Gift dilemma: what would you do?

Background: my wife recently went back to work full time (I also work FT). Prior to this, she would usually cook weekday dinners, I would usually clean. Occasionally I would get to work from home and we’d switch.

Since she’s back full, meal planning and cooking have become more of a challenge – we both don’t get home until 6:00, so if we don’t have leftovers or something already prepared its whatever Frankenmeal we can throw together for us and the kids.

My dear sweet 9 year old son picked up on this new hassle, and spent three and a half weeks of his allowance on a “30 min meals cookbook” for Mom that he got at the school book fair. I know my wife will love the thought, but not like the fact that a) he spent so much ($17), b) it’s not something we really need: we already have perhaps three similar cookbooks.

I can see on Christmas day getting the “why did you let him do this?” question. I tried to convince him he did not need to spend so much and should consider returning it for something different, but he’s a sensitive kid and I’m afraid I’d hurt his feelings if I just insisted he return it and get her something else (I gave him some suggestions).

So, what would you do? Try to redirect, or just let it be?

Let it be. Most people here have received large numbers of useless gifts–many for substantially more money. The solution is in the future is to drop hints as to what would be useful.

In terms of the money he expended pay him extra for some special chore–straighten out and clean out the garage.

I agree with PastTense. Kids get very excited when they find a gift that they think is perfect. I wouldn’t want to ruin that feeling. It’s a nice gesture, and doesn’t need to be redirected.

At 9, he should be able to start cooking some of those recipes in the cookbook. Use it as a teaching thing where your wife or you, start including him on some of the meal prep.

$17 to make your son feel good about something he’s doing to help the whole family sounds like a bargain to me.

Make some of the 30 minute meals with him. Teach him how to start boiling potatoes so he can get them going while you guys are driving home. Teach him how to make scrambled eggs for the family. Get a slow cooker. He sounds like a thoughtful kid who wants to help.

As far as the gift goes, I’d make the other similar cookbooks disappear and have him write a short note inside the cover for Mom. Maybe offer to split the cost because you’re going to use the book as well.

ETA: Drop some hints to your wife about how he’s really proud of the gift, how special he thought it was, and how he’s really excited to give it to her.

As someone who has spent almost 50 years having my gifts judged by my parents, not just in terms of what they receive, but in terms of what I select for everyone else, I say please don’t get him started down that path. Let him feel good about making his own choice and spending his own money to do it. If he starts out knowing that it’s about what you give, and not what anyone else gets, he’ll be set up for a lifetime of joy around the holidays instead of stress and bitterness. At least he shouldn’t have to feel the stress and bitterness at 9.

Which is more important, your kid’s feelings or your wife’s need for utilitarian value out of the gift? The answer is obvious. Dude bought it at the book fair, a huge deal for a kid. Good for him! Celebrate his unselfish gift and make memories by cooking something in there with him. Use it to bond, not to divide.

I would let is go too , your son did something very thoughtful and sweet and he should feel good about it . He’ll learn on his own when he get older he paid too much for the book . I am really shocked that his school had books that expense for students to buy. My granddaughter brought gifts for her parents and me at her school fairs and she never spend more than a $ 2.00 a gift and I don’t think she spend that much.

How about getting a cockpot my daughter use one and when she get home for work she has warm meal all cooked for her family . You have a very sweet son and that tell a lot about his parents , you be patting yourself on your back for job well done ! :slight_smile:

Thank you all! You’ve affirmed what I felt. His heart is in the right place and I should be supportive. I like the cooking together ideas, though no one who has tasted my cooking would consider it a gift :wink: Maybe I’ll learn something, too.

Another lesson I’ve taken is to bring the kids shopping - the book fair has been their only market (and I feel it’s generally a rip off - it used to be that the kids could not purchase something without a parent present, but that is apparently not the case any more). Our house rule is that he can’t bring money to school (which he did here, for good reason)…part of me is frustrated because he got taken.


But if you let him see it as a whole experience and not only the cash exchanged for an item then he can understand the idea of a non-monetary value. ‘This book is great, which should we make first, that the whole family can take part in? Which of these would be great for a special occasion when we have people over?’

He only got taken if you guys don’t make it worth it. :wink:

Absolutely this.

I’m quite bothered that you felt you had to ask. Seriously. This little kid, all on his own, noticed a conflict and wanted to help. What did you and the Mrs. see as the problem? I don’t mean to sound snarky, but what needed correcting in this situation? The fact that you don’t “need” the cookbook? I have probably 300 cookbooks (I love them) and don’t *need *any of them. The amount of money? Can the three of you eat out anywhere for less than $17–that is a negligible amount of money.

He is clearly a very sensitive, observant, empathetic guy-- if you indicate in any way that there was anything wrong with him buying his mom this gift… OMG-- I hurt just thinking about it.

Take another opportunity to teach him the value of money, non-monetary stuff, blahblahblah. Not when he did something nice for the family.

I agree with what seems to be the major consensus. Let him give it to her. He’s proud of it and feels good about giving it to her. It’s a thoughtful gift, he believes he’s helping his mom out. I’m sure your wife will understand that the nine year old had the best intentions. I’m sure she will also notice that he will be thrilled to give it to her and she’ll pick up on the good feelings.

If your wife lacks the grace to smile and say “Just what I’ve always wanted!”, then something is wrong with her.

This can be taken care of by taking him to library book sales, book stores with a big remainder section, etc. And this way, he’ll be so excited by how many books he can buy with his allowance, instead of chided for getting taken advantage of.

When I was growing up, if we gave my mother gifts for any occasion, she would usually say “I don’t want this junk!” and it would end up in the trash before the end of the day. :mad: And then she would mope, pout, whine, cry, etc. on other occasions when she didn’t get anything, despite telling us that she didn’t want anything and that mommies don’t get presents anyway.


Let him give the book to his mom, and he can learn to cook himself from it.

This may have been a fundraiser for the PTA or some other school organization, which would explain at least in part why it was overpriced.

The amount of money is significant for the kid: 3 1/2 weeks allowance. This is why I suggested the OP hire the kid to do some special chores to make the money back.

Some of the suggestions on this forum. Great, now the 13 year old is going to burn down the house trying to make some potatoes to help out mom.