I’ve noticed a few recent posts here about gift giving. Just in the past week we’ve covered what to give for baby showers (and what not),and re-gifting, and it’s a subject we’ve often discussed in the past. One thing that people forget about (myself included) is that it’s just as important to be a good gift receiver as it is to be a good gift giver (as we saw in Maria Guido‘s post last month about those bitchy brides).

A few years ago, when my oldest daughter was 7, she was invited to her cousin Esther’s seventh birthday party. She’d been to these types of parties before, but this one was special because she was old enough to really remember it and she was excited to help choose a gift. We made a whole afternoon out of it, going to the mall in Brooklyn (don’t judge, my life is boring and this was fun dammit). We had some super greasy awesome mall food court lunch and then headed to the toy store to pick a gift.

My daughter chose the My Little Pony toy that was all the rage at the time, complete with a little outfit for it. (*side note – When did My Little Pony become so different? Why do they even have clothes? They’re ponies, they’re supposed to be naked!We also picked up some adorable birthday-themed wrapping paper and bows, and headed home.

The day of the party we wrapped up the weird, purple, for-some-unknown-reason clothed My Little Pony, slapped on the bow and headed out, all dolled up in our best party gear (her; some adorable party dress, me; something not-yoga-pants). The party was your basic birthday bash for a 7-year-old girl. There was pin the tail on the donkey (except the donkey was Elmo, don’t ask me why), pizza, CAKE and pink. Pink everywhere. We were having a blast.

When it came time to open the presents, my daughter was so excited. She grabbed hers and brought it to Esther so she could open it up first. A second later, after a flurry of flying wrapping paper, the gift was open. But instead of the expected giggle of excitement, or even a damn “thank you,” Esther threw the thing over her shoulder (literally) into the trash and said “Ugh, I HAVE THIS already! You’re TERRIBLE.”

In front of EVERYONE.

Obviously my daughter was devastated. As a kid who enjoys getting anything as a gift (seriously, one time a waiter gave her his pen and she carried it around for a week, she was so excited), she simply did not understand the ingratitude. Honestly, neither did I. I didn’t really blame Esther though. You live what you learn and when the only thing you learn is selfishness, greed and entitlement, what else can you possible do?

In case you were wondering, no, not one person in her family reprimanded Esther or asked her to say thank you. I didn’t say anything about it, because who wants to be the pushy parent who complains about a lack of gratitude on a $25 My Little Pony toy, but the feeling I got from her mom was “kids will be kids.” Sorry if I think “kids” should still be polite.

That birthday party was a life lesson for my daughter. She learned that even if you have the best intentions, and do something wonderful and generous for someone, there is no guarantee that they will appreciate it. She learned that people can be rude, and mean and spiteful and you just gotta brush your shoulders off and walk away when they are. These were lessons she would have learned anyway, and at least I was there when she did, but it was hard none the less.

I think the important thing to keep in mind this Thanksgiving (I know it already passed for our many Canadian readers!) and gift giving season is that the thought counts. Even if you get 10 of the same thing, or you already have one, or whatever. I know it’s hard when you’re a first time mom and you don’t know what you need (and to be clear, I think Maria’s advice about getting staples and trying to stick to the registry is spot on, unless the registry is out of your budget) and it might be frustrating when you know you’re getting a re-gift (I once got re-gifted my own damn gift!), but you don’t know people’s circumstances or where their heart was at when they chose that gift. So maybe we could all be a little kinder to each other this year.

Every time I get a gift that I find less than exciting, I think of my little girl’s crushed expression when that kid threw her gift in the trash. Then I take a deep breath, get out my note cards and write a thank you note, even if I plan on returning (or re-gifting) it. If they gie it to me personally, I say thank you. Because an ungracious receiver is a lot worse than a bad gift.