Gift Exchange Ideas that Outshine Mine

I Give Good Enough Gifts

My parents like the gifts that I give them. My father recently mentioned the stew that he made in the Instant Pot that I gifted him last year. My mother still wears the shawl that I got her once. The framed pictures of their grandkids that I had tucked into red and white wrapped boxes hang in the hallway of their house.  “You know, I’m still using that vegetable peeler that you got me that one time,” my dad commented on the phone one afternoon. My gift exchange ideas go over pretty well.

But I’m Always Outdone

I’ve done well over the years – so well that I’d be planning to get them another kitchen gadget, homeware item, or personalized memento if it weren’t for the extraordinary responses that my sister, Samantha, always receives. The smiles and thank yous that my mom and dad give me always pale in comparison to the shrieks of glee that she invariably prompts.  

The Herb Garden that I bought my dad one year didn’t come close to the “Grow and Eat your Own Mushrooms Kit” that Samantha gave. Watching him excitedly dig through the cabinets for the right container to use to grow them left me turning green. The portraits that I gave them of my kids one year weren’t anywhere near as nice as the collage that my sister assembled. With dried flowers attached to her frames, her gift included photos from our vacations together and heartfelt notes.

One year, they responded with warm smiles at the personalized coffee mugs that I gave. Then, they jumped off the couch when my sister presented personalized street signs to mark their individual parking spots in the garage. I’m happy for her and for my parents, but I feel like I should up my game on my gift exchange ideas.

It’s Not About the Money

Samantha focuses a little more on quality and less on value than me, but we spend similar amounts. There have been times that I outspent her and still didn’t get the reaction that she received. The plant I got for my mom for Mother’s Day cost more than her glass plant-rooting vase, for example. The plant dried up, but the vase still sparkles in the sunlight on the ledge of my mom’s kitchen window.

It’s About a Memory

Sometimes, my parents reacted to the gift itself; Samantha’s always innovative; at other times, they responded to the memory, a conversation or activity that the gift referenced. An argument that my parents had with each other about parking in the garage, for example, had inspired her to buy the street signs. The rooted plants that my mother gave us for our birthdays had prompted my sister to buy the vase. My sister’s gifts often spoke to a shared experience that she had with my parents.

When a colleague during lunch today suggested that I give my parents the gift of experience, I perked up. My mom recently mentioned making plans to do something together in the spring. When we exchange gifts after Christmas dinner, I’ll be giving my parents a day trip to NJ Grounds for Sculpture, and I’ll be offering to make it a family affair. If that doesn’t measure up to Samantha’s presents, maybe a photo gift of the event for my mom for Mother’s Day will.

Thanks for reading.

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