20 May 2010

The Etiquette of Lying

Oh, the drama.

The six year old was invited to a birthday party last week, so Saturday morning, we traipsed off to Target to buy a present. We ended up getting a Harumika – it’s a doll-sized dress form with fabric bits that get poked into a slot in the back so you can design your own fashions over and over, kind of like a three-dimensional paper doll. I thought it was sort of cool, and my daughter approved, so we wrapped it up and went off to the party.

Well. Monday afternoon, she came home from school and burst into tears. She’d asked the other child if she liked the present, and the kid said "no, not really" and she wailed "can I ask her to give it back to me?" and I felt shitty about the whole thing.

On the one hand, you’re not supposed to ask "did you like my present?" – but on the other hand, you’re not supposed to say "I didn’t like your present". Then again, you're not supposed to lie - but sometimes a little white evasion is a valid response in a social situation. The protective bear in me wanted to call up the other kid’s mother and tell her that her kid had hurt my child’s feelings; but instead I let my rational side try to explain the etiquette of present giving and receiving without getting into the art of prevarication.

It's awfully complicated, this raising of children.

33 comments:

Kelly said...

Ugh! I feel wounded for her. Gift giving is such a weird social activity.

Life As I Know It said...

It IS complicated. And emotional, too. I find that watching my son go through things at school (social stuff...what lunch table to sit at, etc) brings back all sorts of emotions from my childhood. UGH. Lots of lessons to be learned in these years.

Rima said...

Ugh, just Ugh. But I guess it's just one of those things that you have to learn as a kid, and there's no way around it - only through.

I, however, would have loved a Harumika doll. They actually have those at Target?

FreshHell said...

Yes, it is. And the issues get a bit trickier as they get older.

I've recently realized that none of the toy sections of any store hold much allure for the 9+ set and I (and parents of invitees) will email each other for suggestions. These days, gift cards are the best bet though I don't always go that route.

It's also hard not to duplicate either. Sorry M's feelings were hurt. That sucks. But, there's always gonna be that non-polite kid. Always.

Beck said...

Ick! Birthday parties are such a freaking quagmire of unintentional feeling hurt-ers - the kid who can't come, the kid who is too blunt about not liking their present (and my kids have been on BOTH sides of that little scenario.)....

Mental P Mama said...

Oh the memories....we had some kids like that in our early school years, too. Funny thing is, they were all edited out of the soup by my kids. It all does come out in the wash, but it it painful....

phd in yogurtry said...

And it always comes down to, "they're just kids." Now... *I* would like that as a gift. And so would at least one of my daughters, I bet.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You just have to hope that the child tells her mother about the exchange and both girls learn something.

Anjali said...

OMG. I would have burst out into tears, too.

de said...

That sucks! It sounds like a really cool gift, but probably a little old for that individual. (Must go check link.) Is M very close with the Birthday Girl?

My mother always says that kids teach each other the cruelest lessons in life. Sorry for your daughter's tears.

Jody said...

Uff da. I'm sorry that happened.

It doesn't get easier, does it.

mayberry said...

I actually still remember a mean girl returning a gift to me when I was a kid. OUCH.

Life in Eden said...

arrgh. i hate gift giving. but when you find something you think is really neat, you hope the other person does too -- so i see why she was dying to know if the girl liked it.

then there is stuff like tonight ... last minute verbal invite to boy's house for pizza and movie, and oh, it is to celebrate his birthday. Bring a gift? yes, no? UGH.

The Library Lady said...

Yup, we've done gift cards a lot, even when the kids were littler, unless we really knew the birthday kid very well indeed.

No excuse though, for not teaching your child to be gracious about gifts. Wonder if kid would do the same if asked by grandparent, and if mother has coached her on that situation!

Sorry Miss M was upset. But not your fault, it's the other family. Chalk it up to one more learning experience about how different families can be.

liz said...

Oh! That's so hard!

Kyla said...

Awww, that is rough.

KayTar is the kind of kid who would be that bluntly honest, though she would mean no harm. She doesn't really understand social situations or hurt feelings, if you ask her something, she'll tell you the truth. In fact, she'll tell you sometimes even if you don't ask many times! She told my mom that she looked fat in a photograph, not as a criticism, but as a statement of fact. My mom said, "Do you think it was my haircut?" and KayTar said, "No, it is that green shirt that makes you look fat." We've been working on the notion that you don't always have to say something out loud, even if it IS true.

alejna said...

Yes, it is complicated. Polite lying is very tricky.

I feel for your girl. I know I had my feelings hurt a lot as a child. I sometimes wish I could shelter my children from that, but I know it's not possible. It also strikes me that having your own feelings hurt is part of developing empathy.

For what it's worth, I think the gift looks very cool. I think my daughter would have loved it.

Gina said...

1. My daughter thinks those are cool, 2. Kids are dicks.

niobe said...

Sigh. That was one of those things that I had lots of trouble learning -- that when someone asked me a question, I wasn't necessarily supposed to tell the truth.

Dora said...

Little bitch! Hugs to Miss M!

Stimey said...

It IS complicated, isn't it? Sad that your girl felt sad. :(

heidi said...

I use examples like that to teach the varmints how to lie.

blc said...

Ugh. Especially because I would have loved such a present. So creative and lovely.

Urgh. Hug her for me.

You, too.

Patois said...

I would like to claim Gina's comment as my own, please.

Sarah said...

Kids are brutally honest, until they learn that they're not supposed to be.

Damn, damn, damn.

kathy a. said...

oh, no. i think M's question was really meant to convey, "i hope you like it."

kids will slip sometimes -- all of us do, sometimes -- but the birthday girl is old enough to have gotten the message: always say thank you; don't hurt your guest's feelings; nobody has to give you a present, so say thanks even if you don't like the gift that much.

painted maypole said...

wow. i'm good at teaching MQ how to respond to the getting of presents, but haven't thought all that much about the ins and outs of giving the present.

Mashuga Mom said...

Mean Girl, shall I have my preschooler kick that girl's ass for you. LOL.
Definitely, don't invite her to your daughters birthday party & next year find an excuse to not attend hers.
Kisses to your daughter...

Kelly said...

It hurt simply reading this. It sounds like a very cool present. Hopefully the birthday girl will eventually learn a thing or two about manners, and not leave too many other wounded kiddos in her wake.

pve design said...

we gave a nice gift to a child and the recipient told me she exchanged it ( why would she tell us that!)
how utterly rude.
pve

rachel... said...

Oh no. That happens, unfortunately. I always think I'm not very good at picking out gifts for people. It gets easier for older kids and gift cards become more appropriate.

I'd never been prouder of my oldest daughter when she recieved a giant Hannah Montana pillow as a xmas gift from a great aunt and replied, with a smile: "Oh, thank you, Aunt L!"

(This particular daughter of mine would rather forfeit every xmas gift for the rest of her life than have anything to do with Hannah Montana.)

Aunt Becky said...

*headdesk*

It's BEYOND complicated, isn't it? Makes me happy when the other two are just crabby about teething.

Old School/New School Mom said...

This is so complicated. I see the moral dilemma. The girl shouldn't have said she didn't like the present. I think in this instance she should have told a white lie.