Is a Gift Just a Gift? Am I Being Unfair?
While it’s always nice to hear from readers who agree with my posts there is nothing I love more than finding an intelligent reader with a different point of view. I received an interesting response to a recent post in which I asked readers whether or not they would turn down a financial gift from their parents.
My post focused on the gift of financing a home, but the reader, (a long time reader at that), said I was being hypocritical and at the very least a bit unfair. She pointed out that I accepted a sizable gift from my parents in the form of tuition and at times room and board. It’s an interesting point, which made me reflect on parental gift giving.
In theory I like to believe that I will make the right decisions for my son. He is not even a year and a half old yet, but I still dream about who he will become. I want my son to be kind and compassionate without getting stepped on and walked over. I want him to stand his ground and simultaneously reach out his hand to help others stand up. I want him to be proud without being vain. I want him to take life seriously, but also to find happiness and joy in all of the little moments that make up his life.
Having said all of that I also believe that the majority of a child’s personality is programmed long before birth. I know that I will have an influence on my son, but I’m not certain how much. And of course as he grows and matures he will be whoever he is and we will love him because of who he is not in spite of it.
In terms of gift giving I want my son to appreciate what he has to work for as well as what he receives. The reader who emailed me asked if I would have appreciated my degree more if I had to pay for it. I can’t say for certain. I do feel that I have a greater appreciation for my homes because I had to work for them. If someone handed them to me I don’t know that I would feel the same. Do I have less appreciation for my degree, because I didn’t pay for it? Possibly.
My father did not make a lot of money when I was growing up. For as long as I can remember he stressed the importance of paying for our education. While a lot of parents pay for their children’s tuition I do not know how many of them stress the importance of the gift. My brother and I knew that my father was sacrificing his own goals in order to pay for our schooling. My brother struggled in his first semester at college and wrote my father a letter telling him that he would do better, that he knew my father wanted us to earn a degree and that he didn’t want to lose the gift our father had worked so hard to give us.
The reader’s question to me is an interesting one. In my opinion if your parents provide money for college you still have to study hard and perform well to graduate. The degree should help you maintain independence and self-reliance as you can now start your career and earn money for yourself.
I’m not sure you can compare the gift of a house with the gift of tuition, but I guess the real question is does the gift need to teach you something? Can’t your parents give you something just because they have the money to do so? Do you have to learn to be better or do better with every gift you receive?
I need to take a little more time to think about the answers to those questions. In the mean time I’d love to hear what you have to say. What do you think?