Monday, May 9, 2011


My daughter is a natural born giver. Eric and I figured this out when she was two and all the toys began to disappear from the toy box as guest after guest was treated to a gift at the end of each play-date.
I have to admit that this baffled me greatly, for if you know anything about the concept of Love Languagesgift giving is on the bottom of my list. I am much more likely to show you that I really like you by demonstrating all the other Love Languages before you get a present or card from me. It just isn’t a big thing.
So when Riley began giving away gifts that she herself had been given for Christmas and her birthday, Eric and I had to have a serious conversion. Were we going to allow this behaviour to continue? How important was cultivating this instinct in our daughter to us? Was encouraging a spirit of generosity and demonstration of love for her friends more important that the money we (and others) had poured into stuff for our kid over the years?
We decided on a compromise. First, we laid ground rules on which items could be given away. For instance, she was not allowed to give away “sentimental” gifts such as presents that her grandparents had lovingly picked out for her. Secondly, we encouraged her to make gifts for her friends. After deciding on this framework, Riley’s friends (or their moms) often left with a stuffed animal wrapped in hand-made wrapping paper and card. It worked.
Just last week, as she headed off to her Mandarin lessons, she decided that she needed to give her teacher a New Year’s gift. So, working with what she had available because class was starting in 20 minutes, she put together a baggie of chocolates and then put a sprig of our (very dead) Christmas tree in the knot of the baggie.
It looked, well, horrid.
I have to be honest, the Southern girl in me used to cringe when she would give gifts that looked like this. You see, I was brought up that if the gift was not presented perfectly, then it should not be given until you can make it look better. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well – right?
But that misses the heart of giving. Stopping Riley and telling her that her gift didn’t look good enough would totally crush her and undermine the spirit of what she was trying to do.
And so, slowly and painfully, I have learned over the years not to spend too much time and energy worrying about the recipient’s reaction to Riley’s hodge-podge style of giving. In this most recent example, Riley made a gift comprised of candies that she had been given during the holiday season, decorated it and gave it to her teacher with much love. Who cares if the teacher was bothered by the dead tree attached to it?! Who cares if she is deep into her New Year’s resolution to lose weight and chocolate is the last thing she wants right now?!
As I was thinking more about this, it dawned on me that by the time Riley reaches adulthood, she is going to be a Gift-giver Supreme because she has had so many years of practice. Years in which she could give gifts that look, well, horrid and it was ok because she was learning to give. Since she is given the freedom to express her love, she will get better and better at the presentation as the years go on. And truth be told, she is already miles ahead on her presentation skills from several years ago.
It might be easy to read this post and think, “Well of course, she is six!”
But do you have this much patience for your spouse? When they are trying to acquire new skills in your relationship – new skills which will ultimately make your relationship better – do you allow them to express themselves as adequately as they can or do you get frustrated because it doesn’t look right…or isn’t presented the way you would do it…or isn’t wrapped perfectly?
I find that far too often couples get impatient when asking their partner for change. They will:
  1. Wait until they are nearly exploding from frustration over an issue.
  2. Ask their partner for change (read: demand change).
  3. Expect immediate perfection (and note that “perfection” is usually defined as the way they want things done) when the partner makes the attempt to change.
This is crazy. Any skill set takes a while to learn but no one wants to learn when they are being criticized every step of the way. So give each other space and time to grow. Allow your spouse to try, even if it is awkwardly, and don’t allow yourself to listen to those inner thoughts that say, “It isn’t good enough.” Rejoice in the child-like steps that your spouse will take in his/her attempt to make the changes you have requested.  Because you know what “good enough” looks like to you – but they don’t – and your partner probably has to work hard to achieve your expectation of “good enough”.   And that kind of work takes time, patience and encouragement – from both sides!
So while they work on changing something, you can spend your time and effort creating an environment that encourages and rewards the effort – not just the perfection!
Canada's Passion Coach®

1 comment:

  1. This article could not have came at a better time. Thank you so much for the insight. My husband helped my son finish his school project yesterday and because it wasn't how I would have helped him do it( I had a vision of what it should look like), I became easily frustrated and had a hard time telling them the finished project looked good. I had to have a talk with myself and just be grateful my husband took the time to work with my son and be even more thankful this project was complete and the struggle with getting my son to do it was over.

    Your article is so true in so many areas of our lives. Thank you for sharing.