Presents and presence

A conversation between me and my almost 14-year-old cousin on Saturday during our other cousin’s baby shower.

Stephen: did my mom tell you about my birthday party on the 21st?

Me: yeah.

Stephen: are you gonna come to my party?

Me: yeah, I’m pretty sure I can make it… Is there anything you want for your birthday?

Stephen: oh, you don’t need to get me anything.

Me: but it’s your birthday.

Stephen: yeah, but birthdays are not about presents, that’s what my parents taught me.

I was initially baffled by Stephen’s response. What 14 year old kid these days does not want birthday presents?

But then I remembered my 8th birthday party. My tía Patty and her husband showed up without a present. I was a brat/mocosa back then, so I went to her and asked, “what did you bring me?”

Oh man, she put me in my place.

I told tía Patty what her son said. She wasn’t surprised.

“Iván and I taught him that birthdays weren’t about presents. He knows that if people come to your birthday party, that’s enough because they’re there celebrating with you. If they want to bring you a present, that’s okay, but you shouldn’t expect a gift.”

I like Stephen and tía Patty’s attitudes.


11 thoughts on “Presents and presence

  1. I never even had birthday parties so I can’t really comment on that, lol.
    I tend to think that its enough to go and celebrate with the birthday person, especially in this day and age and as an adult, but for some reason my mom will still inquire after I go to a friend’s birthday party: “Que le compraste de regalo??” as if its some social obligation. I don’t feel that it is, but maybe she is old fashioned like that? And I mean, for adults especially? Kids I could maybe see.

  2. Back in El Salvador, whenever my mom threw us parties she specifically told people to not bring us presents. Whenever we whined about that she reminded us that people didn’t have a lot of money and that it was enough that they spent time with us celebrating our special event. BUT whenever we were invited to parties, both my brother and I took a present despite the fact that we didn’t have a lot of money ourselves. Back then I thought that was unfair but I now realize it taught me to be nicer and compassionate. And that one shouldn’t give with an open hand. Don’t give to get, as the saying goes. I appreciate that sentiment now.

  3. I’ve never had a birthday party as well but I sure despise celebrating my birthday/having people wish me happy birthday. It brings out a lot of fake feelings from people and it’s just annoying. I keep my birth date to myself (a number of people know; if they remember, fine) and do my best not to see people on my birthday.

    I used to be in B-track and I was home during a vacation period. I didn’t have to deal with anyone on my birthday and it was great. Once the school system’s calendar went back to a traditional calendar in the 11th grade, I only had to deal with two birthdays in school, both very low key because not many knew my birthday. I do my best to stay away from people on my birthday and steer clear of many bullshit “Happy birthdays!” Now that I’m in college, I’ll hide myself in the library all day on my birthday and reemerge once it’s done so I don’t deal with people.

    This kid has his head screwed on right. I’d like this kid and his parents immediately (based on this assessment). I hope to raise children like him.

  4. I have had my share of birthday parties I never expect presents anymore. In the teen years I always did expect gifts, it comes with the territory of being a teen. However at this point my circle of friends is very tight, so I am aware about who cares and who doesn’t, so just the company of good people that make me happy is enough of a birthday present.

    then again…i could always use new sneakers! lol. 😀

  5. I actually learned fairly early that whatever present I got was probably gonna bore me soon after. Except anything with the word Nintendo of course.

  6. presents are fun to give when you know the recipient enough to make it genuine and thoughtful. these are my favorite type of presents to receive as well, even if they are modest tokens of appreciation–a handmade card or a bouquet of assorted flowers from the supermarket. with that said i would rather get nothing than something i don’t care for–like a stuffed animal or a sweater i wouldn’t wear. i like your tia’s way of thinking but i’m not sure how it would fly with my family. when i got married my mother sent me back to the store to register for more gifts because guests (i.e. family) kept calling her complaining that there was nothing left on the registry and they were stressed out about what to give me. and i tried to explain that there wasn’t much else i wanted but others didn’t seem to understand that. so i was a newlywed with enough towels to see us through our first twenty years of showers–five down, fifteen to go. 🙂

  7. cuauhtli says:

    Sounds like a great kid. Too bad mine don’t think this way. Must be my fault for not teaching them better. I’m gonna make ’em read this and throw the old guilt trip on ’em…hah, who am I fooling, not even that’s gonna work. Oh well! Still love ’em to death (but I guess I have to, I can’t give them back right?!)

  8. this is so true, i rather have a packed house and no presents. i try to teach this to my daughter, but is not easy, they want so much (tv does a good job at creating little consumers =(

  9. Wow! I hope my child grows up to have such a great perspective on birthdays.. unlike me! Of course I will have to teach her that.

  10. I like your nephew’s thinking. You are right, not many kids feel the same way.

    At this point in my life, I do appreciate the company I keep and their time they spend with me. However, I have an “amiga” that’s very detail oriented and gives me the simplest gifts on special occassions. The fact that she took the time to think of me & go out of her way to give me a token on her love – always brings a smile to my face:)


    P.S. – I found your blog about a year ago, by chance and have been reading it ever since. I enjoy all your stories, pictures and points of view. Thank you for sharing and allowing me to view into your window.

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