There is a formula for gift giving. It is not mathematical and requires quite a bit of attention or intuition, but it is very real. The formula is Effort times Interest divided by Expectedness. In other words the perfect gift is one which fits the interests of the recipient, demonstrates effort on the part of the giver, and is unexpected. Unfortunately the expectedness variable is the one that trips people up on holidays and birthdays. The more someone hopes for a gift the less likely they are to be pleased with what they receive.
I was thinking about this today as it was my oldest child’s 16th birthday. Some birthdays weigh more heavily in the psyche than others and I felt some pressure to try to give my daughter a solidly good day. On the other hand, I have never felt like Bigger and Flashier is the same as Better. So I needed to facilitate her having a good day in ways that fit her and our family without making a big production out of it. I made a special before-school trip to the store to buy cheescake for her to take to school and share. She’s been wanting to take cheescake for months, but kept asking last minute when running to get it was a huge inconvenience to me. I handed over the box to her and she knew that even though I won’t always rearrange my days for her convenience, sometimes I will. She loved it and all was well.