Gifts for Kids.
When visiting families with children, I always follow my mother’s principle. Give them something at once. ANYTHING may be a gift for kids, the only difference being in their age. Toddlers tend to immediately put anything into their mouths; food is a good option. Either you know your receiving party really well, or you simply ask their mother what is OK to bring. One of my numerous godsons loves oranges but is allergic to red apples; a god-daughter has an allergy for citrus fruit but can gobble up amazing amounts of apples and berries. Sweets should probably not be used as gifts for young children unless it’s the Halloween. Baked goods are always a win. The rule is simple: small buns, rolls, mini-bagels for toddlers, normal-sized cakes etc. for older kids. Gingerbreads of all shapes and sizes are always a hit. You have to be careful around teenagers, especially girls. While boys greet any food enthusiastically, girls may already have the “thinness bug” even at age 13, when they look more or less like sticks with women-sized feet. Fruits and veggies are fine. Socks, funky T-shirts, weird pens & pencils, key-chains and fobs are staples.
Depending on how close you are to the kids, you may get subtle or not too subtle hints from them. A niece, 11, told me in strict confidence about her ardent wish for the upcoming school year. Textbooks or reference books or dictionaries? Duh. Soooo lame. Her dream turned out to be a real bra. We discussed the matter in private and compromised on a trainer bra. This gave me an idea, so I checked my god-daughters’ ages and quietly bought several cute crop tops. I let the mothers know before I bought one. The thing is, children would often tell a trusted adult things they wouldn’t even breathe to their parents.
It takes a lot of tact, patience and attention to detail if we wish to be a part of various kids’ lives. For instance I knew that my two god-daughters, both in their late teens, did not want for any “things”; yet something was lacking. Rather than bringing than clothes or costume jewelry I gave them small sums of money for the beginning of the school year, for them to use as they wished. I knew they were quite responsible girls; I calculated roughly the amount needed for a movie or a light dinner at a student café. There never is a question of trying to take their parents’ place in any sphere of their life; rather it is taking your Godmother status seriously enough. Like Agatha Christie put it, a silver spoon at birth, attending some school events when the mother couldn’t manage it, and taking them out for lunch occasionally. And also meeting up and listening to their problems if asked, and trying to give the best advice we can.
So, something attractive and preferably edible for young kids, more or less to shut them up and distract their attention at once; whatever the school children’s fancy is within reasonable limits; a small sum of money for older teens.
The same rule goes for visiting very old people but for the money. They would gladly welcome you to their home with any baked goods and nice foods you think fit. More often than not what they really crave is company. They would reminisce while having tea with you and really appreciate the couple of hours a month you can spare for them.
When visiting a friend who recently had a baby, bring her any one of her favorite foods, something you enjoyed having together once in a while, because she would feel a little (or a lot) isolated for some months; flowers are also a great choice.