed to be like that. Itís a survival mechanism. Youíre supposed to know when to quit being greedy, but it is perfectly okay for the first couple of decades of your life. It is not greed that makes them prefer to have money for a gift. It is aesthetics. They know exactly what they like. They know that while you might be able, as the person who loves them most in their lives, to understand the basic gist of what they like, there is no way, no how, that you will ever be able to understand the exact right thing. You might know that they like clothes. More specifically that they like black clothes. You may understand the further qualifier that they like black clothes that have some kind of retro flair. But you will never, ever get the subtle difference in nuance that makes the Care Bears cool for a 19 year old, but which also dictates that The Partridge Family is so far from cool that they donít even belong in the same universe. And so, as a logical extension of that, you will always get them the exact wrong thing. The worst possible thing in a particular category. And that is just sad for everybody.

So, the best thing to do is to remember those Christmas mornings when you were blessed to hear your child either sigh, "Oh Mama! Look at this!" or were obliged to cover your ears to protect them from the joyous whooping and hollering that the perfect Christmas gift inspired. Remember those days and cherish them and then resign yourself to stuffing an envelope and getting a dry peck on the cheek and a muttered, "Thanks Mom" for your trouble. While not exactly the same thing, that sigh or whoop and the nonplused, "Thanks," really are in the same category.

© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"
December 16, 2007 Column

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