We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you MG's annual rant on how her children really aren't all that difficult to buy for ... if you simply follow her suggestions.
Every year about this time, I start receiving a flurry of emails from the extended family, usually written in the dreaded ALL CAPS (grrr) barraging me with questions designed to gauge my children's interests in whatever current trends are reaching their peak.
A recent example from my mil: "I AM SENDING YOU A LINK TO THIS WEBSITE TO SEE IF JO WOULD LIKE SOME OF THESE SHOES FOR CHRISTMAS. THE NEIGHBOR'S DAUGHTER WEARS THEM AND THEY ARE SO CUTE."
Go ahead, folks. Click that link. I dare you. I double dog dare you.
If you actually came back after that little trip into "Say wha'?", I'd like to paint a picture of Jo for you. You decide if she'd like shoes named "Gumdrop."
At just under five feet tall, our little fashionista is fond of Old Navy jeans, layering solid-colored cotton t-shirts and the occasional knit hat and scarf. Her favorite wrap? An oversized grey 4-H sweatshirt with her name emblazoned on the back in John Deere Green. She prefers Converse All-Stars in all weather, she's rarely seen without her Princess and the Kiss box, and the idea alone of piercing her ears makes her slightly nauseous.
Do you think she's a Rocket Dog kind of girl?
Now, my in-laws ought to know this. And deep down, I think they do. They just spent an entire week with her in November, and it wasn't exactly like the girl hid in a closet the whole time. They refuse, however, to admit that their fantasy image of Jo (hipster in training, runway model in the making, celeb-obsessed tweener in the offing) is light years away from the reality (4-H girl, classical music aficionado, reader of many a missionary tale). The two just don't add up ... but they want to keep reworking the math on this one. Maybe, if we get her the cool shoes, she'll become who we want her to be.
This extends to Atticus. Would you like to know what item tops Atticus' short list of heart's desires? A copy of the oversized tome entitled "Washington River Maps and Fishing Guide." Before you start picturing A River Runs Through It, let me clue you in: the truth is, he just really likes wildlife guides in general, and he has yet to find a good one on the area's fish, so he's resorted to checking this particular fishing companion from the library every couple of weeks.
Clearly, when my in-laws asked what Atticus wanted for Christmas, it was a no-brainer. "Washington River Maps and Fishing Guide." I didn't even have to ask the child, because I had watched his eyes cataloging fish for hours and knew that it would save him a whole lot of heartache to have a copy he didn't have to return.
My in-laws, of course, bought him a Lego kit.
Now, granted, Atticus will adore that Lego kit. He enjoys playing with Legos, and he is always happy to expand his collection. What seven year-old boy isn't? But the simple truth is that Atticus would have felt loved and truly accepted on a far deeper level with the acknowledgement of one of his passions. Unfortunately, my in-laws missed a wonderful opportunity to hum along to his tune, to see the world through his eyes. Instead, they opted for what he ought to be.
Logan is an ever harder nut to crack as far as our family is concerned. Logan would love any one of the following:
- another coffee table book of masterpieces
- a copy of the London Philharmonic performing the Nutcracker
- a wooden manikin
I have, of course, sent the list to all who have asked for ideas. This afternoon, I received this reply: "I REALLY WANT TO GET LOGAN SOMETHING FUN. DOESN'T HE LIKE TOYS?"
I could explain to this extremely loving and kind and well-meaning person that to Logan, a massive hardbound book of Homer Winslow paintings would be better than any toy you could ever wrap up for him. I could go on and on about how we've been trying to keep this kid distracted from the idea of actual canvas for the past year since we really can't afford a little habit like oil painting. But the fact is that folks who can't fathom themselves enjoying something as mundane as one of those quirky little wood guys aren't very apt to rush out and buy one for their favorite five year-old.
I really ought to save myself a whole lot of time and frustration and just start answering these emails with two words: "Gift certificates." Maybe we'd all be happier. Our family can pretend that Jo used her Barnes and Noble money to buy copies of Teen Beat, and that Atticus used his Toys R Us card to buy himself some Batman figures.
I guess that still leaves Logan a little out of the loop, though. As far as I know, people aren't lining up to buy five year-old boys gift certificates to Ben Franklin Crafts.