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Merridith Frediani explains why she's working so hard to teach her sons the ins and outs of gift-giving.

I’d like to preface this with a note to my sons. Boys, I love you very much but I’m afraid I’m going to sell you down the river with this piece. You’ll be ok. The truth is hard but often makes us better. 

My daughter is a person whose love language involves gifts. She loves to give them, she loves to watch others open them, and her enthusiastic way of receiving them is satisfying for the giver. 

One Christmas when she was young, she wanted to give her brothers presents of her own. She gathered some matchbox cars and beanie babies, found scrap paper typically reserved for drawing, borrowed tape, wrapped each item, and tucked them under the tree. It was then I knew we had a special one in our midst. 

Her gift giving joy continued as she grew. She always made sure she had birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day gifts. Prior to having her own money, she would make gifts fashioned from items found in the house. For one Father’s Day she asked me to take her to the hardware store to get large dowels. She then took an old pillow case and asked for help sewing pockets for the dowels and voila! - a firewood carrying sling that served us well for a long time. 

Another year she desired a pair of Ugg boots. Her feet were still growing and Uggs are costly so we broke the news that Uggs were not in her future. She researched her options and found fake Uggs - or Fuggs. My husband hatched a plan. 

On Christmas morning she and I had the same-sized packages under the tree. She opened hers first to find a pair of the long-awaited Fuggs and was delighted. Several minutes later I opened my package to find my own pair of Fuggs. 

“Mommy, you got Fuggs!” is what I heard moments before she leapt across the room to land at my side on the couch and enjoy my receipt of the beloved boots. 

“That’s what I was going for,” my husband said with a smile. 


little girl holding Christmas gift and hugging her mom


She’s turning 21 soon and still puts thought and care into the gifts she gives her friends and family. It’s how she loves and she does it well. She pays attention to those around her and she remembers. I always feel cared about when I open a present from her. 

So, the girl who loves to give, the girl who made chocolate chip cookie dough and left it in the freezer when she went to college so her younger brother could have the cookies he loves, is going to celebrate her birthday at school. What this means for her parents and brothers is that we need to plan ahead. Being full fledged adults, my husband and I collected the items for her gifts and mailed them so she would receive the package prior to her special day. 

Her brothers? It seems that despite many years of being treated like princes by their sister, the boys are not quite to the point where they understand that we give gifts to people to express that we remember them before the gift receiving day, not that we remember on the day. We don’t order the gifts and present a print out of the item being delivered two weeks hence. 

Maybe it’s because this is only the second time she is spending her birthday away from home or maybe it’s because she’s had an emotion-filled semester or maybe it’s just time for her brothers to step up. It’s hard to know, but this year is the year I am nagging them. 

History shows they need it. 

Christmas 2020/November/Text #1: “Guys, K sent you a link to a sweatshirt she’d like for Christmas. Please get it for her. You may need to plan ahead. Apparently the drop only lasts for a week so maybe do it today.” 

Christmas 2020/December 21/Text #2: “You two boneheads are on my list. You disappoint your poor sister every stinking year and she is so good to you. All she wanted was the sweatshirt and you didn’t get it. I need you to make sure you have wrapped gifts for her under the tree so get yourselves to a mall and be generous.” 

Brother #1: “I was very busy the week she told me about it.” 

Brother #2: “Respectfully this is on Brother #1. He said he’d buy it and we’d split it. Not to throw anyone under the bus.” 

Me: “Please work it out and make sure she has legit gifts under the tree – not gifts that are on their way.” 

I was disappointed that it came to that.


little girl wearing Santa hat and excited over a gift


Click to tweet:
Gift-giving isn’t so much about the gift itself as it is the thought and effort put into it. #catholicmom

Ten months later, her birthday was upon us.

One week before her birthday/to Brother #1: “Did you get your sister the ring she asked for?”

Brother #1: “No, I’ll do it right now.”

To Brother #2: “Did you get your sister a present?”

Brother #2: “I’m getting her the ring with Brother #1.”

Me: “Does he know this?” (A surprisingly important question. Always ask this of your children.)

B2: “Yes”

Me: “You need to do more. Just Venmo-ing cash to your brother isn’t enough. I’ll send you some ideas. Get them and put in a note saying ‘Happy Birthday.’”

The next morning to Brother #1: “Did you get the ring for your sister?”

B1: “Oh no. I forgot. I’ll do it right now.”

Later: “When will the ring arrive?”

B1: “The first week of November.”

Me: “That’s after her birthday.”

B1: “I know.”

Me: “Get online and get her something so she has presents to open on her birthday.”

These boys are 19 and 22. They make me tired.

Yes, it is better to give than receive, but what I didn’t realize is that kids must be taught how to give. Giving isn’t merely handing something over. It requires forethought. Online shopping has made the process easier, but planning ahead is essential. Gift-giving isn’t so much about the gift itself as it is the thought and effort put into it. To know that someone cares enough to take time to procure a meaningful gift is a nice feeling.


little girl in Santa hat wrapping presents


I will admit I stink at this, so I can’t be too hard on my boys who are actually very sweet young men – but the three of us have to do better. The wise men travelled long and far to bring gifts to Jesus. With Christmas coming, my plan is to be more thoughtful about what I can give to my family members – not because of the gift itself, but because I want them to know I am thinking about them. That’s a big part of what gifts embody. They are a tangible way of saying, “I see you,” and we all desire to be seen.

Copyright 2021 Merridith Frediani
Images: Canva Pro