To gift or not to gift?

Ian travels for work. A lot. And his girls have come to expect presents from the road. What's a dad to do?

By Ian Mendes
To gift or not to gift?

Credit: arimoore

Last year, I spent 150 days on the road travelling for work — a number that would rival the busiest flight attendant.
With all of the travel that I do, a lot of people ask me, “Do you buy your kids a gift every time you go away on a trip?”
Trying to buy your kids a gift on the road can be a very stressful experience. Sometimes we stay at a hotel that is in the middle of nowhere, so there’s not really a place to buy them a souvenir. And when you try the high-end gift shop inside the hotel, the only things available for under $200 are a jade sculpture of Venus De Milo and a tacky silk scarf. Seriously, who buys these things on a whim at a hotel gift shop?
So when that happens, I’m forced to hit a convenience store on the way home from the airport, because I couldn’t find anything on the road.
“Hey kids, Daddy bought you some special Fun Dip from Boston,” I announce, even though it’s from the Esso around the corner from our house.
When I first started travelling extensively with this job, we only had one daughter. So every time I went away on a trip, I was sure to buy her something significant. Heck, when you only have one daughter — and she’s 18 months old — you’re tempted to buy something for her each time you go to the grocery store to pick up some milk.
So back then, I would come home with a souvenir from every trip, whether it was a penguin from Pittsburgh or a shark from San Jose.
I distinctly remember going into the gift shop inside the St. Louis Blues arena a few years ago and buying a small stuffed animal for Elissa right before a broadcast. There were times where I was on the air as a reporter and unbeknownst to the viewer at home, I had a tiny stuffed leopard in my pocket.
Once our second daughter, Lily, was born, suddenly the price of this souvenir-on-the-road tradition doubled. So for a while, I stopped the whole process because it became a very costly endeavour. Buying two stuffed leopards really has a way of cutting into a person’s per diem.
But lately I’ve fallen back into the habit of buying them something small on every trip. These aren’t big gifts by any stretch of the imagination; a colouring book, some kids' jewellery or a neat pen are usually the items of choice. I’ll toss in a pack of Skittles and suddenly, I’ve created the perfect little gift basket for the kids. I’ll usually leave the gifts out front of their bedroom doors, so that they have a surprise when they wake up in the morning.
However, Lily is starting to get a little too excited about my trips these days. Last week, she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and asked, “Daddy, when are you going away again?”
It wasn’t said in the tone of, “Oh no Daddy, please don’t go because I am going to miss you.”
It was more like “Hey big guy, when are you leaving so I can get my hands on a sticker book and some M&Ms?”
So now I’m starting to re-think this whole gift-on-every-trip philosophy. Yes, I want to let my kids know that I’m thinking about them on the road, so that’s why I buy them a little treat.
But I certainly don’t want them to be pushing me out the door so they can start getting excited about their next gift.

Photo by arimoore via Flickr

This article was originally published on Jan 26, 2012

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