We recently met a young couple with their adorable 11-mo daughter. They are in Goa for a few months and wanted to meet up with other parents of young children and I had invited them over. Coincidentally, it was M’s 3rd birthday that day and because we had already dispensed with the party on Sunday, the day was going to be quiet, with just a Suzuki-violin class in progress.
The family came over in the evening and after the introductions were over (with M still eyeing the baby suspiciously) the mother opened her brown handbag and took out a packet of biscuits that looked like the delicious ones you get at one of our local bakeries.
And then she said very quietly, “These are for M, but I thought I should give them to you first.”
I’ve never had someone say that to me. Gifts, here, are given directly to the child and in most cases, it is not an issue. But food gifts are, in my mind, an exception.
Most people think it is okay to hand over a bar of chocolate or a box of creamy biscuits to a child without checking with the parents first. What does it matter if the child insists on eating the chocolate right there and then? It’s only for today, they say.
What if the child hasn’t been introduced to chocolate yet? What if the child is allergic? What if sugar is off-limits and you, the guest, don’t know about it?
Giving a child a food gift will usually prompt a desire to consume that gift right away. Explain that it is for later and you might have a tantrum on your hands. The best thing, really, is to give the food item to a parent and trust them with it.
Here, we restrict M’s chocolate intake as much as possible. He has a life-time to eat as much chocolate as he wants. When he learns to brush his teeth properly or know when to say ‘enough’, then we can think again. Until then, people, please, please – either no food gifts or just hand ‘em over.
Thank you, M, for doing just that. It was thoughtful and I appreciated it very much.