Comment Of The Day: “First Open Forum Of 2020!”…Gift Unwrapping Usurpers

In today’s Open Forum, A.M. Golden raised an ethics issue that had never crossed my mind. I had never experienced it, and never heard or read anyone else mentioning it. My recently departed Jack Russell terrier Rugby occasionally opened a Christmas present that wasn’t his, but I don’t think that counts.

Here’s A.M.’s Comment of the Day:

Today’s Miss Manners features a letter regarding one of my pet peeves:

In a nutshell, the letter writer is tired of bringing presents for her three-year old niece only to watch the child’s six-year old sister open them for her and hand her the opened presents. She believes each child should have the joy of opening her own presents. She has been told the three-year old is now doing the same to her younger sister. The mother of the children doesn’t see anything wrong with it. When the letter writer asked the six-year old to allow her sister to open the present the letter writer brought herself, she was told the child was later upset and crying over why she couldn’t open her sister’s presents for her.

I have been in the letter writer’s shoes more times than I care to have been. It’s frustrating to attend a young relative’s party and watch some random kid plaster himself to the birthday child, getting in every photo and “helping” the child open his presents. Inevitably, the Birthday Mooch, as I’ve dubbed him, will be half-heartedly cautioned by his parent (think, “No…stop…don’t” a la Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”) only to have the Birthday Kid’s Mom jump in to say, “It’s alright!”

No, it’s not. Look at your child’s face and see how excited he is to have his presents opened by someone else, Mom, before you give another kid free reign to usurp the Guest of Honor.

This goes beyond the frustration of watching young children destroy wrapping, separate cards from the packages so that no one knows who brought what or think that every hoto has to include him, too. I’ve seen this same behavior at adult parties, such as bridal or baby showers, with young children grabbing heavy packages and dropping them, pulling items out of gift bags and strewing them all over the place, blocking photos of the Guest of Honor because they’re handing over half-opened gifts…one mother-to-be wasn’t even given a second to thank the people who gave her each gift because a little girl continually shoved packages into her hands and interrupted, “Don’t you want to open your presents?”.

I may have been allowed to help a baby open a present when I was young, but never a child perfectly capable of doing so him or herself. I would have been told in no uncertain terms to keep my hands to myself and get out of camera range at someone else’s party. I understand that some kids are even given gifts on a sibling’s birthday so they don’t feel “left out”. That would never have flyed in my home.

Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? What would you do if you had to sit there and watch a present you spent time shopping for, buying and wrapping being torn open and dismantled by some random four-year old you don’t even know with only haphazard attempts by a parent to stop it? What kind of kids are being raised here that they can’t handle someone else having the spotlight for a single afternoon? Don’t parents have an ethical obligation to ensure their children know when an event is not about them and behave accordingly?


6 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “First Open Forum Of 2020!”…Gift Unwrapping Usurpers

  1. To answer your questions, you do what my wife did. When it happened at one of our son’s parties, where a gift interopener tried to “help,” my wife, in no uncertain terms looked the grifter and said, “No, it’s belongs to our son. He does not need your help. Please let him do it.” Never happened again.


    • These days, the adult who tries to tell another person’s kid what to do (or, in this case, what not to do) often risks a blowout, but I’m glad it worked out for your wife. I’m sure your son appreciated not having to relinquish his party to someone else.

  2. Once again, I’m honored with a Comment of the Day.

    Practical application in everyday life helps good ethics to form. It’s never too early to teach children when to step out of the spotlight and let someone else have a chance. I suspect that the reason why we have so many social media hounds posting selfies, photos of their food and dying while doing something stupid on vacation is that somehow the lesson “Not Everything is About Me” was never successfully imparted.

    • Well worth the read, congratulations.

      Children that do these things, and their parents, need to be confronted about their disrespect of others; disrespect is exactly what it is. It takes a community to raise a kid and to teach the parents when they’re lacking in their parental skills. Don’t enable disrespect by allowing it in children, it teaches the wrong lesson; if disrespectful parents don’t like it – tough shit!

  3. I have seen instances like this as well, but I was told not to make a fuss and browbeaten. Not buying in only led to later bigger rifts, so I still don’t know how to address it, even if gift parties are much fewer as years pass.

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