When I was quite little, I did not understand the necessity of food. It is true that I enjoyed the process of eating. I felt hunger pains as anyone else would. I required sustenance. However, when I thought about food I did not think about an essential resource that I needed in order to survive but rather a pleasurable experience which I could share with other people.
And sharing is what I did, on many occasions with my grandparents.
My grandmother and grandfather would come over to my house for dinner and I would climb into my high chair between the two of them. My plate of food would be placed in front of me and I was encouraged to eat.
“Doesn’t that look good, Megan?!” my grandmother would say with a smile, gesturing to my baked carrots.
“Would you like some?” I would excitedly reply grabbing a carrot and waving it wildly in her general direction, pulling against the table of my high chair trying to give my food to her.
She’d think me adorable, accept the carrot, and by the end of the meal my grandparents had eaten my food and, to the lament of my mother, I was still hungry.
At this age, if my parents had asked me to purchase my food myself, I would have thought them crazy. “I don’t need food that much!” I would have cried. “It’s so expensive. I could buy four Pet Shop for the price of that!”
I needed food, but I did not understand this need.
My dad often defines gifts and presents very differently. To him, a gift is for the sake of the receiver while a present is given for the sake of the giver. In my youth, a gift would have been a Barbie. I would have loved it and cherished it, but it would be a gift given for my sake. However, food would have been a present. My parents cared that I did not starve, a care for which I am very grateful, and as a result made sure that I had food in my possession. They presented me with food. They gifted me Barbies.
The lesson here is knowing what your children should pay for. There are valuable things that they do not yet value enough to buy, and these items are perfect to pay for and present to children. The common things your children just enjoy having, can be purchased by the child in the general day-to-day. However, the common things your children do not want but need to have, can be purchased by the parents.
In other words, my parents delegated to me the responsibility of paying for the things that they didn’t care whether I bought. However, items they thought were essential for me to own were purchased by them.