Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's not the gift that matters, it's who gives it

The basic idea is simple enough: Whoever has visited us to tickle-talk to our newborn, or has sent a present, card or red packet stuffed with money, gets a gift voucher from us - on the occasion of Sonny's first month in the world - entitling him or her to a cake.

But here's the moral dilemma, if you want to call it that: Who should actually be understood to be despatching the voucher? Should it be from us, the parents - thanking the receiver for generous intentions? Or should it be from our son himself (by proxy, admittedly), in his first grateful communique to a well-wisher? Here's what it come down to. We've already set up a bank account where all cash gifts for our son will go; fortune has inflated it gratifyingly. So what we're effectively trying to decide is whether to deduct the cost of the gift vouchers from his nascent savings, or pay it out of our adult pockets.

It's all symbolic anyway, some might sniff. But that's precisely the point: In these matters - and how momentous is birth, and is it not as personally epochal as marriage, or death? - it's the symbolism that counts. We can obviously afford to leave Sonny's little hoard alone, and preen as the happy parents we are. Yet - were he only able to grasp what is going on here - wouldn't he be keen to speak for himself, and make it his own 'Thank you for coming to see me, or giving me something, though I be no more than a pint-sized burbling bundle?'

Surely, he has the right to make that statement, declaring it (via his humbled parents) to the very cosmos itself.